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Last ditch stand at Kalamata

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

The short British campaign to save Greece from the German invasion was now coming to an ignominious end.

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.

Sergeant John Hinton in 1941. A tough New Zealander who had run away from home aged 12 and later joined a Norwegian whaling ship working the southern ocean before he was reconciled with his family.

It was during this action that New Zealander Jack Hinton won the VC. The citation glosses over the fact that Hinton’s action were in open defiance of direct orders to prepare to surrender:

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.

Hinton was to spend the rest of the war as a POW despite making numerous escape attempts – for which he would later receive a ‘mention in despatches’. In April 1945, as the war was ending, he was was liberated from his POW camp by US troops. He then ‘joined’ the US 44th Infantry Division by borrowing an American uniform and assisted front line units for a brief period before being discovered by senior officers, whereupon he was sent back to England. He received his VC from the King before returning to New Zealand.

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.

38 thoughts on “Last ditch stand at Kalamata”

  1. My grandfather was captured around Kalamata having been sent as part of 292 army field company, royal engineers. Apparently he and two others hid in an old barn but were given away by the locals and arrested by a policeman, taken prisoner and eventually sent to stalag xv111a. He never mentioned much about his exploits, like many and passed away aged 46. My nan told me the only indication he showed of his experience was getting claustrophobic in the cinema when the curtains drew in and lights went out, he had to flee. I’m guessing from being shoved into cattle trucks for the long trek north. Like many others he must have felt guilty for being captured as we don’t think he collected any war medals.

  2. Hello all those who had people in Stalag 18a,
    If you have the POW number and are able to identify our person, contact Dr. Margit BERNER at the Natural History Museum in Austria margit.berner@nhm-wien.ac.at. Margit has over 4000 POW photo with a number and no name but number. You will receive an immediate response for your request for a copy of the appropriate photograph.
    This is free of any costs and all Dr. BERNER she asks is a proving photo (if possible in uniform) and some background on the POW.
    Good luck

  3. My Papa(Grandad) George Jamieson. from Selkirk, Scotland, was a Sapper in the RE 7th Army. I knew He had been a POW from a young age but I approached him about what had happened when I was 15 years old as he had taken me on a holiday to Austria. He told me a little but gave me a book to read written by a fellow Welshman, POW, who had the same experience as himself.

    They were captured after one of the fiercest battles in history. Marched up through Greece, He gave his glasses to a man for some bread! Then put on trucks through Yugoslavia. Next part they were packed into the trains like cattle and had to stand, with just one bucket between them all for the use of going to the toilet.!!!

    Then they were split up and went to various working camps. Papa went to Stalg XV111A. I have quite a lot of photos and a diary of sorts with a few names of pals. And a few poems that he wrote. After reading this book he gave me. Sorry, cannot remember the name now.?! I tried to read and find out as much as I could about the war in all aspects. I have looked at the amazing site that has been set up about the camp. He remained friends with some of the Anzac mates until he passed away.

  4. My Great Uncle was Claude Millard he was captured at Kalamata on the 29. 4. 1941
    He was from Blenheim New Zealand, and was a private no 16168 in the infantry
    He was in a prisoner of war camp at Corinthe, then at Stalag 306 (XV111D) from 5.7.1941.
    He was transferred to Stalag XV111B on the 31.7.1942
    His prisoner of war no was 4579
    He was at Stalag XV111A on the 11th March 1943
    And at Stalag XV111B on the 9th February 1943

  5. Hi,
    I had a great uncle in the Reserve Motor Transport Company, Royal Army Corps. We were told he died along Kalamata but the date is given as between 28th of April and 23rd of July 1941 so I have no idea if he was a POW or an casualty on the beach
    Does anyone have any relatives in the Motor Transport section fform this area and time. Id love to hear what they were doing.
    Its so sad to see that there are so many of us who don’t know exactly what happened to our relatives.
    We only have a ‘believed to be” grave as nothing is concrete. I would have loved to know more.
    His name was John William Moar and he was from Shetland Islands and he was just a handsome young boy of 23.
    Its so sad that he is one of the thousands lost in the sea of casualties of World War 2.

  6. After my Great Uncle was killed in Greece the family were told MIA. The Athens Memorial states his death as being 24th April 1941. I just got the War Diaries for the 127th Electrical and Mechanical Coy Royal Engineers. These detailed that they had been based SW of Athens and were ordered to evacuate on 22nd April, They were sent on 23rd April to Argos. On route near Corinth, Leonard Frederick Moore, was in a lorry machine gunned down and killed. The other part of the Coy were ordered to Kalamata, they got lost and missed the boat. They got a later boat and were captured on the beach in Crete.

    If anyone has more info/photos that might fill in the story: jetaiday@aol.com

  7. Hi all, my late father, Cpl Cecil Douglas (Mike) MAYCOCK (T/44630) was in the RASC and was captured at Kalamata, too. Like many others, he spoke little of his experiences as a POW, but I can remember him saying that, after capture, the whole column was force-marched up through Greece and Yugoslavia to various camps. I know that he was in Stalag 383 in Hohenfels, and also Stalag 111C because I have a “souvenir” of his – a kind of cap badge made from tin, formed to show a loop of rope with, centrally, a chain linking two handcuffs with the legend underneath “Nix Arbeit” (we will NOT work) and 111C. I’ve never seen another one like it anywhere, but my father wore it with great pride – the war medals he belatedly received but never wore, throwing them in a drawer in disgust at the way he and his fellows had been abandoned by the Army. He called the episode “one of Churchill’s big mistakes”.
    Dad was also in Stalag X111 and, at the end of the war, was part of a huge number of POW’s who were being force-marched to Berchtesgarten to form a “human shield” for Hitler. Fortunately, they were liberated before that happened.

