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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy



The country itself was mountainous and rough, with some large plains, low-lying, boggy, damp, and malarious, the largest being those of Thrace, the valley of the Vardar, and Thessaly. There was a mountain massif extending from Mount Olympus north-west to the Yugoslav-Albanian frontier. The rugged and rather barren country did not lend itself to rapid or easy communication; both road and railway construction had been difficult and the condition of neither was up to modern standards.

Greece had not reached the age of motor transport. There were few main roads and these were usually narrow and with a poor surface. There was one main single line of railway to the north from Athens, passing inland through hilly country, at times through gorges and over bridges very vulnerable to destruction by bombing or sabotage, until it reached the plain of Thessaly, north of which it bypassed the mountains by following the seashore to Salonika. A short narrow-gauge railway which was not used by the force ran at right angles to the main line from Demerli to the port of Volos on the east coast, and a similar line ran from Volos to Larisa. The main road north from Athens followed, except at Lamia, an inland route with an average distance of approximately 20 miles from the east coast. North of Lamia a coastal road proceeded to Volos, a seaport on a large, land-locked harbour, and thence to Larisa, the latter part of the road being quite unsuitable for heavy motor transport.

At the northern end of the plain at Elevtherokhorion, just north of Elasson, a branch road led to Katerini through a pass to the west of Mount Olympus, rising to a height of 4000 feet at the divide. Another poor road led from Larisa to the Pinios Gorge, the Vale of Tempe, and the Platamon tunnel and round the coast to the east of Olympus. The main road continued from Larisa to the north-west through the village of Servia, crossing the Aliakmon River, to Kozani, Monastir, and so to Belgrade. The main road to Salonika passed from Kozani along the west of the Aliakmon River and through the Veroia Pass.

Communications between east and west were poor, making the reinforcement of the eastern front from the Albanian front slow and difficult.

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From the standpoint of supply and evacuation there was thus available one line of railway—very vulnerable to attack—one main road through hilly country with narrow side roads through passes at the Olympus barrier, and a coastal road between Lamia and Volos with a very bad connection between Volos and the main road at Larisa.