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The Defence of Florina, and the Monastir Gap

Greece 10-14 April 1941

a Spearhead Mini-Campaign


It's midday on the 10 April 1941, and for the last 3 days German, Italian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian forces have been driving through the heart of Yugoslavia. In the South a poor deployment left the Yugoslavian 3rd Army defending the entire Bulgarian and Albania frontiers with only 3 Divisions (7th covering Bulgaria, 8th & 9th covering Albania). Needless to say the Germans quickly penetrated the weak defence, and as in France in 1940 there was no mobile reserve available to counter the penetrations.

Meanwhile German assaults have been going in all along the Bulgarian frontier with North-Eastern Greece, but not as successfully, the Germans making little impression on the forts and defences along the Greek frontier. The Greek-Yugoslav plan called for a combined assault on Albania if Germany attacked. It was hoped the Italians could be "knocked out" for an indefinite period, and this would secure the Yugoslavian rear, and allow Greece to transfer her best divisions to the north-east. Consequently on the evening of 06 April 1941 General Papagos (The Greek C-in-C) ordered the Western Macedonian Army to begin it's offensive in Albania, the Army of Epirus to do likewise as soon as it was able (this would be in approximately 3 days).

On the afternoon of 07 April British reconaissance aircraft identified German troops in Yugoslavia heading south towards the "Doiran Gap" with no Yugoslavian opposition evident. If not stopped they would drive round the flank of the Greek frontier defences and on to Salonika which would result in the loss of the Eastern Macedonian Army (3 Infantry Divisions, 2 Brigades, and the Frontier Garrisons) and the only reasonable port in Northern Greece. To oppose this advance was the Greek 19th Motorised Division, which had been sent into the Lake Doiran region for just this reason, but Brigadier Charrington (British 1st Armoured Brigade) had commented that "It consists of just over 2000 quite untrained recently enlisted garage hands. It has no prospect of fighting usefully as a mobile force, with its few Bren Carriers, Motorcycles, and small Cars, even if its commander knew how to employ them!" To the west Papagos had begun transfering the Greek Cavalry Division to Florina, to protect the Pisoderion Pass and the rear of the two Greek Armies in Albania.

On the 08 April a British patrol north of Monastir in Yugoslavia reported that the 3rd Yugoslavian Army had collapsed and most resistance had ceased. Further east in the Doiran Gap, the German 2nd Panzer Division had thrown back the weak Greek 19th Motorised Division and was heading south on the Thessaly Plain, ideal tank country. By Midday they had been spotted by forward patrols of the 4th Hussars (from the British 1st Armoured Brigade), who blew bridges on the Axios River and retreated west towards the main "W" Force (General Wilson's British & Commonwealth) positions. Meanwhile to the west in Albania the Greek offensive was making little headway, and with the uncertainty over Yugoslavia, General Papagos ordered the cessation of the offensive. Fearing a penetration through the Monastir Gap he ordered all troops in Albania to make a limited withdrawal south towards the old Greek-Albanian frontier, and instructed "W" Force to hold a line from Nimfaion (just south of Florina) east to Mt Olympus. However at 11am that morning Generals Wilson and Blamey (1st Australian Corps) had already decided that measures must be taken to prevent a "Blitzkrieg" through the Monastir Gap which would split Greece in two, and trap the two largest Greek Armies in Sourthern Albania, and the Commonwealth forces in Eastern Greece! To that end Mackay Force (General Mackay - OC 6th Austalian Division) was formed, utilising what troops were available and taking under command several detachments already in the Perdika-Florina area, to defend the Vevi Gap. That night British Commando's destroyed the Greek oil stocks in Salonika (without Greek knowledge or approval), and the Commander of the Eastern Macedonian Army approached the Germans for an armistice.

At 8am on the 09 April the German 2nd Panzer Division entered Salonika, while General Wilson ordered all Commonwealth forces (except Mackay Force) to begin withdrawing to the Aliakmon River Line, which was intended to be the main defence line in Eastern Greece. In Yugoslavia British patrols had identified German Columns 5 miles north of Monastir (where the Crna river bridge had been blown) and in North-Eastern Greece at 1pm the Greek Eastern Macedonian Army capitulated. Only two Greek Divisions and "W" Force (about 2 Infantry Divisions and 1 weak Armoured Brigade) remained to defend Northern and Eastern Greece! By 4.50pm the patrols withdrew from Monastir, but the Germans had still not entered the town. In central Yugoslavia 5th Panzer Division had been ordered south to reinforce the advance of XXXX Motorised Corps (who had the 9th Panzer and SS "Adolf Hitler" Divisions at Monastir).

