We will be down at Piraeus Harbour boarding the ferry to go to Crete this evening. But before that we have many KLM to travel and much to see. Leaving our hotel at 0800 was necessary as we needed the extra time available to us to allow us to visit various locations associated with the Campaign. The first visit was to the Castle at Platamon where Lt Col Mackay and his 21st NZ Battalion were ordered to hold the pass at Platamon leading to the Pinios Pass and the Tempe Gorge. Engineers had arrived at the position on the 10th April and were preparing weapon pits in the marble on the hillsides so when Col Mackay arrived on the 14th April at least a lot of the work had been completed. His order from Brigadier Hargest was to hold the position until the 16th April, but added, there is to be no withdrawal. An incredible order, particularly as in the future on Crete, Hargest let the Vital Ground be lost due to inaction by himself in not providing support to the Battalion holding the position.
Anyway Mackay set out his defence and covered all the approaches to his vital ground. He had not long to wait as the German 2nd Panzer Division approached across the flat plain from Katerini. The Germans tried a frontal attach but were repulsed by the Battalion and the Germans took huge casualties. The battle ragged all that day and evening and into the next day but the Battalion was holding. At one stage the German Force numbered close to 4000 opposing the 700 with Mackay. Many German tanks were destroyed by the troop from 5 Field Regt and many more lost their tracks in the rocky steep slopes. Mackay determined when it was time to go and the Battalion obtained a clean break and headed for the pass.
We then entered the Castle, built originally in 400 BC but extended and rebuilt by the Franks in the 10th Century. The Ottomans had it from 1453 until 1912 when the Greeks regained the Castle and area during the uprising that finally expelled the Ottomans from Greece. Leaving the Castle, we headed into the Tempe Gorge visited the Chapel and checked the Railway Tunnel before leaving the Gorge for coffee in a local café adjacent to the road side.
After that, we had a straight run through to Lamia where we had lunch in the road side café there. After lunch we adjourned to the area of Thermopylae to discuss the famous battles that had taken place there over the centuries. Firstly, the Spartans against the Persians and then the NZ Division against the German Panzer Division. We know the heroic battle lost by the Spartans due to treachery but not many know the heroic fight by the NZ Division. The Division was supported by a Medium Regiment and 3 Field Regiments plus more. The Field Guns and infantry held the German Division up and inflicted many casualties in both men and machines. Firing over open sites, one gun accounted for 11 German Tanks. At the end of the engagement the battlefield was strewn with burning tanks and trucks. A clean break followed and all were through Athens by next morning.
We continued south and visited the site of the ancient Battle at Marathon and then moved to Rafina where many were evacuated from as part of the embarkation from the Athens beaches. Dinner followed and we made our way onto our ferry at 2000 for our cruise to Crete. Tomorrow, Crete.