Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45

To Greece

by W. G. McClymont

War History Branch

Department of Internal Affairs

Wellington, New Zealand


Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The First Echelon

Chapter 2: The Second Echelon

Chapter 3: Third Echelon joins the First

Chapter 4: The First Libyan Campaign, 1940–41

Chapter 5: Assembly and Training of the New Zealand Division

Chapter 6: The Balkan Front

Chapter 7: W Force Moves Into Position

Chapter 8: The Germans Invade Greece

Chapter 9: The Monastir Gap

Chapter 10: The Greek Front begins to Crumble

Chapter 11: The New Zealand Division goes into Action

Chapter 12: The Defence of the Passes, 14–17 April

Chapter 13: The Critical Days, 17–18 April

Chapter 14: The Pinios Gorge

Chapter 15: The Preparation of the Thermopylae Line

Chapter 16: The Evacuation from Greece Begins

Chapter 17: The Defence of Brallos and Thermopylae Passes, 24 April

Chapter 18: The First Stages of the Evacuation

Chapter 19: The Corinth Canal

Chapter 20: The Evacuation Continues

Chapter 21: Kalamata

Chapter 22: 2 NZEF in North Africa, April–May 1941

Chapter 23: Conclusion

Appendix 1: Strengths and Casualties

Appendix 2: The Inter-Services Committee’s Report

Appendix 3: Mr Fraser’s Questionnaire to the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff on the Campaigns in Greece and Crete





Mount Olympus, a post-war photograph – Trentham Camp, 1939 – First Echelon recruits at Hopu Hopu receive their web equipment – Visitors’ Day, Trentham, before the departure of the First Echelon in January 1940 – Second Echelon farewell parade at the Auckland Domain, April 1940 – First Echelon troops on board the Dunera, Lyttelton, 5 January 1940 – Railway Construction sappers board the Andes at Lyttelton, 1 May 1940 – Submarine lookout, Mauretania – First Echelon and AIF convoy in the Indian Ocean, January 1940 – Mess-deck – General Freyberg welcomes the First Echelon at Port Tewfik, 12 February 1940 – 20 Battalion arrives at Maadi Camp, February 1940 – Battalion lines, Maadi – Second Echelon disembarks at Gourock – Mytchett Place, Headquarters of 2 NZEF in the United Kingdom – Mr Churchill takes the salute from D Company of the Maori Battalion – Loading spruce. New Zealand Forestry Group in the United Kingdom – General Freyberg at his desk, Maadi Camp – A 4 Field Regiment gun crew trains at Maadi on an 18-pounder – 19 Battalion at work on the anti-tank ditch at Wadi Naghamish, June 1940 – New Zealand trucks carry back Italian prisoners from the First Libyan Campaign, December 1940 – River-crossing training on the Nile, February 1941 – The Marit Maersk arrives at Piraeus, Greece, 17 March 1941 – Athens welcomes the New Zealanders – Hymettus Camp – Athens from the Acropolis – 21 Battalion men break their train journey north – The motor transport convoy on the road between Elevtherokhorion and Dolikhe – On the Aliakmon line: General Freyberg and his G1, Colonel K. L. Stewart – GOC’s conference – General Sir Archibald Wavell – from a sketch by Peter McIntyre – General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson – General Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, visits Maadi Camp – Bishop Gerard conducts a service near Katerini, March 1941 – Vevi. Looking north-west towards the Yugoslav border from a New Zealand machine-gun post – Blown bridge over the Aliakmon River – New Zealand positions at Platamon castle under bombardment – The coastline north of Platamon from the castle – Looking west towards Pandeleimon from the castle – Preparing gun positions in the Olympus Pass – Looking towards Katerini from the Maori Battalion positions in Olympus Pass, a post-war photograph – New Zealand engineers build a road in the Olympus Pass – Servia, looking towards the Aliakmon River – a post-war photograph – 19 Battalion’s first German prisoners, Servia – Mist covers the withdrawal through the Servia Pass – New Zealand provost on point duty, Olympus Pass – The Pinios ferry – a post-war photograph – German tanks ford the Pinios River – German forces cross the Pinios River – German reconnaissance plane in the Molos area – Thermopylae – Sunrise near Kriekouki – Shelling disperses the enemy advanced guard at Kriekouki – Brigadier Puttick’s map of Attica showing 4 Brigade positions at Porto Rafti – Athens waves goodbye. A convoy passes through the city during the withdrawal – Porto Rafti – Corinth Bridge – A Sunderland flying boat lies off the coast of Greece – Commanders’ conference near Monemvasia – New Zealand troops arrive at Suda Bay, Crete – HMAS Nizam, carrying troops from Greece, arrives at Alexandria – The Salween disembarks troops at Alexandria


