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Regimental History - 20th Century

Second World War 1939-1945

1st Battalion, King's Own Royal Regiment, Lancaster

Transcript of the War Diary of The 1st Battalion, The King's Own Royal Regiment

5th November - 16th November 1943.

The following narrative was compiled in October 1944 and is a diary of events covering the movement and deployment of the Battalion before the battle and includes the subsequent operations which ended with the surrender of the island on the night of 16th November. The diary is based on facts and does not include any suggestions or comments. As the Battalion did not take part in the battle as a tactical whole, it was necessary to write an account of each unit within the Battalion, tracing its movements day by day.

The information was supplied by the following officers:
Headquarter Company: Lieutenant G. M. Harvey & Lieutenant R. King.
'A' Company: Lieutenant D. M.D. Broster
‘C’ Company: Major. W. Tilly
‘D’ Company: Lieutenant D.C. Williams
Battalion Headquarters: Lieutenants S. J. Griffin and M. B. Constable
Carriers Captain. A. J. Hands

The account is incomplete owing to the absence of a witness from ‘B’ Company.

The 1st Battalion The King’s Own Royal Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel S.A.F.S. Egerton, landed on the island of Leros during the early hours of 5th November. On arrival the Battalion was ordered to occupy defensive zones in the south of the island. The 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers was already established in the centre of the island with the 4th Battalion The Buffs occupying the northern sector. The general defensive plan was to occupy positions covering the likely landing beaches; consequently when operations began in the morning of 12th November, the Battalion was dispersed over a considerable area.

At dawn on 12th November the Battalion was situated as follows:-
Battalion Headquarters = Area behind Anchor Crossroads and Northern outskirts of Portolago.
‘A’ = Area Serocampo Bay.
‘B’ = Area Patella.
‘C’ = On the road between LEROS AND BUFF HQ.
‘D’ = High ground South of S.P. Base overlooking Portolago Bay.
HQ Coy = High ground S.W. of Portolago overlooking Portolago Bay.
Carriers = Area covering beaches North of Serocampo Bay

A Company

‘A’. Company - Commanded by Captain D.J.P. Thirkell-White
2 i/c. Captain Blythe Platoon Officers. Lieutenants Porter, Broster and Burgess

‘A’ Company landed at Portolago and moved to a dispersal area near Serocampo Bay, arriving about 0500 hrs. 5th November. The company remained in this area until the evening of 7th November when orders were received to move to a new position covering the beaches of Serocampo Bay, the position was occupied and Platoon defensive posts were ‘dug in’. On the night of 10th November the company was informed that German paratroops had been reported in Athens. All the necessary precautions were taken. On the morning of 12th November, information was received that German assault craft had been seen in the Alinda Bay Area; during the morning the company position was bombed. At about 1600 hrs the company received information from Battalion HQ that the position had deteriorated and that the company was to occupy the high ground above the position and if attacked to fight to the last man. Five hours later the company was ordered to return to its original position and man the post covering the beaches of Serocampo Bay. During the early hours of 13th November the Company was ordered to move by Motor Transport to the anchor crossroads and take over a position from the Royal Irish Fusiliers. On arrival at the Anchor guides were met and the company moved on foot to a position on the eastern slopes of Meraviglia covering Pandeli Bay; the position was taken over from ‘C’ Company of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The same evening orders were received for the attack on Appetici. Orders for the attack were given out from Meriviglia in fading light. The force was to consist of ‘A’, ‘D’ and HQ Companies, 1/King’s Own under the command of Lieutenant Colonel French Royal Irish Fusiliers. ‘A’ Company was to lead the attack and secure the searchlight and gun positions on the top of the feature. ‘D’ Company was to follow up on ‘A’ Company’s left and “mop up” the numerous caves and dugouts, while HQ Company was to form a semi-circle behind the attacking Companies and prevent the enemy from withdrawing from the feature. ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies were to withdraw before dawn to the area of the Anchor Xrds leaving HQ Company to hold the feature. The start line was the line of the Martello Towers and the Company was to cross the start line at 0001 hrs. Naval support was expected and this in fact caused the operation to be postponed for two hours. At about 2300 hrs the Company moved to the Anchor Crossroads where it was joined by ‘D’ and HQ Companies. The whole force then moved to the start line. The assault on the German positions began at 0200 hrs 14th November. The first gun position on Appetici was reached when the company came under heavy Machine Gun fire from the flanks, progress was slow; during the advance the coy commander was killed, the 2 i/c and two platoon commanders wounded. Just before dawn the German counter-attack came in and the company was driven back and finally forced to withdraw in the direction of the Anchor. After the withdrawal the situation rapidly deteriorated and confusing reports were received stating that Charing Cross was believed to be in German hands and that the road to Portolago was cut. Troops could be seen withdrawing from Meriviglia. It was not until later in the day that the situation became more stabilised and the remnants of the coy were once more reformed under Lieutenant Broster the only surviving officer, and moved to occupy a defensive position in the area of the Anchor Crossroads. On the morning of 15th November the company moved to Searchlight Hill to join up with the rest of the Battalion. The Company arrived in the evening and took up defensive position with Battalion HQ and ‘D’ Company.