As dawn breaks on the 10 April the last of Mackay Force's units reach their designated positions, as elements of the SS "Adolf Hitler" Division approach Lofoi....
 

OBJECTIVES

GERMAN
General Stumme you will continue the drive south into Greece. Intelligence reports indicate that a combined British/Commonwealth Corps awaits you with 3 Infantry Divisions, 1 Armoured Brigade, and Heavy Artillery Support. They are believed to be deployed on a line running east-west between Katerini and Kozani (roughly the Aliakmon River) about 50km south of your current positions near Florina. A rapid drive down the wide Florina Valley to Kozani may allow you to capture Kozani and/or outflank the British position. It will also open the 3 passes to the west (Pisoderion, Klisoura, Siatista) which will allow you to cut off the Greek Armies in Albania. Your primary objective is to drive south as rapidly as possible, speed is vital.

ANGLO-GREEK
General Mackay,  you must hold the Vevi Gap for as long as possible, to buy time for the Commonwealth forces to finish deploying on the Aliakmon River Line. You must also cover the withdrawal of the Greek 20th & 12th Divisions on your eastern flank, while maintaining contact with the Greek Cavalry Division to the west. The Greeks will require at least 3 nights to complete their withdrawal, so you must hold for that time at Vevi. You must delay the German advance for as long as possible, but you must also preserve your force intact. Ultimately the preservation of Commonwealth units must come first. Good Luck!
 

THE MAP

GENERAL
The Map represents the region east and south-east of Florina. Monastir is about 30km North along the road that exits B1-11. Florina is 10km west along the road or the Railway at A1-22, beyond Florina is the Pisoderion Pass. The Klisoura Pass (and village) are about 10km west on the road at A1-52.  Immediately South of the Map is Ptolemais, followed by about 25km of open plains before Kozani is reached. Edessa is 20km west along the road or the Railway C4-11, or about 40km via the road at C4-71.

SCALE
The grid on the map is set at 24" (2400 yards). This is so the map will be detailed enough to lay tables out from and write orders on, but still allow it to be printed onto one page if desired. The assumption is that 8' by 4' tables will be used hence the "heavy" lines marking the boundaries of these. (8' x 6' being the ideal option, but 6' x 4' tables would be acceptable, although they may result in a Division (or Mackay Force) being spread over 2 or more tables.)

TERRAIN
 MOUNTAINS: Each contour on the map represents 2 actual contours on the wargaming table (a height change of between 500-750m)! So an observer on the maps 2nd contour will have a +12" bonus to spotting ranges. On the table they should be represented as 2 contours with only approximately 1"-3" between their edges as the majority of the slopes were fairly steep! The slopes are very barren and windswept with only low brush and scrub growing on them, while the top two map contours are also snow covered! Specific effects of these are:
    1st Map Contour: Counts as Rough Ground.
    2nd Map Contour: Counts as Rough Ground, and is impassable to vehicles.
    3rd Map Contour: Counts as Rough Ground and is impassable to all troops!
LAKES: There are 5 lakes on the map. These are effectively impassable to all troops.
MARSH: There are 2 marshes on the map. (See the SH QRS for the effect of marshes).
RIVERS: There are several small rivers on the map. These should be represented on table 1" wide with bridges/fords as indicated. They may be crossed anywhere by Infantry (1/3 speed), Fully-Tracked Vehicles (1/3 speed) and Half-Tracked Vehicles (1/6 speed). They are impassable to Wheeled Vehicles except at crossing points.
TOWN SECTORS: Each town sector is marked on the map. Most represent small villages, in some cases the smallest villages are not represented on the map. There are 5 large villages, represented by 4 town sectors each (straddling 1 or more roads).
ROADS: Several are marked on the map, they are in varying degrees of condition, most are metal or rough Macadam, with only the main North-South road (B1-11 to B3-82) actually being of reasonable standard. Wheeled Vehicles may claim a +3" Road movement bonus, no other troops receive any bonus for moving on a road (other than avoiding other terrain effects).
RAILWAY: Has no effect other than to provide bridges for crossing the various small rivers, and very low embankments which block visibility (cf. hedges in SH rulebooks).
FIELDS: These were numerous and there should be areas of these on the low ground of every map sector. Sectors with Villages in should be about 50% Fields. There should be a few ploughed fields, but mostly they will have young crops, be surrounded by stone walls and provide spotting cover. (See the QRS and page 12 of SH for the effects of fields).
OLIVE GROVES: None are marked on the map as there wasn't much in the way of trees and such in the Florina Valley. Small copses (3"-4" diameter) may be randomly scattered on tables if desired, but should be no more than 1 per map sector, 2 if a river is present. They may only be on the flat (there were no trees on the high ground). Treat as Woods on SH QRS.

