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To Greece

Divisional Cavalry Regiment Along the Aliakmon River

Divisional Cavalry Regiment Along the Aliakmon River

Nearly 15 miles north of the anti-tank ditch was the muddy Aliakmon River with its coastal swamp and high stopbanks. As the road and railway bridges in the stretch between Megali Yefira and Karavi were particularly important, the Divisional Cavalry Regiment, when it arrived at Katerini, was ordered to that area. After resisting as long as possible any attempts to make a crossing, the squadrons would fight a series of delaying actions and eventually withdraw through the main defences. On 1 April the regiment moved to the river, A Squadron taking the eastern section, B Squadron going to the west and Advanced Regimental Headquarters, with C Squadron as reserve, occupying the area about the village of Paliambela. Efforts were then made to improve the roads and the armoured cars were dug into the river bank until there was just sufficient clearance for the Vickers machine guns. On the escarpments to the south, observation points were established to overlook the approaches from Salonika, the plain of Macedonia to the north and the gorge near Veroia from which the river left the western mountains.

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To assist the regiment in its delaying role two troops of artillery were sent up. E Troop 28 Battery 5 Field Regiment (Captain Bevan1), which arrived with its four 25-pounders on 2 April, had to prepare to shell the crossroads at Yidha, the road south to the bridge and any enemy formations that attempted to cross the river. O Troop 34 Battery 7 Anti-Tank Regiment (Lieutenant Patterson2) came up on 3 April and was placed under command of A Squadron. Two of its two-pounders, each supported by an armoured car, covered the main road bridge; the other two, with similar support, covered the railway bridge.

No. 3 Section 6 Field Company was responsible for the demolitions in the area, particularly those on the bridges across the Aliakmon River. The charges were not, however, to be placed in position until orders had been received from Divisional Headquarters.

On 4 April there was one change in the strength of the Divisional Cavalry Regiment. First Armoured Brigade on the Macedonian Plain was seriously handicapped by a shortage of reconnaissance vehicles so, in exchange for seven cruiser tanks, two troops of Marmon Harrington armoured cars were sent over under the command of Lieutenant Atchison3 and Second-Lieutenant Cole.4 In their new role they were to be the first New Zealand units in action in Greece.5

1 Maj T. H. Bevan, DSO, m.i.d.; Onehunga; born London, 27 May 1909; builder; bty comd 7 A-Tk Regt and 4 Fd Regt; wounded 17 Dec 1942.

2 Lt-Col D. B. Patterson, m.i.d.; Auckland; born Auckland, 30 Nov 1910; assistant architect; 2 i/c 14 Lt AA Regt Apr–Nov 1944; CO 14 Lt AA Regt Jun–Jul 1944; comd Miles Wing, Reception Gp (UK), Jun–Sep 1945.

3 Maj A. C. Atchison; born NZ 30 Aug 1907; farmer; died Clevedon, 25 Jul 1955.

4 Maj D. A. Cole, MC; Tikorangi; born NZ 2 Oct 1913; farmer; three times wounded.

5 See pp. 1945.