British Forces Parade in Athens - 22 October 1944

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by gmyles, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    This rare colour picture was taken on 22nd October 1944, just over a week after the British liberation of Greece (Operation Manna). The parade was held at the Tomb Of the Unknown Soldier in Athens.

    The naval officer on the far right of the picture is Rear Admiral Charles Edward Turle, Senior Naval Officer Greece (SNOG).

    The Officer standing at the head of the Army component is Brigadier Robert Harry Bertram Arkwright. Commander of all assault forces landing in Greece (ARKFORCE) during Op Manna.

    Behind Brigadier Arkwright, with bayonets fixed, in the centre of the picture are 50 troops from 50th Royal Tank Regiment, under the command of Captain Anthony Langton Gilks.

    Top left of picture is an armoured car of 46th Royal Tank Regiment. To the the right of them is a field gun team from 463-104 Royal Horse Artillery. The infantry behind 50 RTR are probably 40 RTR (Black berets) and 11th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps (Biege berets). Top right are two more 46 RTR armoured cars. All units are from 23rd Armoured Brigade which sailed over from Egypt.

    The navy detachment is probably from HMS Orion, Rear Admiral Mansfield's Flagship.

    The band was from 4th Hussars.

    My father was in 23rd Armoured Brigade but was still in Egypt, with a rear party, when this was taken.

    Last edited: Mar 31, 2020
  2. Steven Gorman

    Steven Gorman Member

    Hi Gus,
    I'm a new member ...
    Has the image disappeared or am I just being dull!
    I'm doing research on my fathers wartime exploits ( he was in either the 40th or 46th RTR ... I should know more when his service records turn up) and a link sent me to this ... I remember him telling me ( decades ago )about them not having any tanks in Greece just Bren carriers and how vulnerable they felt as anybody, civilians included could just lob a grenade into them. He subsequently had a pal shot and killed alongside him in a doorway and by all accounts was in a bit of a state when he returned home on leave. Photos of this campaign are rarer than hens teeth, I wonder if the political nature of the conflict has suppressed a lot of stuff

  3. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi Steve

    The image disappeared when the forum had its hardware upgraded a while back. I have put it back in now.

    My father was in Greece as well. He was a driver in 23rd Armoured Brigades REME workshop.

    You are right, Greece was not a nice place to be in December 1944. A bit like N Ireland, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and Libya all rolled into one mad 7 week period.

    You are right, 23rd Armoured Brigade went to Greece without any tanks, initially as they went there as peacekeepers. They were dismounted and retrained as infantry in Palestine and Egypt prior to going to Greece in October 1944. They went to Greece with just a squadron of Armoured Cars (A Squadron 46 RTR).

    The troubles with ELAS flared up on 3rd December 1944. Gen Scobie anticitaped this and ordered 46 RTR to get their tanks which were on a MT Ship in Piraeus harbour on 21st november. By 3rd December 46 RTR had 26 tanks. 40 RTR had to wait until 17th December 1944 for their 18 Shermans to come over from Italy. 50 RTR finally got their 18 tanks on 21st December.

    23rd Armoured Brigade suffered as many casualties as the Paras.

    Lots of photos of Paras and Shermas but little else I am afraid.

    You are lucky that your father talked about his time in Greece. My father didn't.

    When his service records arrive PM me and I'll send you so what I think you should find useful.

    Hope this helps

    Mark Surridge and 4jonboy like this.
  4. Steven Gorman

    Steven Gorman Member

    Hi Gus,
    Thanks for your prompt and extensive reply. I'll let you know when his records arrive.
    Many thanks again
    Mark Surridge likes this.
  5. Mark Surridge

    Mark Surridge Junior Member

    Gus and Steve , I have enjoyed reading your texts and wonder whether either of you can help me place my Father in Athens at this time....

    My Father, Major Robert Surridge, (1920-91) , was with 4th Indian Division, 1st Field Regiment Royal Artillery, and after Monte Casino he landed at Salonika and then made his way to Athens, I believe via Piraeus Harbour....

