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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

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

27 April 1941 - Athens, Patras and Corinth Canal falls, evacuations continue and the Slamat, HMS Diamond, HMS Wryneck and Costa Rica sunk

Diggers join in the defence of the Costa Rica, 27 April 1941. AWM
On this day 75 years ago, Athens, Patras and the Corinth Canal fall to the German invaders. Outside Athens, 2/5th Australian General Hospital is captured at Kokkina. Patras is captured by the same SS units that has fought the Anzacs at the battle of Vevi on 10th April.
The Corinth Canal was taken by airborne assault, which overwhelmed the mainly Briish and New Zealand defenders.
The 4th New Zealand Brigade is moving from Markopoulon and then moves to Marathon. and 2,000 troops are waiting on the beaches of Nafplio for evacuation.
Meanwhile the successful evacuation of troops continues - from Rafina 3,503 troops are evacuated (including New Zealand Divisional troops) by HMS Decoy, Hasty, Nubian and Glengyle; from Porto Rafti 4,720 troops evacuated (incl corps and NZ Divisional troops) by HMS Carlisle, Kandahar, Kingston and Salween; from Nafplio/Tolos 4,527 troops evacuated by HMS Orion, Calcutta, HMAS Perth, Diamond, Hotspur, Isis, Stuart, Slamat and Khedive Ismail; and from Kalamata 8,650 troops evacuated (16th and 17th Brigades) by HMS Pheobe, Defender, Hero, Hereward, Flamingo, Dilwara, City of London and Costa Rica.
Slamat, HMS Diamond and HMS Wryneck Sunk
The Dutch troopship Salmat had left Nafplio harbour late, and was easy picking for the German aircraft that attacked the evacuation convoys leaving Greece. She was carrying 500 Allied troops. She was discovered and at 7.30 a.m. was sunk by Junkers JU 87 dive bombers, taking with her almost all on board. The destroyers HMS Wryneck and HMS Diamond picked up the few survivors, until they themselves were sunk by Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers off the east coast of the Peloponnese.
The loss of the three ships caused an estimated 983 deaths. Only 66 men survived. Of the 500 or so soldiers that Slamat embarked, only eight survived. Of her complement of 193 crew and 21 Australian and New Zealand DEMS gunners, only 11 survived. Of Diamond's 166 complement, 20 survived. Of Wryneck's 106 crew, 27 survived.
Slamat had a mixed crew of 84 Goans, 74 Dutch, 24 Chinese, 10 Australians and a Norwegian. The 11 survivors were six Goans, four Dutch and one other.
The bodies of three of Slamat's Dutch crew washed ashore far from the wreck - apprentice helmsman J Pille on the Greek island of Stamperia, Second Officer G van der Woude at Alexandria in Egypt, and lamp trimmer J van der Brugge at Gaza in Palestine.
The brave dutch merchant seaman are often overlooked in the story of the battle of Greece and Crete - 70 died in the sinking of the Slamat.They should be remembered.
 Costa Rica Sunk
The Dutch transport ship Costa Rica was attacked by three German dive bombers at about 3pm on the way from mainland Greece to Alexandria.
The Costa Rica was carrying 2,500 troops, comprising the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion, the 2/7th Battalion, part of the 2/8th Battalion, one company of the 2/1st Battalion and remnants of other units, including the 2/1st Field Regiment.
As the bombers attacked, the soldiers on the ship joined in its defence, firing their bren guns at the swooping planes to warn them off. Photos from the ship show the diggers firing at the German aircraft.
Although the transport ship was not hit, a near miss from a 1,000 pound bomb split her hull and flooded the engine room. Lieutenant Colonel Theo Walker of the 2/7th Battalion described how two British destroyers — Defender and Hereward — positioned themselves right beside the stricken ship and took the soldiers off:
"At this stage, owing to the numbers on board, all personnel could not be accommodated on the decks and the alleyways and cabins on the promenade deck had to be used as well. Many troops were now on the deck below, standing there in complete darkness, however, their behaviour was exemplary, the soldiers were standing silently on parade … On the starboard side, the ships were falling and rising some eight to twelve feet and the men had to swing down ropes and jump for the destroyer’s deck … the work of the Navy cannot be too highly commended."
The Costa Rica sank at 4pm - but all troops and sailors were safely transported to Royal Navy destroyers (including HMS Hereward), with no loss of life. The troops were then transported to Crete.

Horrie the dog, Egypt 1941. AWM
One of the passengers to survive the bombing and sinking was Horrie the dog, the famous mascot of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion. Horrie had joined the unit in Egypt and travelled with them all through Greece - acting as an early warning dog for the unit if stuka's were near! Evacuated to Crete on the Costa Rica, Horrie survived the sinking of the ship and narrowly escaped being crushed between two life boats. On Crete, he acted as a messenger dog delivering messages to outlying patrols. During the evacuation of Crete Horrie was wounded by shrapnel but was successfully treated. He survived Crete and the Middle East, only to return to live his life out in Australia.

Australian Unit Locations - 27th April
16th Brigade HQ - Kalamata
17th Brigade HQ - Monemvasia
19th Brigade HQ - Suda Bay
2/1st Battalion - Kalibees
2/2nd Battalion - Kalamata
2/3rd Battalion -Kalamata
2/4th Battalion - Megara
2/5th Battalion - Kalamata
2/6th Battalion - Monemvasia
2/7th Battalion - At sea
2/8th Battalion - Suda Bay
2/11th Battalion - Suda Bay
2/1st Machine Gun Battalion - At sea
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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