E.L.A.S GREECE 1944

The 16th Durham Light Infantry arrived in Greece on the 3rd December 1944 Flown in on  American Dakotas the Durhams landed at Kalamachi airfield near Athens.When the Germans had left there was a a bitter confrontation between the Left Wing Peoples Army of  Liberation (ELAS) ,who had until recently been trained and supplied by  the British,  other rival partisan groups and the Greek Police.Churchill feared that the communists would take control in Greece so he sent units to prevent this 16th DLI being one of them,although to the men of the DLI the goals of the ELAS were very much similar to their labour backgrounds working class folk standing up for working class rights and at first the DLI men showed great sympathy for the ELAS partisans who until recently just like these Durham soldiers had been locked in a bitter battle against the Nazi forces which threatened their homelands.

The first positions the 16th DLI took up were at the Acropolis itself,although this had been a mistake by someone turning right instead of left because the allocated position was southwest of the Acropolis on Mouseion Hill near to the Philopappos Monument! The battalion were not fired upon in their early days on Greek soil this was a civil war between Greek factions it came apparent very quickly that the Durhams were not there simply to keep the factions apart the British Government had their own agenda for Greece and the ELAS were not part of it!. Nevertheless there was still a reluctance by both sides ,The Durhams and the ELAS to engage in a full scale shooting war and a local truce was brokered a bizarre ritual took place in Phaleron where Lieut R Sherlaw would ,each morning,walk to meet his ELAS counterpart,each would lay his pistol on the ground and shake hands to signal the day`s truce...it lasted three days .

 

Four officers of the battalion formed a musical quartet Lieutenant Russell Collins (Carrier Platoon) Lieutenant Ronnie Sherlaw (D Company) Lieutenant G Footer and Lieutenant Frank Johnson an artillery officer attached to the DLI  used to sing in the mess..hymns mostly unfortunately Lieutenant Johnson was shot and killed by a ELAS sniper on the 9th December after he had stepped outside . 

Lieutenant Frank Johnson 300166 of The Royal Artillery attached to 16th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry was the son of John Harcourt Johnson and Emma Johnson, of Wakefield, Yorkshire Today he lies at peace and in good company in Section 17.  Row B Grave 8 of Phaleron War Cemetery Athens.

 

 

 The 12th December saw an escalation of the sniping .The fact that ELAS personnel did not wear uniforms posed a real problem for the 16th DLI who were having real difficulty in determining who the enemy really was.The ELAS had a disturbing tactic of firing on soldiers whilst in a group of women and children preventing the soldiers from returning fire.Intelligence was received that ELAS had planned a major attack for the night of the 13th/14th  December 1944 although this had not been taken seriously by one Lieutenant and his platoon who were caught completely by surprise a full platoon of 30 men and the Lieutenant were taken prisoner and all were found to be very drunk!The ELAS forces attacked all Companies in strength.Battalion headquarters were also attacked , the cooks and clerks were in a three story building next door to the small villa being used as a battalion HQ.Major Alan Hay rallied these men and took them up to the roof of the neighbouring building with little ammunition and only four grenades to hold the ELAS forces at bay the situation was pretty grim.The Grenades were used to good effect but the ELAS still managed to Dynamite the building bringing it crashing to the ground apart from having to dig out a couple of cooks buried in the rubble there were no other casualties reported indeed it was the Greeks who appeared with white flags of truce,wheelbarrows and sheets in an effort to recover their many killed and wounded.

 

 All companies with the exception of`B` Company were almost overun and much was owed to Pte J Peckett who continued to contain the enemy from his position behind a road block and when ammunition ran low it was Pte Peckett who volunteered to fetch more

1433647 John Peckett from Hartlepool,

was a pre-war Territorial with the Royal Artillery. Enlisting in 1938 he joined 16 DLI in March 1944 after seeing service with the   BEF in France, Belgium and Dunkirk in 1940 and then in the Middle East and Italy.He was the son of Mrs and the late Thomas Peckett of 43 Beechwood Road, married he lived with his wife and daughter at 19 Tweed Street, West Hartlepool,Co Durham A former pupil of Church Square School pre war he was employed by South Durham Iron and Steel Company He was awarded a Military Medal for these actions

All along the waterfront the Durhams faced being overun yet steadily they regained the iniative and once reinforcements arrived began clearing and securing the area house by house,street by street.The ELAS melted away once again the lack of a regular  recognised uniform helping most slip away often with a pistol in their pockets which was used with treacherous consequences for the Durham soldiers

Food and medical supplies were on hand for the civilian population as each area was consolidated a move which would see the begining of a succesful Hearts and Minds Campaign

On the 14th December 1944 the 16th DLI lost two men these were;-

Pte Ronald Alford 5445453 formerly of The Duke of Cornwalls Light Infantry The son of Samuel and Rosina Alford, of St. Anne's. Bristol.He was 21 years old.Today he lies at peace and in good company in Section 19 Row E Grave 10 of Phaleron War Cemetery Athens.