Battalion Headquarters

Battalion Headquarters - Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel. S.A.F.S. Egerton.
2 i/c Major M. P. Huthwaite
Adjutant Captain A. J. Mackenzie Intelligence Officer Lieutenant S.J. Griffin. Regimental Signals Officer Lieutenant  M.B. Constable
 
Battalion Headquarters less signals platoon landed at Portolago and moved to a dispersal area at Patella in the South West corner of the island. The signals platoon landed with Headquarter Company and joined Battalion Headquarter  on 7th November.  On the evening of 7th November HQ moved to its final position which was situated on either side of the Portolago-Leros road just south of the Anchor Crossroads. The next two or three days and nights were spent in preparing the Battalion HQ area, digging command posts and slit trenches and collecting ammunition and stores from the quayside for distribution to companies . Line communication was established with all companies . On the evening of 10th November information was received from Brigade Headquarters that German paratroops had been reported in Athens. All companies warned. In the early hours of 12th November news of the enemy landing in the Alinda Bay area was received, companies were again informed. No further information was received until approx. 1430hrs when German paratroops were seen to land in the neck of land between Alinda and Gurna Bay. At about 1600 hrs the Commanding Officer received a message to the effect that the position had deteriorated and that all troops were to take to the high ground and if attacked, to fight to the last man. All Companies warned. In the evening the Commanding Officer received orders to send H.Q. Company to the Charing Cross area in preparation for a night attack against the Paratroops, the Company was to be under Command of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Headquarter Company assembled in the Battalion Headquarters area and later moved up to Charing Cross. Brigade Headquarters HQ denied sending message re occupying high ground and all companies ordered to return to original positions. Later in the evening ‘D’ Company was ordered to move from its area and occupy the position recently vacated by HQ Company.
Orders received early hours 13th November for ‘A’ Company to move by Motor Transport to take over a position on Meriviglia from ‘C’ Company Royal Irish Fusiliers.
At approx. 1500 hrs Battalion HQ was accurately bombed. In the evening information was received that A, D, and HQ Companies would be required for an attack on the Appetici feature, once again the force was to be commanded by Lieutenant Colonel French, Royal Irish Fusiliers.
At about 0300 hrs 14th November Battalion Headquarters was ordered to move to the Anchor Crossroads to prevent a supposed enemy breakthrough in the direction of Portolago. At about 0730 hrs 14th November Headquarters was ordered to move forward along the road to Leros and occupy a defensive position covering the Pandeli Bay area. During the advance forward to the new position remnants of the night attack on Appetici were encountered withdrawing south. Troops could also be seen withdrawing from the Meriviglia feature on the left. From reports gathered from these troops it appeared that the enemy had broken through to Charing Cross and was threatening to cut the road to Portolago. A general withdrawal followed and Battalion HQ moved back to its original position south of the Anchor Crossroads. During these operations ‘B’ Company had been ordered to R.V. at Battalion H.Q. The Company arrived by MT and moved off in the direction of Charing Cross. In the evening of 14th November, Battalion HQ and the remnants of ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies were reformed at Battalion HQ in preparation for a move forward the following morning. On the morning of 15th November Battalion Headquarters was ordered to join Headquarters and B Company on Searchlight Hill. The position was occupied by 0800 hrs.

D Company

‘D’ Company – Commanded by Major Lonsdale. 2 i/c Captain H.J.P. Burke
Platoon Officers. Lieutenants P.R.H. Buckland, D.C. Williams and I. Matheison.

