Conquest of the Aegean Tempe Gorge Crisis

April 17, 1941 Tempe Gorge, Greece: The Battle of Tempe Gorge was a rearguard action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces against Axis units during the German invasion of Greece. While the Australian component retreated to the south, the Tempe Gorge location was selected as a suitable place to perform a holding action against the enemy which had significant more manpower and equipment at their disposal than did the Allies.

The Allied units were designated as “ANZAC Force” and led by then Brigadier General Arthur Samuel Allen, consisting of a depleted group of soldiers fighting with mortars, small arms, scattered artillery equipment and short of ammunition. This force was expected to hold off the advancing German 6th Mountain Division commanded by General Ferdinand Schörner as long as possible to allow for the larger forces to the northwest to withdraw to the Thermopylae Line via Larissa.

New Scenario Options

The settings I am using for this effort are realistic orders delay, historical weather and standard reinforcements and normal supply schedules for both sides.

Battle Map

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The battle map is 25kmX35km and offers a good amount of territory to maneuver in with the exception of Mount Ossa, at 1,978 meters (6,490 ft.) While certainly not the most ultra-prominent peak in the Balkan Peninsula, it is nonetheless a tactical consideration in this scenario.


The Allied Forces start out in control of all of the active objectives: Tempe Road Bridge (21 Victory Points, expiring on D02 11:59), Parapotamos Ford (17 VP, D02 17:59), Tempe Rail Bridge (17 VP, D02 11:59), Evangelismos (13 VP, D02 17:59), Makrykhorion (13 VP, D02 23:59) and SE of Makrykhorion (8 VP, D02 23:59). Only the Tempe Rail and Road Bridge objectives are primed.

The inactive objective at the start of the scenario is Exit via Larissa (33 VP, starting at D03 00:00).

Initial Orders

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There are multiple fords and ferries on both the left and right flanks of the Allied positions and principal objectives and not enough combat forces to cover every likely approach. However the Germans will have to advance into a topographical funnel of sorts as this wide spread of possible entry points culminates in the singular objective of Larissa which is the extreme southwestern corner of the map.

Primary Combat Forces

21st (Auckland) NZ Inf Bn (696 personnel, 121 anti-personnel firepower and 45 anti-armor) are ordered to move northeast along the Piniós Potamós to perform a delaying action falling back in several steps towards Tempe, Evangelismos and Larissa.

2nd/2nd AU Inf Bn (662 personnel, 122 anti-personnel firepower and 43 anti-armor) are ordered to move directly northwest of their present location to the ford/ferry that sits between Tempe and Parapotamos, where they are to perform a delaying action falling back several steps towards Makrykhorion, Drakhmani and Larissa.

2nd/3rd Au Inf Bn (642 personnel, 118 anti-personnel firepower and 42 anti-armor) are ordered to move just north of their present location to the ford/ferry at Parapotamos where they are Makrykhorion, Drakhmani and Larissa.

Secondary Combat Forces

Allen Force HQ (3 remaining units at 1,010 personnel) are ordered to defend at the SE of Makrykhorion Objective and will be manually ordered back as the situation develops throughout the scenario.

Notable Detachments

The following units will be sacrificed to slow the advance of the Axis forces:

26th Fd Bty 4 Fd Regt, RNZA (Artillery Unit) is detached from the Allen Force HQ unit and is ordered to defend at the Makrykhorion Objective.

2nd/1st Fd Coy, RAE (Engineer Unit) is ordered to Deny Crossing at the Tempe Road Bridge Objective.

L Tp 33 Bty 7 AT Regt, RNZA (AT Gun Unit) is ordered to defend at the first road bridge to the northeast of Tempe.

E Tp 2nd Bty 1 AT Regt, RAA (AT Gun Unit) is ordered to Deny Crossing at the Tempe Rail Bridge Objective.

D01 18:00 The Parapotamos Ford Objective and its 17 Victory Points fell quickly, while the other active objectives have been retained for the moment. C and D companies from the 21st (Auckland) NZ Inf Bn are the lead elements of the delaying action to the northeast and are being hammered by the German attack.

D02 00:00 A and B companies from the 2nd/3rd Au Inf Bn have taken back the Parapotamos Ford Objective while the other frontline units have done a superb job in keeping the enemy from crossing the fords and ferries directly in front of them.

D02 06:00 The bulk of the Axis forces are still being held across the Piniós Potamós while the engineer and AT gun units to the northeast are doing their part to delay the German advance.

D02 12:00 The right flank of my force is completely exposed with the decimation of the sacrificial lambs and the falling back of 21st (Auckland) NZ Inf Bn which is down to 523 personnel at this point. The intelligence filtering is showing a large number of German units amassing at the ford/ferry directly to the west of Parapotamos, with several elements having already crossed over the water obstacle.

D02 12:05 B Sqn 2 NZ Div Cav Regt arrives in Larissa and is ordered to a defensive position northwest of Makrykhorion on a slight rise so they can spot for the artillery units.

D02 18:00: With the Exit via Larissa Objective becoming active within at D03 00:00 (six hours from now) and the distance to be covered, I begin the process of splitting up my forces to race to the exit and avoid further destruction at the hands of the enemy:

A and B companies from the 21st (Auckland) NZ Inf Bn are detached and ordered to defend near their present location just to the west of Evangelismos.

All other HQ units that are behind A and B 21st are ordered to exit at Larissa with default settings.

D03 00:00 The bulk of my force is making good progress towards Larissa as the Exit Objective activates and all other objectives deactivate. There is some intelligence on German units at the crossing points near Bakraina to my immediate left; however I will not disrupt my current exit orders to counter this threat: I am done fighting and need to get my remaining troops out of the battle space.

D03 06:00 The exit maneuver is well underway with several units having dispersed while I presently have attained 10.2 of the available 33.3 Completion Victory Points.

There is some concern with intelligence on some German Motorized Infantry Companies to my right, but these will have to be ignored with only six hours left in the scenario.

After-action Report

Although the majority of my exiting forces never made it to Larissa and off of the map (they stalled out due to fatigue which I did not account for very well), I scored sufficient enough Victory Points (84 to 30) to achieve the much sought after Decisive Victory.

Review Final Situation

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The 2nd/2nd AU Inf Bn was the northernmost part of my exiting force and would have been called to blunt the German advance streaming down the road from Drakhmani had the scenario gone on any longer.

Post Mortem

While I am not a big fan of defensive scenarios, fighting withdrawals and whatnot, I do understand their historical significance and rightful place in the war gaming world. While it is always fun to blitz objectives and take it to the enemy, there is some satisfaction in performing a legitimate combat action that is both complex and fraught with peril in real life.

The default briefing used by the scenario designer was not appropriate in the context of the battle in my honest opinion: there was an opportunity for a sobering message to be delivered respective of the futility of the overall effort, instead of the “On to final victory!” boilerplate language for a Decisive Victory outcome.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Tim for posting about this battle. The map is fantastic and the scenario looks like a real challenge.


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