|Entrance to Vevi Village. Photograph taken in April 1945 by V.J. Krauth. AWM|
On this day 75 years ago, the German attack on the Allied defenders at Vevi continued.
The weather turned for the worse, bringing blizzard conditions to the battlefield. Mist in the heights on each side of the valley made it impossible to see more than fifty yards. The Anzacs reported several guns had frozen over night and were unable to fire. Some soldiers dropped out of the line with frostbite. The photograph of the Lieutenant Colonel Dougherty of the 2/4th with the commanding officer of the flanking Greek Battalion surrounded in snow is testament to these conditions. But while the conditions hampered the defenders at Vevi, their blinding effect allowed the Germans to use the conditions to manoeuvre closer to the Australians.
On this day, Australian infantrymen fired their first shots in Greece. The Germans had formed their force to attack Vevi and the Kleidi valley into a “kampfgruppe” or battle group, adding artillery and Stug III assault guns to the SS Brigades 1st Battalion. As the morning progressed a few German tanks appeared, one then another being disabled by the mines in the field forward of the Rangers. German infantry began digging in along the road to Kelli (a village on the right in front of the Dodecanese Regiment). As the day wore on, German artillery arrived, joined by heavy mortars and machine guns sited behind the Lofoi ridge, and began to exact a toll on the Allies. Private Cade of the 2/4th witnessed a man lose an arm.
A little before 5pm two battalions of German infantry attacked astride the road. Supported by the British and Australian artillery, the enemy was stopped when they were half a mile from the allied forward posts. And reports – though false - arrived of a flanking movement by German tanks against a position held by the 20th Greek Division between Lakes Petron and Vegottitis, threatening the defence at Vevi’s rear.
By 9.30pm the Germans had abandoned their attack for the day, Vasey reporting that his forces had the “situation well in hand”. But this didn’t deter the Germans from attempting their infiltration techniques again. This time the German attacker’s cultured English voices were met with heavy fire.
The snow was now up to a foot deep over the whole of Hill 1001 – the three thousand foot ridge on which the 2/4th had deployed – and there was snow on the hills on the right, where from 10pm a German company made sharp attacks on the 2/8th.
It was here that the first German prisoners were taken and the Anzacs discovered that they were fighting units of the motorised SS Liebestandarte Adolf Hitler.
In the Pisoderion Pass north-west of the Vevi positions, the Greek Cavalry Division again repulsed the Germans probing forward against their positions – as the Greek Army on the Albanian front continued to hold against the Italians.
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee
& Member, Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign Commemorative Council