‘D’ Company having landed at Portolago moved to a dispersal area on the Patella feature in the south west corner of the island. On 6th November the company moved by march route to occupy a defensive position on the high ground, overlooking the S.P. Base on the East side of Portolago Bay. 18 Platoon occupied a position on the high ground north of the road from Portolago to the S.P. Base. On the evening of 10th November information was received from Battalion HQ stating that German Paratroops had been reported at Athens. All precautions were taken. On the morning of 12th November information of the German landing in the Alinda Bay area was received and accordingly 17 Platoon was called in and the company reformed. The high ground immediately above the original position was at once occupied. At about 1200 hrs the company was subjected to two hours concentrated bombing with the obvious intention of silencing the heavy guns on the top of the feature. At about 2200 hrs the company was ordered to occupy the defensive position recently vacated by HQ Company on the west side of Portolago Bay. The Company was in position by dawn. During the afternoon the company received orders for an attack on Appetici with A and HQ Companies and in the evening moved into the Battalion HQ area. In failing light orders for the attack were given from the Meriviglia feature. (Orders for the attack – see ‘A’ Company). At about 2300 hrs the company moved to the Anchor Crossroads and joined ‘A’ and HQ Companies, and then advanced to the start line, which was the line of the Martello Towers. Besides carrying full scale weapons the company carried three grenades per man. The advance from the start line had just begun when HQ Company was suddenly withdrawn to prevent a breakthrough elsewhere. Direction was difficult to maintain and ‘A’ Company came too far to the right causing a temporary halt, the advance was again continued but progress was slow owing to the large number of caves encountered, which had to be assaulted one by one. At one stage of the advance the company was halted by very heavy machine gun fire from the left flank, but with the mopping up of this post the company was able to gain ground. From now on the company was subjected to mortar fire and heavy machine gun fire from all sides. Each platoon was forced to make small Platoon attacks, each Platoon helping the other forward. 18 platoon was at last ordered to cease fire because the position on the top of the feature was confused, where close fighting was in progress. At this stage of the attack the Company Commander was wounded, the Company 2 i/c had already been killed and the whereabouts of the two Platoon commanders unknown (it was discovered later that Matheison had been killed and Buckland seriously wounded). The wounded company commander therefore ordered Lieutenant Williams to take over the company. Just before dawn the Germans put in a strong counter attack which was held for a short time, but by 0700hrs the position appeared to be serious. At about 0715 the remnants of the company was forced to withdraw to the outskirts of Leros Village where it was met by the wounded company commander, the company was then completely withdrawn in the direction of the Anchor Crossroads. On the way back the Officer Commanding Company received information that Charing Cross was believed to be in German hands and that the road to Portolago was cut. The company therefore occupied the high ground overlooking Pandeli Bay. It was not until later in the evening that information was received giving the general situation. At about 1700 hrs the remnants of the company returned to Battalion HQ, where it was reformed. At dawn the following morning the remnants of ‘D’ Company joined forces with ‘A’ Company at the Anchor Crossroads. Later in the morning ‘D’ Company moved to Searchlight Hill, where with ‘A’ Company and Battalion HQ it formed a combined force on the right of HQ and B Companies. already established.

Headquarter Company

HQ Company – Commanded by Major. I.B. Cunningham. 2 i/c Capt. J.A. Thorpe
Officer Commanding Anti-Tank Platoon. Captain. R. King. Troop Commanders. Lieutenants Harvey and Lawson. Motor Transport Platoon commanded by Lieutenant G.E.R. Brewer.

HQ Company landed at Partini Bay and moved south to a dispersal area in the orchards near Alinda Bay. On the night 7th November the company was ordered to move to a new area on the high ground west of Portolago overlooking the bay. On the morning of 8th November bombs were dropped in the Company area. Regimental Aid Post was established at Company Headquarters. Headquarter Company’s primary role was to counter attack any enemy landing in the Portolago area. During the first two or three days the positions were ‘dug in’ and possible counter-attack routes reconnoitred. On the evening of Nov 10th the company received information from Battalion HQ that German paratroops had been reported in Athens. All necessary precautions were taken. 

12th November. At about 0900 hrs. 12th November the company received information that German forces had landed in the Alinda Bay area. The company was ordered to move north-east and occupy the high ground covering the road running north from Portolago. In the evening the Company assembled in the Battalion HQ area, and received orders to move to the Charing Cross area in preparation for an attack against the German paratroops which had landed during the afternoon and had established themselves in the neck of the island between Alinda and Gurna Bay. The company arrived at Charing Cross about 2200 hrs.

