|View of the coastline north of Platamon, defended by New Zealand troops. NZ Official History|
The battle to defend Platamon and its railway tunnel and the entrance to the Pineos River Gorge commenced on this day in 1941. Platamon, on the eastern coast of Greece, led south and into the Pineos River Gorge to central Greece. It would be defended by units of the New Zealand 21st (Auckland) Battalion led by Lieutenant-Colonel Macky.
The German forces launched three attacks on the ridge dominated by the old castle (see above). The German forces included a tank battalion (the 1/3 Panzer Regiment) and motorcycle units (i.e. 2nd Motor Cycle Battalion). the New Zealand defenders subject their attackers to a "murderous fire" as the Germans later reported. The New Zealand defenders brought the full weight of their 25-pounders, mortars, anti-tank rifles and even machine guns on to the advancing Germans. in the end, the New Zealanders were victorious on the first day of the battle of Platamon.
Yet throughout the night, the New Zealanders were without rest, as the NZ Official history recounts:
"Long before ... night had fallen and the attack had faded away across the whole front, ... there continued to be a disturbing restlessness that promised greater trouble on the morrow. Very lights were going up, guns were searching for targets, and on the lower slopes German patrols were groping through the scrub."
After being repulsed, the Germans were reinforced during the evening. The next day the Germans would attack with tank, infantry, and motorcycle units.
Meanwhile, Vasey’s 19th Australian Brigade comprising the 2/4th and 2/8th Battalions, crossed the Aliakmon River with the help of the 2/1st Field Company. As the bridges across the River had already been destroyed, A section of the 2/1st Field Company was sent in to construct a bridge and an approach road for the trucks. Armed with only rope, picks, shovels, other hand tools and spikes, the Australian engineers, assisted by British engineers and New Zealand infantrymen, began work at dawn on 15 April and by 10.00 pm a workable bridge to bring out the infantry spanned the Aliakmon. Despite the flimsy nature of the footbridge spanning 50 meters of wide flowing river, all but one company of Vasey's force managed to get across during the night.
Meanwhile the Germans capture the village of Argos Orestikon on the Kastoria-Grevena Road, as they moved over the passes beneath Mount Olympus.
Australian Unit Locations - 15th April
17th Brigade HQ - Orphana
19th Brigade HQ - Mikravalton
2/1st Battalion - Mishiotori
2/2nd Battalion - Moskhokhori
2/3rd Battalion - Moskhokhori
2/5th Battalion - Kalabaka
2/4th Battalion - Aliakmon River
2/6th Battalion - Orphana
2/7th Battalion - Lrissa
2/8th Battalion - Kromion
2/11th Battalion - Kalabaka
2/1st Machine Gun Battalion - Olympus Line
Thanks to Paul Sougleris of Greek Anzacs for his information on unit locations drawn from the official unit dairies.
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee
& Member, Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign Commemorative Council