Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

To Greece

The Coastal Route and the Platamon Tunnel

The Coastal Route and the Platamon Tunnel

The pass to the east of Mount Olympus was more complex in character. It began as the Pinios Gorge separating Mounts Ossa and Olympus, continued north as a narrow coastal strip, and ended as a steep ridge flanking Mount Olympus and ending in great cliffs above the sea. Access to the plain beyond depended upon the railway tunnel at Platamon and a rough track across the ridge. In the opinion of the intelligence officer who prepared a report upon the area, 8-cwt trucks could be taken over but for heavier vehicles there would have to be considerable improvement. If there were demolitions in the tunnel and in the narrower parts of the gorge, the ‘eastern pass’ could be held by one battalion.

On 27 March D Company 26 Battalion was, accordingly, instructed to move by train from Katerini to the Platamon area and there prepare positions to meet an attack from the north. The Divisional Engineers would provide 1000 yards of wire and make preparations to demolish the tunnel ‘when emergency occurs’. The company, under the command of Captain Huggins,1 arrived that night, detrained at the miniature railway station and next morning went up the tracks to the crest of the ridge.

At the seaward end was a castle,2 farther up the ridge a small hillock, Point 266, and beyond that the village of Pandeleimon and the lower slopes of Mount Olympus. The company's first task was the preparation of a post about the castle, but after Colonel Stewart inspected the area on 30 March he ordered the construction of positions for a whole battalion. There would be a post at the castle, another one would cover it from the rear, and the line would be extended up the ridge beyond Point 266.

‘The men were impressed with the urgency and importance of the job and worked very intelligently and with a will throughout.’3 On 4 April General Freyberg with Brigadier Hargest and Colonel Stewart visited the area and ‘expressed satisfaction with what had been done….’4 The General stated that if a battalion took over it would be expected to hold for only twenty-four hours: by then reinforcements would have been sent up from Larisa.

page 147

The demolitions in the tunnel were the responsibility of the CRE. The orders for firing them were just as carefully worded as those for 5 Brigade in Olympus Pass, but because of the isolation of the sector the senior officer or NCO on the spot could, in face of serious enemy attack, fire the charges without his having received written authority to do so.

1 Lt-Col F. W. Huggins; born England, 29 Jan 1894; importer; died (in UK) 19 Nov 1945.

2 In 1204 the Franks under the banner of Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat, Crusader par excellence, invaded Greece intent on partitioning the Byzantine Empire. The Franks early occupied Larisa, Thermopylae and the Vale of Tempe. Here Boniface created the fiefdom of Boudonitza for the Marquis Guido Pallavicini, who erected at Platamon the castle that for two centuries guarded the coastal pass. Now, seven centuries later, the ruins of this castle became the focal point for the defences of a New Zealand battalion.

3 Capt Huggins's report.

4 Ibid.