Australia in the War of 1939–1945: Series One: Army

Volume 2

Greece, Crete and Syria

by Gavin Long

Australian War Memorial



The writers of these volumes have been given full access to official documents, but they and the general editor are alone responsible for the statements and opinions which the volumes contain.

Table of Contents


List of Events from 22 February to 8 December 1941

Chapter 1: Britain and Greece

Chapter 2: The German Attack Opens

Chapter 3: The Rearguard Actions in the Florina Valley

Chapter 4: The Olympus-Aliakmon Line

Chapter 5: The Critical Days

Chapter 6: The Thermopylae Line

Chapter 7: The Embarkation from Greece

Chapter 8: Escapes to Crete and Turkey

Chapter 9: Retrospect

Chapter 10: The Problem of Crete

Chapter 11: The Loss of Maleme Airfield

Chapter 12: Defence of Retimo

Chapter 13: Heraklion – Defence and Embarkation

Chapter 14: Retreat and Embarkation

Chapter 15: Political Decisions

Chapter 16: The Syrian Plan

Chapter 17: The First Day

Chapter 18: Across the Litani

Chapter 19: Pressing on to Sidon, Merdjayoun and Jezzine

Chapter 20: The French Counter-Attack

Chapter 21: Damascus Falls

Chapter 22: More Attacks Round Merdjayoun

Chapter 23: Hard Fighting at Jezzine

Chapter 24: Preparing a Final Blow

Chapter 25: The Battle of Damour

Chapter 26: Administering the Armistice

Chapter 27: Debits and Credits

Chapter 28: On the Northern Flank

Chapter 29: The End of a Period

Appendix: Abbreviations



The Anglo-Greek War Council – Mr Anthony Eden and a group of Middle East army and air force leaders – Transporting troops to Greece – Leave in Athens – The headquarters of the 6th Division, south of Olympus – Drawing water from a mountain stream east of Servia – Piraeus, 6th–7th April – Greek and Australian commanding officers at Vevi – Greek troops on a mountain road – The Aliakmon bridge – The crossing of the Aliakmon River – At the Aliakmon River – Generals Wilson, Blamey and Freyberg – An observation post in the Servia Pass – Platamon – Larisa during an air raid – A halt in a train journey during the withdrawal to Thermopylae – The crater in the approach to Pharsala bridge – Burning trucks south of Lamia – Brallos Pass – A Henschel 126 reconnaissance plane brought down by Bren gun fire – Air attack on the way to Monemvasia – On a ship evacuating troops from Greece – The sinking of the Costa Rica – A group of escapers of the 2/2nd Battalion – Suda Bay – Brigadier G. A. Vasey – Heraklion – Air attacks on Suda Bay – The bombing of Heraklion – German transport planes and mountain troops – Parachute landings at Suda Bay – Above Sfakia – Troops from Crete disembarking at Alexandria – A group of Australian escapers – Ras Naqoura – Army and air force leaders in Syria – The Iskandaroun crater – Bridge construction near Merdjayoun – Lieutenant G. B. Connor’s party outside Fort Khiam – Major-General A. S. Allen and Brigadiers F. H. Berryman and A. R. Baxter-Cox – An artillery post near Merdjayoun – Fort Merdjayoun – Merdjayoun – A captured French sketch – The ceremony at Damascus – Barada Gorge – The Wadi Jezzine – Jezzine – The “Mad Mile” near Jezzine – French mule teams caught by shell fire near Bater – The Wadi Damour – Stretcher bearers at Damour – Khalde – Signing of the armistice, Acre, 12th July 1941 – General Allen and Brigadier J. E. S. Stevens – The entry into Beirut – Australian ski troops – Embarking at Suez – On a transport between Suez and Bombay


Greece – Allied dispositions Greece, 6th April – Allied dispositions Vevi, 10th April – Dispositions at Pinios, 17th April – Dispositions, Suda–Maleme area, 19th May – Dispositions, Retimo, 20th May – Dispositions, Heraklion, 20th May – The Syrian frontiers – Merdjayoun – Dispositions, Jezzine, 17th June – Dispositions, Damour, midnight 6th July

Sketch Maps

The Greek line in Albania, January 1941 – The Balkan States and the proposed Allied defence lines – The Greek frontiers – Allied and Axis dispositions, 6th April – Dispositions, morning 9th April – The Yugoslav northern frontiers – “W” Group dispositions, 11th April – Dispositions, Vevi, 12th April – The Rearguard at Sotir – The Rearguard at Proasteion – The 16th Brigade withdrawal from Veria Pass – Dispositions, Servia Pass, 15th April – The Allied line in Greece and Albania, and General Papagos’ proposed shorter line – The Olympus-Aliakmon and Thermopylae lines – Dispositions in the Olympus passes, 15th April – The German advance to 14th April – The withdrawal of the 21st New Zealand Battalion from Platamon – Sketch made by Brigadier S. F. Rowell before writing orders for withdrawal to Thermopylae – Dispositions, dusk 16th April – Dispositions, late afternoon 18th April – The Withdrawal from Pinios – Dispositions, night 20th–21st April – The embarkation beaches – Dispositions at Thermopylae, 24th April – Brallos Pass, 24th April – Withdrawal from Thermopylae, dusk 24th April – Athens area – German dispositions in Southern Greece – The Aegean Sea – The Iraqi frontiers – Baghdad-Habbaniya area – Crete – The German plan – Dispositions, Galatas area, morning 25th May – Dispositions at 42nd Street – The 2/1st Battalion counter-attack at Retimo, 21st May – The 2/11th Battalion attack at Perivolia, 28th May – Heraklion area – Suda Bay-Sfakia area – Eastern Mediterranean area – The Rearguard at Sfakia – Palestine–Syria – The Palestine–Syria frontier – The 21st Brigade’s advance, 8th June – The 25th Brigade’s advance, 8th June – The 5th Indian Brigade’s advance, 8th–9th June – Allied dispositions, dusk 8th June – The crossing of the Litani River – Litani River–Sidon area – The Free French advance to Kiswe, 9th–11th June – The 2/27th Battalion at Adloun, 11th June – Adloun–Wadi Zaharani area – The 2/16th Battalion’s attack on Sidon, 13th June – Sidon-Damour area – Damascus area – Dispositions, inland sectors, 15th June – Dispositions, Merdjayoun area, dawn 16th June – Allied dispositions, Syria, 18th June – The attack on Damascus, 20th June – Mezze area – The advance of Habforce at Palmyra – The 2/25th Battalion’s advance towards Hasrout, 26th–27th June – Palmyra area – The advance towards Rharife, 3rd–4th July – The 10th Indian Division’s advance from Iraq – The El Atiqa defences – Damour, nightfall 8th July – Forward Australian battalions, 11th July – Mazraat ech Chouf–Badarane area – The attack on Jebel Mazar, 10th–11th July – Allied dispositions, Syria, 31st July – The Northern flank – Tripoli fortress area – Location of AIF, December 1941