- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Harold James Dunsmore
- Location of story:
- Greek mainland
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 03 November 2005
This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV volunteer, Gemma, on behalf of Harold James Dunsmore. It has been added with his permission and Mr Dunsmore fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.
It was my first job with 40 Royal Marine Commando in being called from the Commando training Centre: Achuacawey, Scotland, by my late Commanding Officer of the 11th Battalion Royal Marines, to join him in Italy. He had picked us to recce the main southern coast of Greece for a possible landing. We left the sea port of Bari by RAF power launch with a small group of RAF members- there task was to make a landing strip for the RAF to land. We landed near the town of Katahalan, the area was deserted, no enemy action. On our backs we carried everything we needed to survive in the mountains. A day later, in the hills, we met up with another British group of S.A.S and the Long Range Desert Group boys who, to our surprise, had transport with machine guns on the back. Our small party was now about 25 to 30 strong. Together we moved over the mountains to the sea port of Patras, the only sign of the enemy was in the town itself. We were in the mountains, covering the town below us. The enemy garrison in Patras by this time knew they had British troops covering their retreat to Athens in the hill country and had no idea of our strength. To see them all moving out by sea was a surprise, but nice to know there would be no actual combat. We took the town without any bloodshed, many German soldiers had remained who had married local girls and were willing to give themselves up.
Captain O’Brien decided to follow and see how far the Germans would go. Reaching the Corinth Canal, we saw no sign of the enemy, so we kept on going up this water way until we reached Megara, an airstrip and a deserted German H.Q. The Greek woman who had looked after the Germans was only too pleased to see us. The city of Athens was not far away and we could move forward as we had seen 88mm Guns moving close by and it was best to hold on. We were told by radio that the Parachute Regiment were to make an operational jump at our position and help if needed. Unfortunately for them, the time they jumped there was a gale force wind and many were hurt, I believe a few were drowned. We were all cutting them from their chutes as fast as we could.
All the British troops in this area and Athens were given the order to retreat on seeing masses of Airborn soldiers coming down so near. We could see them pulling back as we followed - took us right into Athens itself. As they moved out as fast as they could, we followed right behind them. I will never forget the local people coming out and greeting us with flowers and waving at us. I received a black eye as a bunch of flowers with a fir cone in it caught me a good one in my left eye, it felt like a rock hitting me. On reaching Athens city centre square we were greeted by the town mayor and given the empty hotel to move into. We could still see the German transport moving out over the mountains to the North. We even found a cup off drinking chocolate still warm in a German house - it must have been the fastest move out ever recorded. Again, many soldiers who had married local girls came out of hiding and gave themselves up. I don’t know why the parachute boys didn’t come into the city until the next day, but getting their numbers organised must have taken some time.
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