13th November. In the early hours of 13th November the company with one company of the Royal Irish Fusiliers  were ordered to attack and hold Searchlight Hill. Accordingly the company formed up for the attack in a sunken road near Charing Cross and waited for zero hour. This attack however did not materialise owing to the fact the Royal Irish Fusilier Company intended for the attack was already involved in heavy fighting on the Appetici feature. During the day 13th the company remained in the same area. From reports received during the day it was not certain whether the company would be involved in a night attack on Appetici or Searchlight Hill. In the evening orders were received for an attack on Appetici with A and D Companies. Orders for the attack were given from Meriviglia in fading light. (orders for the attack see ‘A’ company). HQ Company reached its objective and formed up just below the line of the Martello Towers more than half way up the feature. A and D Companies moved forward and were in contact with the enemy when the Company received orders to withdraw immediately as the situation on Meriviglia had deteriorated and the enemy was attacking the feature from the west.

14th November.  The Company returned to its original area at Charing Cross where orders were received for the attack on Searchlight Hill which was to begin at 0700 hrs. Headquarter Company was to attack and hold Searchlight Hill then one Company of the Royal Irish Fusiliers was to advance through the company and seize the next feature. The attack was to be preceded by a 25 pounder concentration. Just before zero hour the attack was postponed as the artillery support was not available. The attack was at last launched about 1000 hrs without artillery support, but with excellent machine gun fire from the flanks. The company advanced to the attack one Platoon behind the other and moved along a stretch of ‘dead ground’, on reaching the more broken ground the company deployed with Lawson’s troop on the left, Harvey’s troop on the right and the Motor Transport Platoon in the centre. The objective was the Searchlight and Machine Gun posts. on the top of the feature. After overcoming a German strong post on the forward slope of the feature the advance continued rapidly. Harvey’s troop reached its objective on the right flank and the enemy was forced to withdraw to the next feature! In the centre and on the left flank the position seemed confused. Harvey’s troop remained in position for about an hour and still no contact had been made with the Centre Platoon. By this time the enemy had established himself on the next feature and the position was under heavy machine gun fire. Snipers made movement on the top of the feature almost impossible. Officer Commanding Anti Tank Platoon, who was with Harvey’s troop having been unable to contact anyone in the centre, decided to evacuate the position and move to the dead ground over the other side of the hill, where the Company 2 i/c had last been seen. On arrival contact was made with the remnants of the company which had been unable to move further forward. The position was confused, the company commander had been wounded in the early stages of the advance, the Company 2 i/c,*, Lieutenant Lawson* and Lieutenant Brewer* had disappeared. (*All were later discovered to have been killed in the attack). Officer Commanding Anti Tank Platoon decided to contact the Commanding Officer for further orders leaving the force under Lieutenant Harvey. After dusk Officer Commanding Anti Tank Platoon returned and withdrew the company behind the position where it was reformed. During the afternoon ‘B’ Company had put in an attack in the same area but had not succeeded and the remnants of this company now joined forces with Headquarter Company. The Carrier and Mortar Platoon completed the new force, which under Officer Commanding Anti Tank Platoon moved forward under cover of darkness towards the Searchlight. A few enemy snipers surrendered to the carrier platoon on arrival. During the night the company ‘dug in’. Machine gun posts were prepared and ammunition issued.

15th November. In the early hours of 15th November the Carrier Platoon was attacked by a strong German force and in the ensuing confusion the positions were in some places overrun. The troops were quickly re-organised and an immediate counter-attack launched, the enemy was forced to withdraw and suffered heavy casualties. During the attack Officer Commanding Anti Tank Platoon was seriously wounded (later died in hospital). Captain Maxwell commanding the ‘B’ Company force followed up the retreating Germans and was not seen again. (later found dead on the lower slopes of the hill). Captain Hands Officer Commanding Carriers and his 2 i/c Lieutenant Mitchell were taken prisoners. Lieutenant Johnson was killed in the early stages of the attack. After the successful counter-attack the force was re-organised under Lieutenant MacDonald the senior officer present, with the assistance of Lieutenants Harvey and King the position was once again manned. As soon as it was light German snipers made movement on the position impossible and the position was subjected to intermittent mortar fire. At about 0830 hrs Battalion Headquarters made contact with Lieutenant MacDonald and moved up to occupy a position on ‘B’ Companies right. At about 0900 hrs one company of the Royal West Kent Regiment came in the company area and preparations were made for an attack on the next feature. Orders for the attack were given out and Headquarter  Company was asked to give covering fire. Lieutenant MacDonald whilst reconnoitring for this attack was killed by a sniper. The attack took place in the afternoon but the company failed to reach its objective and withdrew suffering heavy casualties. After dusk contact was once more established with Battalion Headquarters.

