The Rearguard at Elevtherokhorion, 18 April
The Rearguard at Elevtherokhorion, 18 April
The enemy had meanwhile advanced not only along the road from Mount Olympus but also across the open country to the west. By so doing they were to reach the Servia road above the junction and cut off the withdrawal of Lieutenant-Colonel Kippenberger and the 4 Brigade rearguard.
The next position held by the rearguard was a ridge on the south side of the Elevtherokhorion stream, manned by P Troop 34 Anti- Tank Battery (Lieutenant Moodie3) and a troop from A Squadron Divisional Cavalry Regiment (Lieutenant Robinson4). They had heard the sound of the guns as the tanks came through from Mount Olympus and had sent a motor-cyclist to investigate. He brought back news of the German approach and was followed, very shortly afterwards, by C Squadron Divisional Cavalry and the three guns of O Troop 34 Anti-Tank Battery. Behind them from the Mount Olympus road German tanks could be seen moving westwards towards the road from Servia. At the same time Lieutenant-Colonel Kippenberger's convoy suddenly came down that road and, by mistake, one of the P Troop guns opened fire upon it. But the immediate turmoil when two of the tanks cut into the little column made it quite clear to everyone that this was the 4 Brigade rearguard. Signs were frantically made to hasten the vehicles across the bridge, but only one truck5 came over before the engineers were forced to demolish it. With the last of A Squadron, they then withdrew over the southern ridge under fire from the tanks now approaching over the undulating country between the two roads.
4 Lt-Col H. A. Robinson, DSO, MC, ED, m.i.d.; Waipukurau; born New Plymouth, 29 Sep 1912; farmhand; troop leader, later 2 i/c, Div Cav 1939–44; CO 18 Armd Regt Mar–Jul 1944; 20 Armd Regt Mar–Oct 1945; twice wounded.
The only German account is brief and somewhat exaggerated. No. 5 Company 3 Panzer Regiment had ‘a brush with 2 enemy tanks, destroying one. It pushed on and came up with a retreating column of enemy tanks and wheeled vehicles. The company opened fire from hull down positions on both sides of the road, while the leading platoon pushed on at full speed to the bridge 1 Km N W of Elefserokori [Elevtherokhorion]. This bridge was blown as the platoon approached….’1 Unfortunately the Germans were not held up for any great length of time. A steep-sided ford was found just below the bridge and the tanks pushed on towards Elasson.
They had for some time been under fire from P Troop: Bombardier Bellringer2 and Sergeant Fowler3 with their crews on the right of the road and Sergeant Cutbush4 on the left. These guns had opened fire when the tanks came south across country and down the Servia road. The forward gun (Bellringer's) disabled one tank and, although the orders were to withdraw after the demolition of the bridge, the crew fought on until the gun was knocked out by tank fire. Bellringer and another gunner died of wounds and the rest were captured. The other right-hand gun (Fowler's) was very successful, disabling four tanks, two armoured cars and one heavy truck and making a successful withdrawal after manhandling the gun up a steep slope. Sergeant Cutbush's gun joined in the action but was ditched when the coupling hook broke. The approaching tanks had the gun under fire but Gunner Schultz5 dashed back and removed the firing mechanism. The force then withdrew through the gorge to Elasson and thence across the plain to the lines of 6 Brigade, where the remaining three guns of O and P Troops 34 Anti-Tank Battery went to the 26 Battalion area south of Dhomenikon.
During the engagement the small force covering the road from Dheskati to Elasson came through, first N Troop 34 Anti-Tank Battery and then B Squadron Divisional Cavalry Regiment, whose late appearance had led to some anxious but unnecessary preparations to cover its withdrawal. With Regimental Headquarters and detachments from several other units, the squadrons went through Elasson to positions across the plain towards the left flank of 6 Brigade. The Luftwaffe chose this moment to stage a raid and at the cost of one aircraft caused casualties in both the anti-tank and Divisional Cavalry units, one officer and four other ranks being killed and two officers and two other ranks wounded.
Blown bridge over the Aliakmon River
New Zealand positions at Platamon castle under bombardment—from a German magazine
The coastline north of Platamon from the castle. The railwayruns to the left
Looking west towards Pandeleimon from the castle
Preparing gun positions in the Olympus Pass
New Zealand engineers build a road in the Olympus Pass
19 Battalion's first German prisoners, Servia
Mist covers the withdrawal through the Servia Pass
New Zealand provost on point duty, Olympus Pass
1 3 Panzer Regiment battle report, 15–19 April 1941.
After the attack the columns moved on, the Divisional Cavalry taking up a covering position on the left flank of 25 Battalion. As soon as they had passed through, Lieutenant Thomas1 with a subsection from 7 Field Company demolished sections of the road in the narrow gorge to the north of Elasson. The German tanks which came through shortly afterwards were held up there for several hours.