Sir John Valentine Carden survives.

19 April 1941. Kalabaka, Greece.
19 April 1941. Kalabaka, Greece.

The heroes of Trebeshina, the 5th Infantry Division, proud of their Cretan heritage, had suffered badly in their victory over the Italians. When they were commanded to hold the Metsovon Pass, General Papageorgiou, the commander of the Division repeated his assessment that the Division was no longer combat effective. Lieutenant General Tsolakoglau, commanding the Western Macedonian Army, now known as the First Army, having amalgamated with the Epirus Army, agreed with the assessment. He knew all too well that few of his formations could be described as combat effective. He ordered Papageorgiou to take his remaining men to Kalabaka, and from there, by train to Pireas, where the navy would carry them back to Crete to rebuild.

With 1st, 8th and 9th Divisions manning the Venetikos Line, Tsolakoglau ordered all of 11th Division to fortify the Metsovon Pass. 3rd Division were to move to Kalabaka and 2nd Division to Trikkala to defend the railway line for as long as possible. Tsolakoglau wanted to get as many of his men to the south as possible, using the railhead at Kalabaka. If these six Divisions could halt the Germans even for a day or two before withdrawing, the majority of the First Army, like the remnants of 12th, 20th and the Cavalry Divisions, would be able to get back towards Athens. Movement by road and rail was dangerous in daylight when the Luftwaffe seemed to be everywhere, and the railway would probably be over-burdened by what was being asked of it, but it gave hope to the men of getting out of a potential trap.

The Australian 16th and 19th Brigades, having given up their positions on the Servia Pass, were falling back towards Thermopylae, and they had made sure it was going to take the Germans time to clear a way through the demolitions they’d left behind. The New Zealand 4th and 5th Brigades were due to pull out that night, while 6th Brigade held the roads around Elasson, to prevent the Germans approaching from either the Servia or Olympus Passes. Much of the Luftwaffe were concentrating on the more obvious motorised transport and airfields around Larisa. Tsolakoglau knew he had a window of opportunity to save as much of his army as he could. The danger of a headlong retreat was that it might become a rout. But if the British Empire forces could hold the Germans at Thermopylae, then the Greek army would have time to regroup, even if, like the new recruits, it had to be done on Crete, or even in Egypt.

Meanwhile the 17th Australian Brigade were getting used to working alongside the 1st Armoured Brigade. This particular Infantry Brigade had had the least exposure to working with the Infantry Tanks against the Italians in Cyrenaica. Working with the Cruiser Tanks in a defensive role was a different style of collaboration, so that lack of experience wasn’t too debilitating. Brigadier Charrington was particularly happy working with Brigadier Savige’s Australians. The single motorised battalion (1st Rangers) attached to his Brigade had been run ragged, and the Australians meant that each of his three understrength armoured regiments could work with an Infantry Battalion and the two Brigades’ artillery and anti-tank regiments. The successful experience of leapfrogging back from one defensive position to another to the River Aliakmon, was now going to have an even bigger canvas to work on.

Generals Blamey and Freyberg had set out a few intermediate positions where one of their Brigades would set up a holding position in case the Germans closed quickly with the retreating ANZACs. Charrington and Savige would play of the role protecting these holding positions. All of Charrington’s Regiments knew that their role would likely lead to them being destroyed piecemeal. So far, they’d been able to lay a few punches to the German nose, and liked to think, that while they might not be able to land a knock-out blow, the German Panzer Divisions would know they’d been in a fight.

In the Pineios Gorge the New Zealanders were struggling to hold back the combined efforts of a German Panzer and Mountain Division. The liberal use of explosives to create landslips and block the German progress had been the extra dimension to the New Zealand 5th Brigade’s defence, that, with their doughty fighting skills, had held up the Germans for as long as hoped. The Brigade had begun the process of thinning itself out, so that the majority of the men could board their transport as darkness fell. The rear-guard knew that they would struggle to extricate themselves, but were prepared to hold as long as possible to let their mates get away, to fight another day.


This map from here is obviously OTL. But hopefully gives some of the names of the places. You'll also notice that the Germans are indeed falling behind their OTL schedule. Kalabaka btw is where Savige Force is circled on the map.
WH2GreeP023a.jpg
 
Not enough to save part of mainland Greece, unless the casualties and delays inflicted on the Germans lead to them digging in instead of pushing so that nothing delays Barbarossa.

Which is, let's be honest, incredibly unlikely.

In the long run beyond Greece and Crete, the changes fall into the category of "not enough information" to make any accurate guesses.

Extra troops extra weapons, extra everything could make a massive difference pretty much anywhere but because of that we can't really make any serious guesses.
What can be saved aside from Crete may well be the Eastern Aegean islands or even the Cyclades. They were captured in OTL by effectively negligible forces during the general collapse. If things are much more organized as appears the case here, no reason for Lesbos, Chios and Samos to surrender. Right away at least...

The other big change left unmentioned so far that seems to have passed everyone by... Alexandros Koryzis, the Greek prime minister HAS NOT committed suicide in April 18th.
 