‘C’ Company

‘C’ Company – Commanded by Major W. Tilly. 2 i/c. Capt. D. R. Humm
Platoon officers. Lieutenants Brown, Horne and Ginn

‘C’ Company landed at Portolago and moved to a dispersal area in the eastern outskirts of the town. On the morning of 7th November the company was ordered to occupy the high ground above the dispersal area covering Pandeli Bay. The company had just occupied this position when fresh orders were received for the company to move to the north of the island into the sector controlled by the 4th Buffs. The company was to become the Island Mobile Reserve under the direct control of the Brigadier, the move had to be completed by dawn 8th November.
The new area was reached and all stores and equipment were in position before dawn. Platoons were allotted areas in a deep overgrown watercourse which afforded a certain amount of cover.
The Company role was as follows:-
(i) The company was the island mobile reserve and was to remain concealed in its present position until ordered to move. All the island transport consisting of about ten jeeps were allotted to the coy, these were to report to the company every evening and remain until ‘stand down’ the following morning.
(ii) The company would be required to attack any enemy force which might succeed in breaking through the beach defences at Gurna and Alinda Bay.
(iii) To attack any parachute landing between Charing Cross and the Buff HQ.
The following day a detailed reconnaissance was made of the operational area.
On the evening of 11th November the Adjutant arrived with two Vickers machine guns for the coy, and it was decided to form a support platoon equipped with these guns, 2” Mortars and Piats.

At about 0635hrs 12th November information was received from the Brigade Headquarters that the enemy force had landed in the Alinda Bay Area and was already climbing up to the ‘Clidi’ feature. The company was ordered to occupy this feature without further delay and prevent the enemy from advancing further inland. The island transport had already dispersed after ‘stand down’ so the company had no alternative but to move on foot. German aircraft were already over the area bombing the Italian coastal gun batteries, the noise of heavy guns and small arms fire could be heard from the Alinda area.

12th November. The company reached the feature by 0900 hrs and the company commander made a quick reconnaissance. Part of an invasion fleet consisting of a destroyer, a cargo boat and four large barges could be clearly seen about 2000* from shore. In front of the Clidi feature there was a ridge which prevented observation of the landing beaches, this ridge was already in German hands, consequently he was able to land his forces without interference. By about 0945hrs the defence plan was put into operation. 13 Platoon and two Vickers guns were posted in front of the Italian Barracks on the top of the feature. As soon as the company was in position the enemy opened fire with mortars and Machine Guns. The Italian battery was heavily bombed. Snipers became very active and in a very short time the Vickers crews and forward sections had suffered heavy casualties. During the next hour the MG and mortar fire increased, low level dive bombing attacks continued. Under cover of this fire enemy assault troops began to infiltrate forward, although they suffered heavy casualties they continued to advance. At about 1430 hrs the Officer Commanding Company decided to send 15 Platoon to occupy a small feature called the ‘Knoll’ on the right of the ‘Clidi’ feature in order to engage the enemy in the flank. The Platoon had just begun to move into the dead ground behind the hill when a German parachute force was dropped in the narrow neck of land between Alinda and Gurna Bay. This platoon was not seen again. (15 Platoon after a desperate fight with the paratroops was completely surrounded, the Platoon commander, Platoon Sergeant and a large number of men were killed and the remainder, most of them seriously wounded, were taken prisoner). Two more Vickers guns arrived to replace the original two which had been knocked out earlier in the day. 14 Platoon was withdrawn to a small feature in rear of the gun positions to give more depth. The enemy assault troops had by now almost reached the top of Clidi, 13 Platoon had been completely cut off from the rest of the company and were offering stubborn resistance on the forward slopes. The Company 2 i/c who had joined this platoon earlier in the day was killed when he tried to reach company Headquarters to obtain more grenades.

