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To Greece

Final Adjustments to the Allied Line

Final Adjustments to the Allied Line

Over and above these problems of air cover and supply there were the last-minute changes which had to be made in the defence lines, especially after Wilson and Papagos had decided3 on 4 April that W Force would not move forward of the Aliakmon line for at least eight days. Wilson had then done his best to strengthen the forces already in the Amindaion area. On 5 April Brigadier Lee was sent over from 1 Australian Corps to control the British units in that area. Sixty-fourth Medium Regiment (less one troop in Veroia Pass) moved in and established its headquarters at Kelli; 1 Australian Anti-Tank Regiment, which had landed at Piræus on 3 April, was hurried north; and a pioneer unit was detailed for work about Amindaion.

The same day General Kotulas suggested that 12 Greek Division should be relieved immediately by 6 Australian Division and sent to assist 20 Greek Division in the defence of Edhessa Pass and the mountainous left flank of the line. As General Wilson did not wish the Australians to begin the changeover before the arrival of the GOC 6 Australian Division, he repeated that the greater part of the line would certainly be taken over within the next eight days.4 The Australians would be responsible for all the line then held by 12 Greek Division, except for the mountainous left flank, where two Greek battalions would be left as their maintenance problems would be more simple than those of Australian units. The defence of the gap still existing between the New Zealand Division and 12 Greek Division would have to be arranged by the Australian and New Zealand divisions.

Later that day, 5 April, General Wilson officially took over the command of the Allied forces in central Macedonia; General Blamey, who opened his headquarters at Yerania, a hill village just south of Servia Pass, took command of all British, Australian and New Zealand troops.

page 156

The same day General I. G. Mackay, GOC 6 Australian Division, received his orders. One brigade would relieve the Greeks in Veroia Pass. Another would go to the Kozani area to reinforce the troops in the pass or the Amindaion detachment south of the Monastir Gap. And the third would be in reserve near Servia; from there it could assist the brigade to the north or the New Zealanders about Mount Olympus. The difficulty was to put the orders into immediate operation. Two battalions of 19 Brigade were on their way up from Athens and 17 Brigade was with the seventh flight. Only 16 Brigade, then about Servia Pass, was in its allotted area. Wilson and Papagos, well informed as to the movements of the German divisions in Bulgaria, had therefore to change their plans. On 6 April 16 Brigade received fresh orders and within twenty-four hours was taking over from 12 Greek Division the positions in Veroia Pass.

3 See p. 134.

4 16 Brigade Group arrived by 22 March; 19 Brigade Group by 3 April; 17 Brigade Group was in transit with the seventh flight when Germany declared war against Greece on 6 April.