German break through in Greece

German infantry on the march in Greece, April 1941

The British forces in Greece were falling back, the Germans having achieved decisive air superiority early in the campaign. Captain Oliphant describes the retreat:

Moving back under cover of darkness – little sleep – over shocking roads and precipitious mountain passess covered with snow – vehicle and guns topple over the cliffs at night – it is too dark to see the road – the enemy shell the road with their longe range guns by day and by night, maklng it very difficult for our vehicles to get through – but we get through – a few guns and vehicles are lost but we are still a fighting unit.

It becomes a veritable nightmare, no sleep for 7 nights, frayed tempers, but the amazing endurance and spirits of the. troops carry us through. At long last we get 2 days rest and then into action again to continue the rearguard role.

The countryside is lovely, waving green crops and red poppies, scarred at every few yards by terrific bomb holes. It seemed that the whole might of the German Air Force was turned loose on us. The Anzacs did a wonderful job in racing up three hundred miles into the Greek mountains to get first contact with the Hun and shelling him to blazes to delay his advance – he suffered great casualties – but his numbers were overwhelming – we could not stay the tide of his advance because it was always the flanks falling back which necessitated our withdrawal.

Captain K.M. Oliphant was with the 2/3 Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery, TNA WO 217/33.

The official description was rather more prosaic:

It was evident that the German object was to gain the plain of Thessaly and so drive a wedge between the British and Greek forces, and cut the latter off from any possible line of withdrawal.

By the evening of the 19th April, German armoured forces operating on both sides of Mount Olympus had gained the eastern half of the plain of Thessaly and had advanced southwards beyond Larissa. At the same time German armoured forces had reached Trikkala, at the extreme north-western end of the plain, whilst the rest of the German line remained unchanged.

The most decisive German effort seems to have been made on the 20th April. Those forces which had already on the day before reached the plain of Thessaly advanced on Lamia, whilst German motorised forces struck across the Pindus Mountains from Grevena and reached the Yannina area. At the same time, the roads of withdrawal of the Imperial and Greek forces were attacked by dive-bombers with fighter escort, whilst similar attacks were made on the harbour of Piraeus.

From the Military Situation Report for the week.

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