Click Here to view the map. Once displayed [Right] Click on the map to save the file to your computer. Note that the Map Sectors are 24" x 24".
 

ORDERS & MOVEMENT

Orders for units are given exactly as in normal Spearhead games. However instead units move on the map instead of the table. Once units enter adjacent sectors they will be assumed to be aware of each other and the umpire should decide whether the action gets transferred to the table top! The Umpire will also need to allow for observers on high ground. Exact locations of supporting artillery battalions should also be marked when those units are deployed for action.

Each day is as follows:
0630 Dawn (1 turn),
0700-1630 Daylight (20 turns),
1700 Dusk (1 turn),
1730-0600 Darkness (26 turns).
(Dawn and Dusk halve spotting distances after modifiers).
 
Each turn is 30 minutes, Night consists of 26 turns, but troops may only conduct a random number of moves, to allow for the difficulty of night movement, and the need for troops to rest and replenish. Each side throws to see how many moves it successfully completes at night. The Germans throw 1d6 (ie. they get 1-6 moves), the Anglo-Greeks 1d6+2 (ie. 3-8 moves). The difference is intended to reflect the Anglo-Greeks reliance on darkness as cover for when they made major withdrawals. No combat can be fought at night, units that "bump" into each other will halt and await dawn (they may choose to break-off if desired, but will retreat in a direction randomly determined by the umpire). Any troops moving at night and not following a clearly defined terrain feature (eg. Road, River or Contour Line) may move in the wrong direction, at the start of every 3 turns movement (or part there of) throw 3+ otherwise unit becomes lost and deviates in random direction (Throw d6, 1 = 45º Left, 2-3 = 30º Left, 4-5 = 30º Right, 6 = 45º Right).

At the start of each night new orders may be issued to every Battalion (automatic success for Germans, throw 2+ for Anglo-Greeks), including whether unit is to move at night or not. Other order changes may only be made during the 20 moves of daylight subject to the usual SH rules. Attachments may also be changed at this time between battalions in the same map sectors (This is the only time attachments may be changed). Attachments may be made in anticipation of units due to arrive "on map" during the following day (but remember until they are "on Map" they don't count for Morale, etc...)

No flank marches may be made (they will occur naturally during the game). Only the Germans may have reserves, by holding units "Off-Map" immediately North of their entry points after their designated time of arrival.
 

WEATHER

Throw a d6 at the start of each morning to determine the weather:

+1 to dice if the previous day was Fine Clear Weather

5+ = Fine Clear Weather.
2-4 = Overcast with Scattered Snow and/or Rain (No Aircraft)
1 = Heavy Snow (No Aircraft and all spotting ranges halved)
 

DEPLOYMENT
 
Click Here to view the OOB.
 
The campaign starts at 1200 on the 10 April 1941.
 
GERMAN FORCES
ON MAP AT START OF GAME:
Elements of  S.S. ADOLF HITLER DIVISION
I Motorised Battalion in A3-12.
II Motorised Battalion in B1-12 (Lofoi).
III Motorised Battalion in B4-12 (near Kelli).
AH Recon Battalion in B1-12 (or attached out to other Battalions)
V Heavy Weapons Battalion in B1-12 (or attached out to other Battalions)
ARRIVING IN B1-11 AT 1200 ON 10 APRIL:
Elements of 9th PANZER DIVISION
I/33rd Panzer Battalion.
ARRIVING IN B1-11 AT 0800 ON 11 APRIL:
Balance of S.S. ADOLF HITLER DIVISION
Divisional Headquarters
AH Artillery Regiment
AH Pioneer Battalion
1 Luftwaffe FAC
Elements of 9th PANZER DIVISION
9th Recon Battalion
ARRIVING IN B1-11 AT 1200 ON 11 APRIL:
Elements of 9th PANZER DIVISION
33rd Panzer Regiment (HQ & II Battalion)
59th Motorcycle Battalion
10th Schutzen Regiment
I/102nd Artillery Battalion
50th PzJgr Battalion
ARRIVING IN B1-11 AT 0900 ON 12 APRIL:
Elements of 9th PANZER DIVISION
Divisional HQ
9th Schutzen Brigade (HQ, 701 sIG Coy, 11th Schutzen Regt)
102nd Artillery Regiment (HQ, II & III Battalions)
86th Pioneer Battalion
86th Luftwaffe Light Flak Battalion
1 Luftwaffe FAC
ARRIVING IN B1-11 AT 1200 ON 12 APRIL:
XXXX CORPS troops
1/II/24th Luftwaffe Heavy Flak Battery
3/525th PzJgr Company
154th Artillery Battalion
1/666th Pioneer Company