The Mediterranean Theatre – Central and Eastern Mediterranean – Greece – The German Plan of Attack and Allied Positions on 5 April 1941 – Planned Positions, 11–14 April 1941 – The Planned Withdrawal to Thermopylae, 14–18 April 1941 – The Pinios Gorge Action, 17–18 April 1941 – Southern Greece. Situation on 26 April 1941 after German Paratroop landings at Corinth – The opening attacks of the First Libyan Campaign, 9–11 December 1940 – The Aliakmon Line. The New Zealand Division s early positions in Greece, 5 April 1941 – 21 Battalion at Platamon, 14–16 April 1941 – 4 Brigade positions at Servia Pass, 10–17 April 1941 – Mackay Force rearguards, 10–13 April 1941 – Dispersion of Greek Forces and Withdrawal of 1 Armoured Brigade, 14–17 April 1941 – Withdrawal of 16 and 19 Australian Brigades, 15–16 April 1941 – 5 Brigade holds the Olympus Pass, 14–17 April 1941 – Enemy attack on 19 Battalion, morning 15 April 1941 – 4 Brigade at Servia, 15–18 April 1941 – 4 and 5 Brigades withdraw to Thermopylae, 17–19 April 1941 – The Rearguard at Elevtherokhorion, morning 18 April 1941 – 6 Brigade rearguard action at Elasson, 18 April 1941 – Withdrawal through Larisa, morning 19 April 1941 – The Germans approach Thermopylae, 19–21 April 1941 – The Thermopylae battlefield, 480 BC and 1941 – The Evacuation Beaches – Brallos Pass and Thermopylae, 24 April 1941 – Thermopylae, 24 April 1941 – Corinth Canal positions, 26 April 1941 – 4 Brigade rearguard in the Kriekouki Pass, 26 April 1941 – 4 Brigade positions, Porto Rafti, 27 April 1941 – The battle for Kalamata waterfront, 28–29 April 1941 – Draft of message from General Freyberg to General Blamey, 23 April 1941

The photographs in the W. G. McClymont collection were taken during a visit to Greece in October–November 1945. Mr McClymont was then the Official Archivist, 2 NZEF

The occupations given in the biographical footnotes are those on enlistment. The ranks are those held on discharge or at the date of death.

The authors of the volumes in this series of histories prepared under the supervision of the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs have been given full access to official documents. They and the Editor-in-Chief are responsible for the statements made and the views expressed by them.

Editorial Advisory Panel

Professor N. C. Phillips, MA, University of Canterbury

Professor J. Rutherford, MA (Durham), Ph.D (Mich.), University of Auckland

Professor F. L. W. Wood, MA (Oxon), Victoria University of Wellington

This volume was produced and published by the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs.

The Department gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance given in the production of this volume by Professor N. C. Phillips.

Editor-in-Chief: M. C. Fairbrother, CBE, DSO, ED

Sub-Editor: W. A. Glue

Archives Officer: R. L. Kay

The Author

W. G. (Monty) McClymont is a well-known New Zealand historian, mountaineer, schoolmaster and Rugby footballer. Born in Lawrence in 1905, he gained his MA at Otago University in 1925 with first-class honours in history, and from 1926 to 1935 lectured in history at that university. In 1936 he was engaged in historical research at the Public Record Office, London. Commissioned in New Zealand in 1942, he relinquished his commission to go overseas with the 10th Reinforcements as a ‘dehydrated officer’ with the rank of corporal, subsequently reverting to the ranks at his own request to serve in the Intelligence Section of 23 Battalion in Italy. He was wounded at Orsogna in December 1943 and after rejoining his unit was re-commissioned and appointed Assistant Archivist, 2 NZEF. When the war ended he was sent to England as Official Archivist to interview repatriated New Zealand prisoners of war. After this assignment he went to Greece and Crete to collect information for the official war histories.

Lieutenant McClymont compiled the official narrative for the history of the campaign in Crete and then returned to school-teaching, as a master at Otago Boys’ High School. He is the author of The Exploration of New Zealand, one of the series of volumes published by the New Zealand Government to mark the Dominion’s centennial in 1940.