The First Action

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Howard Kippenberger describes his Kiwi troops’ first action, in Greece, when the Germans finally attacked:

Next day, 11 April, the war at last reached us and we had our first casualties. Through the Castle gap we saw German planes bombing and machine-gunning transport in Kozani, some miles to the north. Then the stream of refugees thickened and began to include Greek and Yugoslav soldiers, including a dignified General and a beautifully equipped Yugoslav heavy anti-aircraft battery, which settled in unpleasantly close to my headquarters.

German planes came over us, bombed Servia, and some tackled Upham’s platoon and wounded two men. A nice little red-headed boy named Kelly was killed by a bomb — our first killed in action.

A New Zealand machine-gunner arrived at Upham’s platoon. He said he was the sole survivor of the Machine-gun Company which we had forward with the British light armour. I assured Upham that he was a runaway, and sure enough the machine-gunners came back later, in good order and with some astonishing stories of the Adolf Hitler storm-troops that they had slain. At that time it was not always realized that troops who disappear when fired at have not necessarily been hit.

In the late afternoon we could see, also through the gap, German transport in the far distance and a burning village.

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