ANGLO-GREEK FORCES
ALL ON TABLE AT START OF GAME
MACKAY FORCE
Divisional Headquarters in B4-72 (Perdika)
1st Armoured Brigade in B4-42 (Sotir)
All other troops anywhere inside rectangle of A3-21, B4-21, B4-42, A3-42 inclusive.
(Support troops may be attached to any Mackay Force Fighting Battalions, or to Greek units if from Lee Force as noted in OOB list).
21st GREEK BRIGADE
All in rectangle A1-31, A3-31, A3-51, A1-51 inclusive.
DODECANESE REGIMENT
All in rectangle C1-11, C4-11, C4-21, C1-21 inclusive.
 

FORTIFICATIONS

All Anglo-Greek forces (including Artillery Guns) begin the Game in Foxholes/Gun Pits (-1 Light Cover). The 21st Greek Brigade begin the game Entrenched (-2 Cover & Close Combat Bonus). Any Infantry (and Mortars & HMGs) of either side that remain stationary for a period of 4 turns after moving, and have not been under fire, will be assumed to have dug Foxholes/Gun Pits (-1 Light Cover).
 

VICTORY DETERMINATION

The campaign ends once two German Battalions have exited off the Southern Map edge between B1-C4. Calculate the victory determination values as follows (Mackay Force is considered to have 5 "Fighting" Battalions):

+1 point for each 21st Greek Brigade Battalion still holding it's original positions.

+2 points for each "Mackay Force" Fighting Battalion exited off the Southern Map edge between B1-C4, or
+1 point for each "Mackay Force" Fighting Battalion still intact and south of map "latitude" 71 inclusive.

+3 points for each Dodecanese Fighting Battalion exited off West Map edge between map "latitudes" 51-62, or
+1 point for every Dodecanese Fighting Battalion still intact and West of map "longitude" A4 inclusive.

+1 point for each German Fighting Battalion eliminated.
-1 point for each Anglo-Greek Fighting Battalion eliminated.

20+ is a Major Anglo-Greek Victory.
15-19 is a Minor Anglo-Greek Victory.
10-15 is an Historical Result (Draw).
5-9 is a Minor German Victory.
4 or less is a Major German Victory and a catastrophe for the Commonwealth forces.
 
DESIGNERS NOTE
 
At the time of placing this on the Spearhead Webpage I have not had an opportunity to fully playtest the campaign, so the victory conditions amy need fine tuning. The OOBs and events are modelled as closely as possible on the real ones, the German and Commonwealth TO&Es are the historical ones, The Greeks are a best guess from available information. The German OOB and order of arrival is based on known facts but includes some assumptions (such as bridging units being used previously to cross Crna River).
 
SOURCES

  • German Kriegsgliederung (Official German records of all unit organisations, type and quantity of weapons & equipment) - Special thanks to Wig Graves for his help with these.
  • Panzertruppen - Jentz (confirmation of the number of Tanks in the German units).
  • Australia in the War of 1939-1945: Greece, Crete and Syria Gavin Long
  • Official History of NZ in the Second World War 1939-45: To Greece (2nd Division) W. G. McClymont
  • Official History of NZ in the Second World War 1939-45: 27 (Machine Gun) Battalion Robin Kay

 

"Moving Forward!" - Companies from a British or Commonwealth Rifle Battalion advance in North Africa, sometime in 1942. Figures (6mm Irregular), Terrain, and Photo by John Moher, Auckland, New Zealand.

 

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