    The books referred to above might be “Barbed Wire Memories”, written by one of dad’s camp-mates. They are out of print now, but might be available through a second-hand bookseller somewhere.

    I’ve visited Greece and Crete and whenever I’ve mentioned that Dad was captured at Kalamata, the gratitude of the Greek and Cretan people was palpable.

  8. y father Arthur.( Johny) Gross RASC was captured at Kalamata and interned in Stalag 18a. as the war was coming to an end with the Russians advancing, the prisoners were being forced marched towards Germany. Father with some others including Ossie Phillips and Jack Lapworth commandered a German truck and made towards the advancing Americans and after a few hairy moments made their way to safety. He always spoke highly of the anzacs and thought it a privilage to serve with them.

  9. My father Clarence (Clarry) Fowles, captured also was a kiwi but signed up with the Australian 6th division, onto Stalag 18a, then to a work camp in Marburg. Would love any information on his time there. Envy the relatives who have been there and been on the same land mark as these heroes.

  10. We are getting ready to commemorate the above events, in Australia. Will post info here soon, or find us at fb “Greek Anzacs”, “Battle of Kalamata 41” and “Battle of Crete in Australia”. email info@greekday.org

  11. Fascinating to read stories of ex POWs. My late father Neville John Cohen (Australian 6 Div Sup Column) was captured in Kalamata and interned in Marburg, then Regensberg, worked on a farm in Austria where he escaped, (unsuccessfully, so taken back to Marburg), 383, XV111A, XV111B, XV111D & Oflag 3.
    There was a booklet published by one of his fellow-internees, written about one of the camps & could be entitled “Stalag XV111B”. My father bought two copies & they were passed around & never returned to him, sadly. I tried for many years to trace a copy before he passed (in 1993) to no avail.
    I shall contact Elizabeth Shaw yet there is not an email address, can anyone assist please?

  12. Yvonne Knight May 14, 2015 at 2:31 pm
    My father was in the RASC (1 field Butchery) during the evacuation from Greece in April 1941. His Casualty card stated that he was lost at sea 25/26th April 1941. For many, many years I have researched for more details of my father’s sad end, but information seems to be scant and hard to find. Sometimes it appears that doors keep closing. It would be nice to hear from someone who had a family member who was involved in the same campaign named “DEMON”. yvonne.knight33@btinternet.com

  13. Hi my grandfather was Les Freeman Pte 4080 18th battalion 2nd NZEF he was in stalag 18A and would love to hear from anyone that has any stories/photos of him, I see a post above from “Michelle” 14/05/2013 making comment to my grandfather and yes Alfred Rye was his very good friend as a child I visited him and his wife Hazel all the time. My mother has lots of photos of them. Please contact with any info you have and I would love to get some photos to you Michelle.
    email address: kim.donaldson1@bigpond.com

  14. I belong to a UK veterans association relating to the Greek Campaign in ww2 and would be happy to hear from anyone interested in this. Can anyone provide contact details for Elizabeth Shaw as I would like to read her fathers story.

  15. My father RR TRUMP was British ( RASC) at Kalamata and Stalag 383 & XVIIIa, and did write an account of his experiences. He emigrated to Oz in 1947 because of Oz/NZ mates he made there. I was fortunate enough to be able to retrace his wartime journey with him in 2009 thanks to Militaryhistorytours (Australian outfit). Also attended the Stalag XVIIIa gathering in Canberra 2015. Alas he has just passed away, but am going to upload his story to the Stalag XVIIIa website. Will send any of you an email copy if you write to me.

  16. I have just started researching my uncle William Baileys death. He was killed at sea when the British were evacuating Greece, I don’t know where he died or from which port they sailed from. He was in the Royal Artillery and his name is on the no 2 tablet at the CWGC in Athens Phaleron cemetry. He was listed as missing in action so no body retrieved. If anyone knows of anything please reply using my e mail address which is francis.milepost@gmx.co.uk many thanks to anyone that replies.

  17. My Grandfather, Charles Rickaby Coulson, was a POW and I know he was at Stalag xviiia; however beyond that I have found it difficult to find any information. I never met him as he died in 1955, and my Dad never spoke of him. Dad also is now dead. Does anyone have any information or maybe a photo ? Many Thanks.

  18. My Grandad, Sgmn Fred Bundy, was one of the soldiers taken captive at Kalamata – he actually wrote a poem about it (at least, I believe he wrote it…it is in his handwriting and I have not seen it anywhere else).
    He also spent most of the rest of the war in Austria at Stalag 18a so I’m guessing many of the people posting here will have parents and grandparents who knew him. I have some photos is anybody wants to contact me.

  19. My father Richard Reginald Trump RASC was captured at Kalamata. In 2009 I was lucky enough to be able to accompany him on a Militaryhistorytours visit to all the places he had known there. The Greeks still remember with gratitude all those who fought on their behalf, even though it was a losing battle, and they made this very obvious to Dad.
    He spent most of the next 4 years in Stalag xviii-a Wolfsberg, before escaping just before the end of the war.
    We are also fortunate in that he wrote his story down for his grandson, and his mother kept many of his letters and photos home.
    The full story is way too long for this submission, but if anyone is interested please let me know.

  20. 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

  21. 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

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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

  35. 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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