Pte Ronald Alford 5445453 Phaleron War Cemetery,Athens

Pte Albert Caush 4461915 The son of Joseph and Elizabeth Caush, of North Shields, Northumberland; husband of Helen Caush, of North Shields He was 29 years old.Today he lies at peace and in good company in Section 17.  Row D Grave 7 of Phaleron War Cemetery Athens.

Pte Albert Caush 4461915 Phaleron War Cemetery,Athens

 

Men of the 16TH Durham Light Infantry Captured By Greek ELAS Forces

RETURN OF EX PRISONERS OF WAR RECOVERED FROM EX-ELAS HANDS

REGISTERED BY HQ ALLIED Pw REPATRIATION UNIT      UK/ARMY/HQ/66  SHEET 11

174697 Lieut William Henry WHITWELL  16th DLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron.

4691511 Sgt William Henry WARD  16th DLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4465778 Cpl Fred BATE  16th DLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4462931 Cpl William Thomas HOPSON 16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

14574651 L/Cpl James Charles KELLY 16thDLI Irishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4464953 L/Cpl Clifford Finlay FIRTH  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4462418 L/Cpl Charles Samuel  RUSSELL 16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4625399 L/Cpl Alfred  T(H)OMLINSON 16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1692685 Pte Thomas David  ARNOTT 16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Piraeus

1717845 Pte Harold ACKERS  16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1618051 Pte  Thomas Hancock BASNETT 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1114411 Pte Henry Joseph BEMBRIDGE 16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4470370 Pte Arthur Clarence BIRD 16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

11419406 Pte Frank BROWN  16thDLI Scotsman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1581235 Pte Arthur James C CARPENTER  16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4458702 Pte Arthur CARRICK  16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1613549 Pte James CAULFIELD  16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Piraeus

14587279 Pte John CAMPBELL  16thDLI Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4467869 Pte Frederick Albert CLIFFE 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4470050 Pte Thomas William DURBRIDGE 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4470503  Pte James EMMERSON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4461730 Pte Thomas ENGLISH 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4457935 Pte Walter EYRE 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1470260 Pte Thomas GRAFTON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

6094785 Pte Frederick GEROWSKI 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1470257 Pte Michael GRAFTON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

14750273 Pte Rowland JARRETT 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

3655944 Pte James Edward KELLY 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4699858 Pte George LYONS 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

14209684 Pte William LAWTON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4348239 Pte Martin MULCHINOCK 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4543581 Pte Jack MUSSON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

14606850 Pte Thomas MARCHBANKS 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1818456 Pte George MALCOLM 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1693336 Pte William Seville MORCOMBE 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

11405147 Pte Charles MONEYPENNY 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1562483 Pte Reginald Oswald NEALE 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4620670 Pte Frederick OSBORNE 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

916824 Pte George OUGHTON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

910240 Pte Cyril PARKES 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

5045741 Pte Arthur James POTTS 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4622439 Pte Patrick RATTIGAN 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

14750419 Pte Charles Edward ROLAND 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

14404806 Pte Lawrence SINGLETON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

11420730 Pte Edward SUTTON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4464665 Pte John Joseph TEASDALE 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

4278507 Pte James WEIGHTMAN 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

3387917 Pte Thomas WILSON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

1139695 Pte Harry WHITEHEAD 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

14603030 L/Cpl Leslie Daniel MADDISON 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

5445306 Pte Hubert Alfred HANDY 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

7961089 Pte Norman HINDMARSH 16thDLI  Englishman captured 13.12.1944 Phaleron

On the 13th March 1945 these men were listed as present at `A`(No1) Allied PoW Repatriation Camp ..Source National Archives File WO 361 Greece & Termoli my thanks to Mr Brian Sims

Repatriation Document WO 361 GREECE