Last ditch stand at Kalamata

Greek and British prisoners of war are marched off by the Germans, Greece, April 1941.

British and New Zealand troops in Greece were now making their way to the coast to seek evacuation by the Royal Navy. Many men were got away but when the Germans caught up with them a fierce fight ensued.

It was during this action that New Zealander Jack Hinton won the VC:

On the night of 28/29 April 1941 during fighting in Greece a column of German armoured forces entered Kalamata. This column, which contained several armoured cars, some 2-inch guns and 3-inch mortars and two 6-inch guns, rapidly converged on a large force of British and New Zealand troops awaiting embarkation on the beach.

When an order to retreat to cover was given Sergeant Hinton shouted, ‘To Hell with this, who will come with me’, and ran to within several yards of the nearest guns. The guns fired, missing him, and he hurled two grenades which completely wiped out the crews. He then came on with bayonet followed by a crowd of New Zealanders. German troops abandoned the first 6-inch gun and retreated into two houses. Sergeant Hinton smashed the window and then the door of the first house and dealt with the garrison with bayonet. He repeated the performance in the second house and, as a result until overwhelming German forces arrived, the New Zealander held the guns. Sergeant Hinton then fell with a bullet wound through the lower abdomen and was taken prisoner.

Bill Flint, who was with the 18th Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, was involved with this fighting. He describes how the final surrender came about the following morning:

They were a sandbag sort of wall – a low wall, and they were sheltering behind them, but they were made of filled sandbags. I saw one bloke – I think he was ASC [Army Service Corps] or something-he’d had no training in bayonet, and he stuck his bayonet at a- obviously German who was behind a sanger – but he didn’t know how to pull it out. There’s a knack in it – you’ve got to jerk it and put your foot in. It was desperate. We realised we had to beat these Germans before we could get away. It ended up we all sorted – we had about 70 German prisoners right at the wharf edge, and we fully expected to still go – get out – and then a destroyer just zoomed past. It sort of semi-circled and turned and went away and loud-hailed us: ‘Sorry boys, it’s late. We’ve got to go.’

Not long after that we got – word circulated- word of mouth – that the brigadier, whoever he was, a Pommie, I think, had unconditionally surrendered to the Germans, who had offered him annihilation bombing if he didn’t – didn’t surrender immediately and that was something like 7:30 in the morning. We were to consider ourselves prisoners at 7:30 and in no time flat, the German tanks came in and went right round us in a circle and put swastika flags on top of their tanks and their bombers flew in at just that time and when they saw the flags, they veered off and went away but they were just going to start bombing.

NZ History has his full story.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil Goldman August 3, 2014 at 10:13 pm

My father, Martin Goldman, served in the Royal Signals in Egypt and then Greece, where he was captured at Kalamata in 1941. He passed away in 1994 aged 76. Since he never spoke much about his wartime experiences, I have found it difficult to piece together any details of his experiences with any certainty.I understand that he spent the first 2 years after his capture in Greece and the last 2 years in POW camp in Villach, Austria, (Stalag XV111 , I believe ) , involved in building railways (of which I have photos).

I recently visited the Mayor of Villach, and on his recommendation also visited the library at nearby Klagenfurt, without much success.

I do also have various photos of him and army friends at the Villach camp. I believe one of those friends was someone by the name of Bert Winter. But I have no other details of any one else who was with him during those dark days. If anyone can help me by providing me with pieces of missing information, I would be most grateful. My email address contact details are: neil@ngoldman.fsnet.co.uk

Neil Goldman August 3, 2014 at 9:22 pm

I have just read Bridget Gosling’s submission on this website with some excitement. It appears that both her father and mine were in the Royal Signals at the same time. Did they know each other? Sadly my father passed away in 1994, and never talked about his experiences- which has made it all the more difficult for me to piece together the elements of what actually happened then and thereafter. I did visit Villach some years ago and met the Mayor of. Villach who was not terribly helpful although he gave me some photos of some of the buildings and railway tracks (which my father was involved in building as a P.O.W in the last 2 years of the war!).
There wan also a name that my father mentioned, Bert Winter, who befriended him and who. I believe helped him through the dark days. Does anyone know of him?

Please do let me know anything that might be helpful to me in my research. Thank you .

Neil Goldman

Neil Goldman August 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm

My father, Martin. Goldman, was a German refugee whose mother had a British passport which led to him joining the British Army ,(Royal Signals) in 1939, only to be captured by the Germans at Kalamata in April 1941 . He spent 2 years in Greece and the last 2 years of the war in Villach, Austria, Stalag Luft XV111′ , I think.
Is there anyone out there who could give me any further information that might help me wi my research?

Bridget Gosling (nee Perry) May 14, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Hello there,

I am searching for any photographs/ information regarding my late father, who was captured in Greece in 1941 and transferred to Stalag XVIII A Wolfsberg Austria.
His name was NORMAN PERRY (from York) and he was in the Royal Signals.
Anything anyone can tell me would be appreciated.
Thank you.

Ioannis E Mavreas May 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I was born in Kalamata, I live here, my grand parents and my parents have told me a lot about the battle. It took place near my home at the port and the suroundings.

It will be helpfull if you can mail me pictures taken at the site those days.

Thank you in advance

Ioannis E Mavreas
B.A. Economics Bishop Univercity, Canada

Lisl Prendergast April 6, 2014 at 9:02 am

I see it is ok to include e mail addresses too. I can be contacted at prendergastl@sacredheartcollege.school.nz. Love to hear from any of the people who have contributed to this site.I did not know about the reunion in Wolfsburg or I would have gone. I am keen to research Stalag XVII. Thank you Lisl Prendergast

Lisl Prendergast April 6, 2014 at 8:54 am

Dear Mr Hutchings I would love to see your photos of Stalag xviii as my father was in that camp. He was captured in Kalamata.He died in 1988.if you see this please contact me.I live in New Zealand. I know your forbear was RASC.