    His reminiscences went like this ;

    “As we advanced into Athens I asked my radio operator to see if he could tune into the BBC and suddenly there was this beautiful singing. It was the Christmas Eve and carols were being broadcast from Kings College, Cambridge. But for that chance discovery we would never have known that it was Christmas.”

    " ..and as I was senior officer with a cheque in my wallet that I had to cash in the Central Bank in Athens, as I had to pay all the troops."

    His recollection was in Piraeus Harbour he found himself firing at retreating German forces and was fired upon by the Greek Communists in ELAAS.

    Later in the streets of Athens, he was hurled to the ground by some fellow Allied soldiers, Americans as he recalls, as the Communist partisans opened fire.He was lucky to escape with his life.

    “On another occasion I was advancing into Athens and we were ambushed and as we came under fired from the Communist rebels and but for the quick thinking of one of my men I would have been killed. They were shooting at us from behind but we returned fire and killed them."

    Any clues ? Or any assistance form any member would be greatly appreciated.
    Chris C and Charley Fortnum like this.
  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    The following two documents may be of help:

    After the Battle Magazine for Athens 1944:
    Athens, December 1944 [After the Battle №155].pdf

    Divisional Report on the Campaign In Greece:
    History Of 4th Indian Infantry Division in Greece.pdf
  7. Steven Gorman

    Steven Gorman Member

    Dear Gus,
    I trust you are keeping well during the current crisis.
    Well here we are a year later and I'm finally in receipt of my fathers service records. My assumption that he was in 40th or 46th RTR was incorrect .... he was actually in 50th RTR. He spent a couple of months in North Africa in Reinforcement units before being posted to 50 RTR on 6/1/44 although he's still being shown as part of BNAF at this time. He was with them in Italy then to MEF ... and then CMF (Greece) He spent 5 days X(ii) on medical grounds with the light field ambulance on 28/6/45 which I suspect is the result of the incident where his pal was shot and killed alongside him. Soon after 16/7/45 he was posted to 8RTR where he remained as a Sgt training instructor ( teaching Maths ) until his discharge in August '47.
    I'm currently researching what regimental records ( 50th, 23rd Armoured Corp and Arkforce) are available at Kew for the relavent periods. Clearly a trip there isn't happening anytime soon with this awful pandemic. In the meantime I've got hold of a copy of '50th Royal Tank Regiment The Complete History' by SD Hamilton which is helping to put some flesh on the bones.
    I have a couple of questions which you might be able to help me with. My father was trained as a Driver Operator 'C' III and then subsequently whilst in Egypt D/O 'C' II .... do you know what the difference was between a III and a II qualification? The record refers to S.T.T.T. regarding qualifications .... Standard Tank Training Test? Then later passed T.T. again Tank Training?
    Kind regards
  8. Steven Gorman

    Steven Gorman Member

    Hi Mark, Sorry for my lack of response ( I've not really been on the site for a year awaiting my fathers Service records) My father was a dismounted tankie in Greece, other than that I can't tell you much. There are however documents available at Kew covering 23rd Armoured Corps exploits in Greece which should help. Regards Steve
    Mark Surridge likes this.
  9. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    HI Steve

    If you post his service record here for everyone to see, I am sure all of the abbreviations you are stuck with be solved by someone here.

    For some reason, 50 RTR did not produce a war diary for December or January in the normal format, more of a overall narration of events. And all of it is covered in the Book.

    There are a lot of missing war diaries from that period. Many were destroyed as units feared they were about to be overthrown.

    46 RTR HQ had to move out sharpish in the first week as the Military Academy they had occupied was about to be surrounded and rear HQ 23rd Armoured Brigade was very nearly lost on 13th December when ELAS attacked the Infantry Barracks the British were using as its main supply depot.

    I have a few things that might be of interest to you. PM me your email address (click inbox in top right corner) and I'l email them over.

    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
    Steven Gorman likes this.
  10. Steven Gorman

    Steven Gorman Member

    Many thanks
  11. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    I've put the pic back up now (again).

    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020

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