Withdrawl is going better and making the Germans have to spend more in Greece is a net positive in the long run.

Huh if the Commonwealth forces are doing better ITTL will Menzies be able to stay in power for longer or is he still going to lose his premiership?
 
So, the carrying capacity in Greece is significantly more than 10,000 men per day.

Quite possibly. But to wear my engineering hat, the minimum demonstrated capacity of the allies is 10,000 men a day. They can and will be matching this. TTL they can quite probably exceed this as you say. But this gives us a minimum estimate that the allies will be able to lift out at a minimum 140,000 men here...
 
Quite possibly. But to wear my engineering hat, the minimum demonstrated capacity of the allies is 10,000 men a day. They can and will be matching this. TTL they can quite probably exceed this as you say. But this gives us a minimum estimate that the allies will be able to lift out at a minimum 140,000 men here...
How many men needed to be lifted out?
 
One possible problem for the Allies might be if half the Greek army gets evacuated to Crete (and the Greek leaders want the Greek army used only for or in Greek territory) how easy is it to keep all those soldiers supplied with food, ammunition (for fighting and training), and other kit and necessities on Crete? Is there enough shipping in the Mediterranean for supply runs and protection?
Shipping? Sure. Ports? That's a different matter.
The good ports like Herakleion are on the north side of the island, and exposed to Axis air and naval attacks.

It has been pointed out several times in various Crete Doesn't Fall scenarios that trying to supply a major force ( usually heavy bombers are what's proposed) through the northern ports would be too costly in ships and men.
That means building up small fishing ports on the south side, AND building roads from south to north and east to west. People have compared Crete to several individual islands, given the major centers were basically connected with mule tracks, as I understand it.

Reinforcing Crete makes sense - and starting a slow build up of infrastructure. But I imagine if the majority of the Greek army gets evacuated, realistically most of them would have to go to Alexandria or so place.
 
What can be saved aside from Crete may well be the Eastern Aegean islands or even the Cyclades. They were captured in OTL by effectively negligible forces during the general collapse. If things are much more organized as appears the case here, no reason for Lesbos, Chios and Samos to surrender. Right away at least...
Absolutely! After all, the Germans invaded the Eastern Aegean islands with ... wooden fishing boats like this one.
ag154-16.jpg


The problem to hold even temporarily the Aegean islands rests with airpower. So, here is the 800-pound gorilla in the room: what have the British been doing the past 6 months in Crete? Because frankly, in OTL they spent half a year doing minimal work to prepare the island as a bastion for the RN and RAF. It would be a great butterfly, if the British in the island are commanded by someone that actually enforces the policy of the decision-takers that wanted Crete to become a fortress. And not change multiple commanders over six months.

The resources could be found locally: cement, stone and cheap labor. The ports could have been improved, macadam roads built, better airfields developed sooner, machine gun nests, a great number of blast pens etc. The Germans faced much worse difficulties in logistics during their occupation of Crete and yet managed in 8 months to repair the existing three airfields from the battle damage, finish them, build a third airfield in Tympaki (for which they had to uproot tens of thousands of olive trees), improve the north-south road to serve the new airfield, improve the Souda anchorage and build a veritable number of light fortifications such as machine gun nests across the coastline.

And the Germans had to rely on a handul of captured greek steamers, the occasional italian steamer and wooden fishing boats for their logistics....

Because Lascaris mentioned the Eastern Aegean Islands, I would like to make a comparison on the OTL expediency of their fortification. During the Dardanelles Campaign, the British had used Lemnos island as a major base. They had prepared rudimentary port installation and an airfield that could support WW1 aircraft. So, they knew the island pretty well - an island that commanded the Dardanelles and the northern Aegean. Yet for six months they didn't even send a team to survey the island for airfields. They did so in... April 1941. The Germans were thinking that the British would build an airfield there even since November 8th 1940. Even though Lemnos was a backwater, over the course of 5 months the Germans had developed an airfield, a seaplane station and over 20 minor fortifications. In a backwater that would have been used only as a base for ASW patrols.


EDIT: The Germans were so sure that the British would have developed airfields in Lemnos that had included a detailed plan to drop fallschirmjager to capture it. That would have been the Sussman Detachment.
 
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Some prep work has been made on Crete I remember a post about Sunda Bay about them deploying some tanks there and preparation I have no idea if anymore has been done on that yet though.
 
Is there a possibility for lessons learned here for the Germans?

Not really. Or rather, not in the sense for the lessons to be passed on fast enough to matter to affect Barbarossa in a normal government, with the nature of the German Government the only lessons learned that are likely to be passed on is "How best to pin the blame for the negatives on some other branch of the armed services"

Greece was basically the German's pulling a last minute fight for influence in the lead up to Barbarossa. Too much at stake in the eyes of those in charge to accept fault.

And without the ability to accept fault, there really isn't much ability to have lessons be learned on any level that can apply them beyond maybe a division or two.
 

