Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours

On Tour - Greece and Crete Tour 16 April 2017


Following our real late night last night attending the Resurrection Service in the village up in the mountains West of Platamon, we were ready for another day out on the area around Platamon and the Pinios Gorge. Leaving at 0830 we headed south to the Pinios Gorge and drove though on the old road as there now is a new highway that takes you through the mountain via a 14 kilometre tunnel. We needed to be on the old road so as to view the area that the 21st New Zealand Battalion was deployed in as it guarded the Gorge from the East.

Due to the narrowness of the Gorge the Battalion was spread out in a linear formation which gave it depth from an approach through the Pass. When we reached the village of Tempe we crossed the river and continued on the north side towards Gonnos for it was there that the Germans broke out from the mountains in an endeavour to cross the Pinios and cut off our force.

From a position south of Gonnos we were able to view the area across the river where the 2/2nd and 2/3rd Battalions were deployed awaiting the arrival of the enemy. The first engagements were here as the enemy tried to gain access across the river where they suffered high casualties and their attack was defeated. Simultaneously, the tanks of the enemy brushed aside the 21st Battalion and broke out onto the open area. The time was now 1130 and the 21st Battalion withdrew from the Gorge and 3 tanks that emerged were fired on by the anti-tank gunners destroying 2 of them. The 3rd held back and strangely the Germans did not press forward again for 2 hours.

Attacks resumed at 1500 across the river but was stopped again with major casualties to the attacking force and the river was not crossed however, the main threat was from the new attack by the tanks supported by infantry. A major battle ensued resulting with the Australians slowly withdrawing to the south and having many cut off by the enemy tanks with Major Cullen leading 12 officers and 140 men back over the mountains to the East coast and then via various moves through the islands to re-join the unit on Crete.

Brigadier Allen, the 16th Brigade Commander wrote afterwards, "it was a fantastic battle. Everybody was on top of the ground and all in the front line including artillery, Bren carriers, infantry and various unit headquarters with unit transport only a few hundred yards [metres] in the rear. Some confusion could be expected with every weapon firing and aircraft strafing from above. If you saw it at the cinema you would say the author had never seen a battle. We had to hold the position until dark and thanks to the morale of the force it was done. As expected the pressure eased after dark, but I have often wondered why the enemy did not follow up his success if only with infantry patrols".

We made our way to the coast and had a well-deserved coffee break before climbing up to the area in the front of the Castle at Platamon to discuss the previous defence of that position by the 21st NZ Battalion. Lunch summoned us on this Easter Sunday, a day when the Greeks have finished their period of fasting and Easter Sunday lunch was a tradition of eating with family. Our travelling family headed back up into the mountains to the village where we were last night and had lunch there with many of the local people.

Following lunch we made our way through the village to the entrance where Tassos had moved our coach. This village does not allow cars into it except for locals who need to move items in or out of the village. All vehicles are parked outside the village.

Arriving back at our hotel we had free time before dinner to prepare for our move south tomorrow to the ferry at Pirreus.



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