U Series. New Zealand signallers in Greece, Parts 1-5.
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The Commanding Officer of Divisional Signals talks about the work done by the men of the New Zealand Divisional Signals unit in Greece. [The speaker is most likely Lt-Col Stanley Allen, Commanding Officer of Divisional Signals until Dec. 1941]
On 5 March 1941 Divisional Signals moved out from their base in the Middle East to take up a one-sided exercise in Greece. There were no incidents across the Aegean Sea, and he describes their temporary camp in Greece with a view that could be taken for parts of New Zealand. On 23 March they left camp in the south of Greece to travel north.
On their journey north they were given a great welcome by the local community, and on the the evening of the third day the Division arrived at Katerini. At this stage Germany had not declared war on Greece. The BBC was the only source of outside news. All telephones were considered non-secure because of the threat from fifth columnists tapping into them.
After the Germans declared war on Greece, the situation was rarely settled for more than a day or two. It became necessary to withdraw to a less extensive line. Civil routes had to be demolished and telephone lines that had only recently been laid had to be taken up. Communication was lost with the main troop concentration, so the Officer in Charge and Signalmen Tait and Russell set off with a spare set. They reached the troops on 17 April with the replacement radio. At about midnight they left for the return trip.
The convoy of vehicles was very slow and drivers fell asleep, holding up the convoy behind them. The enemy bombers started their work. When Signalman Tait, who had been isolated from the party during the night, was about five miles from Larissa he saw figures waving and shouting. He thought they were Greeks warning of an air attack so he stopped their vehicle only to find they were enemy parachutists who immediately took possession of his truck. Tait was able to jump onto another vehicle but Russell was left behind and later fell in with a New Zealand convoy.
As the men passed Athens on their retreat south, the local people overwhelmed them with their gratitude. It was about 3am when the Officer in Charge of the Division scrambled up the side of a ship, fell into an oval lifeboat and sank into oblivion.
Reference number 12386
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Interviews (Sound recordings)
Allen, Stanley Fairgrieve, 1900-1942, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Date 24 May 1941