Crete Pilgrimage 2016 - Day 23
Greece - the Forgotten Anzacs at Vevi and Olympus Pass
We left Thessaloniki and headed west to the village of Vevi, quite close to the northern border of Greece. Here in early 1941 a handful of poorly prepared Australian and New Zealand troops faced the best of the German military in the first Anzac action of the war. The Australians at Vevi were lucky to escape by heading south, on foot. The Anzacs were chased all the way south through Greece until most were evacuated at Athens and surrounding ports. Most were taken to Crete, where they again faced the best of German forces.
From Vevi we travelled south passing Ptolemaida and stopping for lunch at the hilltop village of Neraida. Here a street full of cafes looks down on a long narrow lake held behind a dam and power station. After lunch lookin out on this scene, we crossed over the curved bridge that arcs over the lake and then swung east towards Mt Olympus. On the northern flanks of Olympus Pass the New Zealand 22 Battalion successfully held up the German armoured columns, allowing the Anzac forces north and west of Olympus to retreat to safety. We then went east out to the coast to our hotel for the night, the Dion Palace.
The defence of Olympus Pass was the New Zealand 5th Division's first contact with German forces in 1941. They were well dug into the Pass and held a strong position, rebuffing the German forces in their first contact. But the Germans had managed to outflank the Allies through Vevi and the Pass was soon abandoned for another strong position further south.
Our coach climbed up Olympus Pass from the south, the road today is narrow and winding but is in much better state than the cart track in 1941. We stopped at the village just beyond the Pass and here met a local who remembered the New Zealanders being here in 1941.
Last updated: 31/05/2017