At about 1800 hrs an Observation Post reported that the enemy was beginning to withdraw, the company commander therefore decided this was a favourable opportunity to put in a counter-attack. Lead by the company commander the defenders with fixed bayonets charged over the top and began to drive the enemy down the slope. In this assault the company commander was seriously wounded. The initial assault had succeeded, but the enemy after receiving more reinforcements, reformed and began to advance again. At about 2100 hrs 13 Platoon having expended all ammunition and still unable to contact the rest of the company was forced to surrender. This Platoon had born the brunt of the attack and had suffered heavy casualties. The wounded company commander was evacuated to the Regimental Aid Post.  Before he left he handed over the company to the only remaining officer Lieutenant Horne, Officer Commanding, 14 Platoon, with orders to hold the feature, if necessary to the last man. Officer Commanding 14 Platoon reformed the remnants of the company into a defensive position covering the battery position which was now in enemy hands. A recce patrol under the Company Sergeant Major brought back information that the enemy had occupied the Italian gun positions in force.
The situation was reported to Officer Commanding 4th Buffs by phone.

13th November. Throughout the next day (13th November) the enemy was ‘pinned down’ on the battery position unable to make any further advance. At about 1600 hrs one platoon from the 4th Buffs arrived to reinforce the coy. The night was quiet.

14th November.  At about 0900 hrs Officer Commanding 4th Buffs arrived and plans were made for a counter attack at dawn the following morning. ‘C’ Company was ordered to give covering fire for this attack. At dawn (15th November) the attack was launched and the battery position overrun. The enemy had suffered heavy casualties, large numbers of dead and wounded were found on the position. The Buffs company continued to advance towards the ridge in front when the company came under heavy fire, the company commander was killed and the company 2 i/c was forced to withdraw to the Clidi feature. At about 1500 hrs he took over all troops in the vicinity. The night was quiet.

15th November.  The following day enemy snipers were very active from the ridge in front. At about 1600 hrs the whole force was ordered to withdraw to the area of the Buffs’ Headquarters. Plans were made for a final attack to clear the island. C. Company now under command of the 4th Buffs moved to an R.V. On arrival information was received that the island had been forced to surrender.

The Mortar Platoon

The Mortar Platoon – Commanded by Lieutenant R. King

Due to the nature of the battle and the virtual non-existence of transport, very few mortar detachments were able to come into action throughout the entire battle. On the morning of 12th November, two detachments were situated in D Company area, and two with ‘B’ Company, and there they remained until the detachment numbers were brought up to Battalion HQ on 15th November to be used as a rifle platoon. The reserve section and Platoon Headquarters on the morning of the 12th were with HQ Company, the two detachments covering Portolago. Here they remained, with the signallers and cooks of HQ Company until the same evening when they were withdrawn to Battalion HQ and the two detachments. took up a position covering “The Anchor Crossroads”.

On the afternoon of 13th November, under orders from the Battalion. 2i/c, the detachments and Platoon Headquarters moved up to the Charing Cross area, to support the attack on Appetici scheduled for the night of 13th-14th November. No support was being used in this attack however, so the Pl Commander placed himself and the detachments at the disposal of Captain Hoare, Officer Commanding, 3 Platoon, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

The two detachments took up position on the north east side of Meriviglia, which had previously been dug and used by the Royal Irish Fusiliers. On the morning of 14th November , both detachments engaged targets on the Appetici feature. About one hundred rounds were fired. In the early afternoon 14th November one detachment under the Platoon commander moved up to Searchlight Hill under orders from the Brigadier. Here it joined Headquarter Company and the remnants of ‘B’ Company who were held up by Machine Gun fire and snipers situated at the north end of Rachi feature. One sniper post was located and engaged. On the occupation of Searchlight Hill on the night of 14th-15th the detachments took up a position in a gun pit in the rear of ‘B’ Company’s position. On the morning of 15th November this detachment. was able to give support to the attack made by a company of the Royal West Kent Regiment. During the night of 15th-16th November the remainder of the platoon came up and joined Headquarter Company as riflemen. On the withdrawal from Searchlight Hill on 16th November the Platoon remained under command of Headquarter Company.

