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To Greece

The German Account of the Action at Kalamata

page 460

The German Account of the Action at Kalamata

The only official German report of the action, the propaganda publication already quoted, gives few details: there had been a ‘violent engagement’ and 7000 British troops had surrendered. According to this booklet, one company from 5 Panzer Division had approached Kalamata about 6.30 p.m., collecting ‘little groups of stranded Tommies’ on the way and entering the town. ‘Things were quiet’ so the force carried on to the waterfront. There was still no movement. Then about 7 p.m. rifle fire ‘began to crackle … isolated shots at first, so that nobody bothered’, but suddenly it increased in volume, the British ‘sweeping the long quay with their fire.’ One of the three armoured vehicles was put out of action and had to be shepherded into cover by the other two; the prisoners were sent back to the main body which was now outside the town; and the company prepared for all-round defence.

On the waterfront two machine guns and three PAK guns1 returned the fire and the motorised battery of two 15-centimetre guns went into action, firing over open sights in the direction of the olive groves. All British accounts state that only two shells came over, but the Germans describe how the twelve gunners worked with ‘furious calm’ until eight of them had fallen to the British fire. The machine-gunners, equally exposed, had their casualties, resistance slackened, and before long the British were appearing out of ‘each side street and lane’. The German commander, collecting his men, made a last stand in some buildings towards the southern end of the waterfront. But they were ‘shut in from all sides’, and when their ammunition was exhausted they asked for a parley and were forced to surrender.

The enemy prisoners were marched back to the beach where British officers ‘wrapped in their greatcoats’ were waiting for the expected convoy. It did not appear, and about 4 a.m. on 29 April a British officer asked the captured company commander to take him as envoy to the highest-ranking German officer outside the town. So back they went to the battalion commander and the 450 men who were ‘waiting with unspeakable impatience for the dawn.’ The surrender was soon negotiated, the Luftwaffe was warned not to bomb the area and at dawn the British became prisoners of war.

1 Panzerabwehrkanone: anti-tank gun.