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Our Committee is raising funds to create a lasting legacy telling the story of Lemnos' link to Gallipoli and Australia's Anzac story. Our projects include the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park, the publication of a major new historical and pictorial publication and more. To make a donation you can also deposit directly by direct debit into the Committee's bank account: Account Name: Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee Inc; Bank: Delphi Bank; Account No: 204299-020 BSB No: 941300; Include your surname in the reference section. For further information on our legacy projects or to make a donation please contact either Lee Tarlamis 0411553009 or Jim Claven 0409402388M

Saturday, 23 April 2016

24 April 1941 - Final Day of the Battles of Brallos Pass and Thermopylae - Former Hawthorn FC player Gunner Drake fatally wounded

Brallos Pass, Greece, Painted by William Dargie, 1946. AWM
On this day 75 years ago, German forces engaged the Australian diggers at Brallos Pass on the final day of the battle. 
The Defence of Brallos Pass and the Australian withdrawal
This was the fourth day of the German attempt to force their way south through the Anzac's defending this vital pass. The Anzacs successfully defended the pass and then extracted their forces to continue the withdrawal south, saving the guns and ammunition of the 2/2 Field Regiment.
The battle began in the early morning, with German trucks with infantry advancing over the repaired bridge over the Sperkios River below. German infantry then began advancing on the Australian defenders. The Australian defenders included elements of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion and three infantry battalions - 2/1st, 2/4th, 2/8th and 2/11th.
By the late afternoon. German mortars were showering the Australians, killing or wounding many of the 2/11th. Further German infantry advances - including to the west of Gravia on the western flank of the Australian defenders - resulted in the decision to withdraw most of the Australians by late in the evening.
The withdrawal saw the a detachment of the 2/8th Battalion move up to defend Brallos village.
At 8.30pm the 2/2nd Field Regiment - with the help of the 2/1st Field Company equipped only with hand tools, air compressors and a limited quantity of explosive - successfully removed its remaining guns and ammunition. As the roads were blocked, they did so across a track made by the Australian engineers some three miles long from Brallos north-east over very rough country to the gun positions. The track was then demolished by the engineers who had so recently made it.
While the withdrawal was in progress Vasey was anxious lest the enemy troops who had been moving round the western flank and appeared to be in Gravia should reach the Ano Kalivia road junction before the brigade had passed it . Three carriers were sent to block this possible German flanking movement along this southern road. The Germans never came, delaying their advance
There remained one other rearguard to the north of the force at Erithrai - the 2/5th Battalion group in position just west of Levadia covering the road leading through Delphi . Untroubled, the 2/5th moved out from its positions at 3 a .m. and drove south to rejoin (it hoped) the17th Brigade to which it belonged.
Thus, by the early morning of the25th the whole of "W" Group had moved through the rearguard at Erithrai and, again, miles of cratered roads separated it from the advancing German army.
One of those who fought at Brallos was St Kilda-born Gunner James Zampelis. James was a digger of Greek background, his father having been born on Lefkada.
Another was 37 year old former Hawthorn Footballer, Lance Bombardier Jack Drake. He was fatally wounded at Brallos.Thermopylae
Meanwhile German tanks crossed the Sperkios and advanced east towards the Kiwi defenders at Thermopylae. Despite destroying 12 German tanks, the New Zealanders successfully withdrew south.

Australian Unit Locations - 24th April
16th Brigade HQ - Eleusis
17th Brigade HQ - Thermopylae
19th Brigade HQ - South of Brallos
2/1st Battalion - Megara
2/2nd Battalion - Elefsis
2/3rd Battalion -Elefsis
2/4th Battalion - Amfiklia
2/5th Battalion - Levadia
2/6th Battalion - Mandra
2/7th Battalion - Elefsis
2/8th Battalion - Elefsis
2/11th Battalion - Megara
2/1st Machine Gun Battalion - Levadia
Thanks to Paul Sougleris of Greek Anzacs for his information on unit locations drawn from the official unit dairies.

Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee
& Member, Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign Commemorative Council 

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