The Carrier Platoon

The Carrier Platoon – Commanded by Captain A. J. Hands. 2 i/c Lieutenant S. L. Mitchell

The carrier platoon landed with HQ Company and moved to a dispersal area in the olive groves in the Alinda Bay area. On 7th November the platoon marched to the south side of Pandeli Bay and took over a defensive position from C Company. On the 9th November the platoon was ordered to move to a new area to cover the beaches with a detachment of mortars in support. The position was “dug in” and stores and ammunition were moved up and telephonic communication established with Battalion HQ. On the 10th November information was received re German paratroops in Athens and at night patrols were sent out. On 12th November news of the enemy landing was received and the news of the parachute landing was received later in the day. At about 1700 hrs orders were received to send one section to Battalion HQ for defence purposes, unfortunately this section was bombed on the way, three men killed and several wounded. Later in the evening information was received from Battalion HQ to the effect that the situation had deteriorated and that the Pl was to occupy the high ground above the position and if attacked to fight to the end. The Platoon moved up to a position overlooking the old area and after dark Lieut. Mitchell returned to the original area and managed to contact Battalion HQ. Here he was informed that the position had improved. The Platoon moved back to the original area and 50% stood to all night.
On the morning of 13th November, a message was received from Battalion Headquarters stating that paratroops were believed to be on the coastal gun position above Battalion HQ. Two sections moved up to the feature to investigate. Nothing was seen on arrival. The Pl remained on the feature until about 1400 hrs when orders were received to move to the Anchor Crossroads carrying as much ammunition as possible. The Platoon arrived at the Anchor at about 1600 hrs. The platoon commander reccd position on Meriviglia under Captain Ambrose Royal Irish Fusiliers and later the platoon moved up. The position was dug in during the night. At about 1000 hrs 14th November  a message was received to evacuate the position, men could be seen withdrawing in front of the position, the Platoon Commander could not get in touch by telephone or wireless to confirm this new situation, he therefore decided to move back the platoon to the high round covering the “Anchor”. The Pl. Commander reccd this position and on returning to the Anchor found only half the platoon there. The rest under Lieutenant Mitchell had been ordered to move to Charing Cross. Officer Commanding Platoon contacted ‘B’ Company which was moving up from Battalion HQ and marched to Charing Cross, here the rest of the Pl under Mitchell was assembled. The platoon was then ordered to move to Searchlight Hill to give covering fire from ‘B’ Companies attack, this however could not be achieved owing to sniper and light machine gun fire, their attack did not materialise. At dusk the platoon joined the rest of HQ Company under Capt King Officer Commanding Anti-Tank Platoon and took up a position on the forward slopes of Searchlight Hill.

15th November.  Throughout the day (15th November) the Battalion less ‘C’ Company remained in position on Searchlight Hill. Movement on this feature was restricted by German snipers who had managed to work their way to the flank and rear of our positions. Mortar fire caused a certain number of casualties. About an hour after dark fighting broke out in the village of Leros and the Battalion ‘stood to’.

15th November.  Low level air attacks began at dawn the following morning. At about 1200 hrs the Meriviglia feature (Brigade Headquarters) was attacked on the Battalion right flank and German troops could be seen moving about on the top of it. In rear, our own troops could be seen withdrawing in the direction of Portolago. After repeated efforts on the wireless to contact Brigade for further information and orders, all of which failed; the Commanding Officer  decided to withdraw the Battalion northwards in the hope of contacting the 4th Buffs who were believed to be moving South. About an hour before dusk the Battalion began to withdraw, but had scarcely vacated the feature when contact was made with the Buffs, and the Brigade Commander. Fresh orders were received for the final attack; which entailed a night march to a forming up area south of the Anchor Crossroads and at dawn the following morning the attack on Meriviglia was to commence.

All available troops in the island were collected, and at about 2000 hrs the night march began.

On reaching the Anchor Crossroads the Battalion was informed that the island had been forced to surrender.

 

Appendix ‘B’

1. Special Order of the day. –
Two days before the battle began, the garrison received a special order of the day from General Officer Commanding, Mediterranean Forces, calling on all ranks to offer the fiercest opposition if the island was attacked.

2. Air Superiority. –
From the very beginning of the battle German aircraft flew unopposed over the battle area, attacking gun batteries and troop concentrations. Dive bombers gave close support to enemy parachute and landing forces.

3. Roads. –
The island possessed only a very limited number of roads, which in most places could only be classed as tracks, these had been subjected to heavy bombing attacks and in many places temporary ‘by passes’ had to be constructed round huge craters. This appalling state of communication made the movement of stores etc. from one part of the island to another a major operation.

