We left Florina and started heading south which will take us eventually to Athens for our cruise across to Crete, as our men and women did in 1941. We passed through Ptolemais where we discussed the actions of the Armoured Brigade against the German armour who had tried to bypass the position that had been established forward of the Pass. It was here that the Armoured Brigade fought their finest battle in the only tank versus tank battle of the campaign which was a win for the Brigade and as the Germans had suffered heavily, losing around 30 tank plus other armoured vehicles there was no follow up as Brigadier withdrew his force. The Armoured Brigade was led by the 3rd Royal Tanks, 4th Hussars, 102 Anti-Tank Regt, 27 NZ Machine Gun Battalion and the Rangers. Mobility was the key and all the Brigade including the anti-armour mounted on trucks raced to intercept, which they did and surprised the German Force.
Most of the losses to the Armoured Brigade was due to mechanical fatigue and those losses left the Brigade very depleted, but, they did a marvellous job. Due to mechanical faults mainly, the Armoured Brigade was very depleted but had done a marvellous job holding the rear guard. After going through the battle we continued on our way towards Kozani and then swung East to Veria Pass. The Veria Pass was being held by 16 Brigade to cover any enemy incursions from that flank but as the main withdrawal had crossed the Aliakman River the Brigade started to withdraw off the high range, down into the valley and further to the crossing point over the river. It was an incredible feat to withdraw partly in the dark from such a high position by going straight over the top and then over the next range before dropping down again into the Aliakman Valley. But with incredible endurance they walked the 34miles and finally climbed into their new positions at Servia.
At the village near the top of the Pass we stopped for a coffee in the same café that we have visited in the past. As usually, we were welcomed by the couple who run the café and we ordered our coffee and relaxed there while we finished our coffee. We then moved onto a position that had been occupied by our soldiers all those years ago and there was still indentations in the ground to show where there positions were. It was fitting at that stage that after reading about their movement to the Aliakman River, we had a toast for the men of the 16th Brigade. The scenery from there was magnificent but I feel those there in 1941 would not have noticed.
Before we retraced our steps to our lunch stop at Kesaria, which is on the very high ground overlooking the new bridge over the Aliakman Lake, we decided to move further through the Pass to visit the Monastery at Panagia Soumela where lies the ancient Icon of the Virgin Mary by Luke the Evangelist in AD380. Lunch was excellent as it always was and many of us had the trout, a good choice. The restaurant is located high above the lake and has views across to Servia and the Servia Pass. We will be travelling through the Pass tomorrow on our way to Platamon. Following lunch we headed out to Ano Komi where we were entertained by members of the village. Lovely friendly people and I look forward to meeting then each year. Finally, he said our goodbyes and made our way back to our hotel for dinner.
Just as dinner was concluding, Maria and Panahoutsis came to visit us at the hotel as they were working during the day. It was lovely to see them both again and they were introduced to all our group. We had a few drinks together before I took my leave as I had much to do this weekend. Tomorrow Platamon and the Aegean Sea.