Orry

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Not really. Or rather, not in the sense for the lessons to be passed on fast enough to matter to affect Barbarossa in a normal government, with the nature of the German Government the only lessons learned that are likely to be passed on is "How best to pin the blame for the negatives on some other branch of the armed services"

Greece was basically the German's pulling a last minute fight for influence in the lead up to Barbarossa. Too much at stake in the eyes of those in charge to accept fault.

And without the ability to accept fault, there really isn't much ability to have lessons be learned on any level that can apply them beyond maybe a division or two.

The British did ok in france and Greece against Germans and very well against the Italians

The Anglo saxons are a germanic people so that stands to reason

The slavs are subhuman bruts - no lessons to be learned that will affect our fight in Russia........

Signed - Some German Officer
 
If the British decide to hold an island, I think a reasonable argument can be made for Cythera. It lies between Crete and Peloponnese and covers the western approaches to the cretan ports, Souda Bay included. The island can be supplied by wooden caiques: a diesel-engined caique that departs western Crete (e.g. Kissamos) need 5 hours to reach Cythera. Basically, they can be supplied with night runs. The odd destroyer can cover the 91 km distance much faster.

There is one unit that can be used to immediately secure Cythera or to reinforce Crete: 1st Battalion Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment. On April 4th it landed in Lemnos to survey the island. According to Charalambos Poriazis "The Germans in Lemnos and the Eastern Aegean Islands, 1941-1944", it was comprised by 650 men with 20 lorries and 12 "light tanks". My guess is that the latter were probably Mark VIs. When they departed the island in haste at April 13th they were ferried straight to Egypt.

So, here is another battalion for you @allanpcameron !

IMG_20210614_151248.jpg

Here is a photo from the aforementioned book depicting the captured British drivers who were left behind. The photo belongs to Ch. Poriazis' archive and all rights belong to him.
 
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20 April 1941. Elasson, Greece.
20 April 1941. Elasson, Greece.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lillingston, CO 4th Queens Own Hussars had come forward to speak to Major David Harrison, OC C Squadron. Radio contact between the forward forces and the Regimental and Brigade HQs was patchy and Lillingston wanted to be sure that Harrison was absolutely clear about his Squadron’s orders. During the previous night the forward reconnaissance troops had heard movement which, as confirmed in daylight, showed that the Germans had been able to clear a road through the pass at Agios Dimitrios.

Major Harrison showed his Commanding Officer the disposition of his forces, their planned withdrawal routes, and the prepared demolitions that were part of the plan to keep delaying the German advance. Harrison was able to reassure his superior that he was well aware that the mission was not to go toe to toe with the enemy, just to ambush and withdraw. Each troop of A13MkII tanks had a troop of New Zealand Divisional Cavalrymen in Bren Gun carriers to provide support against German infantry getting around flanks.

Satisfied, Lillingston was about to return back to his HQ when the Luftwaffe appeared in force. Once again, the British found to their cost the absence of integrated anti-air assets. With the RAF having had to pull back towards Athens, there was no hope of friendly aircraft breaking up the Stuka attack. While the British and New Zealanders had taken precautions to try to camouflage their positions, over the course of thirty minutes some direct hits and near misses cost C Squadron three tanks and the New Zealanders two carriers and six killed, with more than double that wounded.

Lillingston, after spending time in a slit trench, and sensing that the Luftwaffe focus was moving away, decided to take his chances and return to his HQ. When he arrived back at the Regimental HQ, he had been slightly injured when his driver had taken evasive action to get out of the way of a strafing German aircraft. In the meantime, the occasional reports from C Squadron that arrived over Radio Transmissions noted that the plan was unfolding as expected, with each troop disengaging and falling back as soon as the Germans started to react. So far most of the Germans engaged were presumed to be reconnaissance troops on motorcycles and in armoured cars. A couple of reports mentioned Panzer I or Panzer IIs being engaged, but nothing heavier. The continued presence of the Luftwaffe dive bombers was reported, and this was hampering some of the movement of the British and New Zealand vehicles.

Once the Germans had moved out of the pass, into the plain where they could manoeuvre, the remaining tanks and carriers withdrew in the direction of Elasson, with the noise of the Royal Engineers’ demolition charges ringing in their ears. Lt-Col Lillingston was able to report to Brigadier Charrington that C Squadron of 4th Hussars had delayed the German exit from the Olympus Pass and were now falling back to the next defensive position. As well as the three tanks disabled by the Luftwaffe, another three tanks had been lost, two to enemy action and one to a mechanical breakdown. It was a pity that the RAF didn’t have the capacity to bomb the enemy column coming over the Olympus Pass, it would be a sitting duck. Charrington agreed, but noted that the job of delaying the Germans had been done effectively. The order for the 6th New Zealand Brigade and the rest of the 1st Armoured Brigade to withdraw towards the new line at Thermopylae was repeated, the transport was to carry them overnight via Velestinon to Volos, then, the following night to Lamia and Molos. Travelling at night had proven the best way to avoid the attentions of the Luftwaffe.
 
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