Germanies Blitzkrieg had taken the unprepared allies off guard in 1940. In April 1941 Greece was to experience the same. Honouring her treaty obligations Great Britain deployed a force to Greece to help protect her independence. Today we shall take a look at an action of that campaign.
On the 2nd of March 1941 Commonwealth troops of began landing in Greece. This allied expeditionary force was code named "W Force". Just over a month later, on April the 6th, the Germans attacked. The German Panzer's blitzed through the countryside supported by massive numbers of air craft that overwhelmed the few RAF planes dispatched to the country. Despite stiff resistance the Commonwealth forces were pushed back, and by the 19th The leaders of W Force started contingency planning for evacuation.
The day before the 2/2 Field artillery was travelling over the Brallos Pass, to the west of Thermopylae. they where in a position to ensure the Germans didn't repeat King Xerxes' manoeuvre of outflanking the Spartans at the Hot Gates. As the column of towed guns climbed up the path a section of two 25 Pounders, under the command of Lieutenant Anderson, was ordered to split off and dig in on a tiny ledge located a third of the way down the side of the mountain. Their task was to cover the bridge over the Sperkhios River, and the ground between it and the town of Lamia. The Gun pits were dug a mere 15 feet apart as no other space was available. They were accompanied by Some Infantry and a 2cm Breda AA gun with a British crew.
The Germans brought up some field pieces and began to fire at the Australian guns, who quickly responded. The guns were in constant action for the entirety of the morning, until about 1300 when one gun sprung a leak in its recoil cylinder due to the number of rounds fired. By this point the German trucks had reached the base of the ridge and were unloading infantry. The crew of the last remaining gun pushed their piece out of its pit to the edge of the escarpment, but the gun wouldn't depress enough. So the Crew lifted the gun by the tail, and while bracing it in their hands began to fire shells at the Germans. Even using the smallest propellant charge the gun was in danger of tearing out of their arms and flipping over. After about 50 shells the Germans began to retreat.
The German response was to use their artillery again. A savage bombardment hit the Australian position,causing the crew to duck. By 4 PM the bombardment lifted and the Gunners found that their 25 Pounder had been knocked out of action. The guns had been in constant action for eight hours, and over 160 German shells had hit the tiny ledge where they had their position. Yet not one casualty had been sustained. Stripping the damaged gun of sights and breech block Lt Anderson sent half his men to safety with the critical parts of the gun. He remained to try and get the first piece working again.
The Germans landed a furious barrage of shells on the hillside, killing one and wounding one from the first party to retreat. The Gun position was also hit by this whirlwind, killing six and wounding three. As dusk had fallen, the first artillery piece was out of action and couldn't be repaired, Lt Anderson ordered the evacuation of the wounded. Once he had seen them to safety he and Gunner returned, on their own, to the gun position. They put the 25 Pounder beyond use, and collected the discs of the wounded before finally retreating.