After a week in Athens
it became clear that the Luftwaffe had pulled out of Greece and
the remainder were withdrawing, rather than counterattacking. To
clear them out of Greece completely it was decided to hurry their
departure by another landing at Salonika, a few hundred miles north,
so in another week we were to set off. Again the port at Salonika
was heavily mined and the convoy delayed. Again our 2 Dakotas and
2 jeeps landed safely at Sedes airfield a couple of days ahead of
the convoy, but with no accompanying Fighter Squadron. Lonely -
but a short recce seemed to indicate that the Germans had pulled
out the day before. Accommodation at airfield impractical for northern
Greek winter so switched to nearby Agricultural College site.
Quickly the ELAS/Partisan/Communists
took civil control of the city, going around armed. Country areas
mainly Royalists who had been outmanoeuvred. Acquired a necessary
interpreter the better to understand ELAS coolness towards our Forces.
Delicate situation at Sedes. Southern Greece seemed to be Royalist,
until an ELAS unit made an unexpected attack on our HQ there at
Tatoi, and marched all 220 of them into captivity. We lost communication
with them and felt isolated apart from our Radio links with main
HQ in Bari, Italy. Winston Churchill in London called for Greek
unity and co-operation, threatening use of force unless ELAS complied.
They didn't, and fighting ensued in the South, fragile stand-off
with ELAS in the North, though regular threats against us, to show
solidarity with ELAS in the South.
In the meantime I'd flown
back to Athens and brought the rest of my unit and it's transport
by sea to join us at Sedes , where our chief task was controlling
aircraft movements and maintaining radio contact with Bari HQ. Foul
weather dampened ELAS activities. We gave sanctuary to a wing Commander
on his way to Tatoi. Our wireless picked up a message on 10th December
from Bari that the Wing commander was to take charge of 5FFCU and
I was to make my way to Naples by 30th December to be repatriated
to the UK, as my 4 years overseas tour was complete. Unexpected,
overjoyed and acknowledged message. Two days later hitchhiked a
plane to Bari as a start.
Ryder and Greek interpreter, Salonika Nov.1944
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