Antony Dicks December 26, 2013 at 5:14 pm

My Father John Dicks Royal Engineer Driver captured at Kalama and into Stalag 18 A

Francina Flemming November 14, 2013 at 2:13 am

My father, Arthur Copp, was in Australian Sigs. and was also captured at Kalamata. He spent 4 years as POW in Moosburg Stalag V11A and Lamsdorf Stalag V111B (344). I am currently researching and writing about his experiences. Have visited both these places as well as Greece in 2011. A real pilgrimage.

Peter Harvey August 17, 2013 at 12:24 pm

My father L/Cpl Alfred Harvey a driver with RASC Army Nr. T143841 was captured in Kalamata April 1941 POW 1711 and transported to Stalag 18A and then on to Work Camp 10134GW Arnoldstein.
We are just back from Stalag 18A reunion in Wolfsberg, Austria a great experience well worth the trip, lots of information and POW photos including the originals taken as they arrived at the camp.
If anyone has a relative who was at the Arnoldstein work camp I would be pleased to hear from them and share information email: peter.harvey@rockfieldcss.co.uk

Michelle May 14, 2013 at 8:52 am

My great uncle Alfred Rye was with the 18th battalion 2nd NZEF. He was wounded in Crete and transferred to a hospital run by nuns in Kalamata. When Greece was invaded by the German troops, he was taken to Stalag 18A in Austria. He apparently was sent out to do farm work during the day, for an elderly German couple, whose sons were away at war. The thought was that without the farm couples support, he wouldn’t have been as good as he was, during his captivity. He was apparently at the camp with his mate Les Freeman. These details come via his wife who he married after the war. If anyone has more information about Alf, I would love to know.

Lisl Prendergast April 8, 2013 at 5:46 am

My father was Albert Michael Prendergast and he was in the Royal Engineers with the 19th Battalion. He was captured in Kalamata on 30 April 1941. He was in a POW camp near Graz and worked for a family called Haar on a farm.I have visited this family twice. I was named after the two youngest girls who are alive. There are 4 sisters Maria, Marta, Lisl and Anna. There brother Ferdl has passed away. My Fathers military number was 33888. He was also in North Africa and left NZ on the Empress of Japan 5 January 1940

Sue Courtney February 16, 2013 at 1:01 am

My father, Paul Churton, 18 Bn 2NZEF, was one of the many captured at Kalamata and likewise ended up at Stalag XVIIIA. What he what doing on that side of the Corinth Canal is a mystery as most of his battalion left for Crete via Porto Rafia. The fact he was a driver may be a clue.Unfortunately he died in 1964 and I never heard the full story.

I now know he was in the town close to his Lavamund work camp at the end of the war when the Yankee tanks came through and he took off with them.
My brother told me that Dad said if he had known the camp was going to be liberated in the next couple of days, he would have gone back there and got his gear. I hope to be at the Stalag XVIIIA reunion in Wolfsberg at the end of 24-26 July 2013, and find out more. We will go via Greece to trace the Battalion’s footsteps, but we will leave Kalamata our way.

Neville Hutchings January 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm

My father, Bernard ( Yorkie ), was in the RASC at Kalamata, he always said that he had slipped up in Greece,as he was captured there and was a POW, with a lot of Kiwis, in Stalag XV111 in Austria until the end of the war. They were used as labour to build roads and railways, I believe that they also ran a quarry for the stone needed. They put in the bases for electricity pylons from Salzberg towards Munich that are there to this day. Unfortunately he died in 1997.I inherited his Dorothy bag which contains loads of photographs of the other prisoners,but I have no idea who any of them are.

Brent Davies December 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Thank you for publishing the fighting and capitulation at Kalamata. My late father was captured there. He was in the Army Service Corps so you never know he could have been the soldier with the bayonet.

John Thomson May 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Thank you for the above.
My Uncle Frederic Hue Thomson who was a corporal, was taken prisoner at this time and was then on board a POW ship that was torpedo, and he lost his life. I would really like to find out where he was actually buried.
Many thanks
John Thomson

Laurie Bell April 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm

My dad was in the british army and was caught at the evacuation at kalamata.
Unfortunetly dad passed away back in 1997. he rearly spoke of of what happened. We didn’t get time to get him to document what he went through but one thing I do remember was he said that he was on sort of guard duty one night, next morning there was a german tank at the other end of the road so he was glad they didn’t open fire otherwise they miht have been blasted by this tank. i know they marched back up throught he Braylos pass and at one stage mum said he told her the germans shot a young boy who I think offered them some water. he finished up working on a farm in Furstenfeld in Austria. He actually enjoyed the lifestyle and he and mum went back there in 1978. He was the only one that ever went back to the village. I was lucky to also meet up with mum & dad in 1994 in Austria in Graz and went with them to Furstenfeld and meet the people, who back in the 1940′s were young children. they remembered dad and as per their original first visit in 1978, we were greatly received and a lot of peole that had moved away came back with their own children to see dad again. Mun says that because dad was only 20 and the youngest POW, he was well looked after and highly liked. I know on his first visit, he actually first went to Kalamata. He had a Greek friend of his write a letter for him explaining who he was. He finally found the old army base and a Greek officer got 2 soldiers to take him were ever he wanted to go. He said when he got to the beach, they realised what it meant to him and they left him alone for a while. My wife & I went to Europe in 2007, we were in Greece but I wish I hd gone to Kalamata, maybe next visit.

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