4. Transport.-
The Battalion transport consisted of three jeeps and two trailers and with these the entire Battalion stores had to be moved from the quayside to the various company areas. Occasionally it was possible to obtain the use of an ancient Italian lorry but as these lorries were constantly required for other garrison duties the bulk of these stores was moved by the jeeps.

5. Information.-
Misleading information was received in the early stages of the battle, which caused a certain amount of confusion. The message ‘Take to the high ground and fight to the end’ was received during the first day of the battle. Reports of an enemy break through after the battle on Appetici was discovered later to be quite unfounded.

6. Communication.-

Nothing shown.


7. Casualties.-
A complete list of casualties is not at present available, but it is known that the following officers lost their lives:-

‘A’ Company Captain D.J.P. Thirkell-White - Royal Suffolks
Captain C.J. Blythe - King’s Own

‘B’ Company Major G.H. Duxbury - Lancashire Fusiliers
Captain J. Maxwell
Lieutenant MacDonald - Royal Irish Fusiliers
Lieutenant D.B. Steward - Worcesters

‘D’ Company Captain H.J.P. Burke - King’s Own
Lieutenant J. Matheison - King’s Own

HQ Company Captain J.A. Thorpe - King’s Own
Captain F.B. King - King’s Own
Lieutenant F.B. Lawson - King’s Own
Lieutenant G.E.R. Brewer - Worcesters
Lieutenant Mc.Johnson - King’s Own

‘C’ Company Captain D.R. Humm - Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Lieutenant D.P. Ginn -

Wounded and Evacuated
Major I.B. Cunningham (H.Q.) Major Lonsdale (D) Lieutenant A. Burgess (A)
Lieutenant A.A. Porter (A) Lieutenant W. Middleton (B)

Evacuated
Medical Officer: Captain Murray
Padre Captain E.F. Johnson

8. Casualties - P.O.W. (Officers)

Commanding Officer: Lieutenant Col. S.A.F.S. Egerton -H.L.I.
2 i/c Major M.P. Huthwaite (Hospital) -Loyals
Adjutant Captain A.J. Mackenzie -East Lancashire Regt
Intelligence Officer: Lieutenant S.J. Griffins - Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Regimental Signals Officer: Lieutenant M.B. Constable - South Wales Borderers
Officer Commanding Carriers Captain A.J. Hands - King’s Own
2 i/c carriers Lieutenant S.J. Mitchell - South Wales Borderers
Officer Commanding  Mortars Lieutenant R. King - Worcesters
Anti. Tank Platoon Lieutenant G.M. Harvey - King’s Own

‘A’ Company
 Lieutenant D.M.D. Broster - D.C.L.I.

‘C’ Company
Major W. Tilly - King’s Own
Lieutenant A. Horne - King’s Own
Lieutenant I. Brown - Sherwood Foresters

‘D’ Company
 Lieut. D.C. Williams - South Wales Borderers


Quartermaster Lieutenant W.G. Spier - King’s Own

‘D’ Company Lieutenant P.R.H. Buckland (Hospital) - Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.


There appears to be some faded text at the bottom of the sheet, perhaps this was the signature of the person or persons who compiled the list. Captain/Adjutant 1/King’s Own Royal Regiment is readable. It was possibly signed by A Mackenzie.

Another sheet in slightly different handwriting lists casualties with the date when they died:

Casualties Officers

HQ Company
Captain F.B. King Died in hospital King’s Own -
Lieutenant G.E.R. Brewer 14/11/43 Worcesters
Lieutenant Mc. Johnson 15/11/43 King’s Own -
Lieutenant F.B. Lawson 14/11/43 King’s Own -
Captain J.A. Thorpe 14/11/43 King’s Own -

‘A’ Company
Captain D.P.W. Thirkell-White 14/11/43 Suffolks -
Captain C.J. Blythe 14/11/43 King’s Own -

‘B’ Company
Major G.H. Duxbury 14/11/43 Lancashire Fusiliers
Captain J. Maxwell 15/11/43 -
Lieutenant MacDonald 15/11/43 R.I.F. -
Lieutenant D.S. Steward 14/11/43 Worcesters

‘C’ Company
Captain H. Humm 12/11/43 D.C.L.I. -
Lieutenant D.P. Ginn 12/11/43 -

‘D’ Company
Captain H.J.P. Burke 14/11/43 King’s Own -
Lieutenant J. Matheison 14/11/43 King’s Own
 

 

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