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I found these details of a British recce of the Metaxas Line in March 1941 in WO106/3169 - Correspondence on the British Military Mission, Athens, and thought they might be of interest:
Copy of telegram dated March 19, 1941, from the British Military Mission, Athens, to the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, repeated to War Office with reference to telegram No. (127).
Personal for General Wavell and V.C.I.G.S. from General Heywood:-
“1. Just returned from tour to Eastern Macedonian Army, during which I visited the Army Commander at Salonika, Corps Commander at Strymonikon, Divisional Commanders at Seres and Drama and Independent Brigade Commander at Xanthe. I also visited the fortifications and defences in the Rupel, Karadag and Kato Nevrokop areas, as well as those covering the Nestos crossings west of Xanthe. Roads Salonika-Seres-Katrovestou-Kato Nevrokop-Drama-Kavalla and Xanthe-Kavalla-Amphipolis-Salonika are very good, mostly tarmac.
2. The fortified areas are strong naturally and have been made much stronger artificially by a series of concrete forts, casemates and mutually self-supporting works to a considerable depth, the concrete in many cases being of a thickness proof to eight-inch Howitzer shell fire, plenty of wire, frequently six rows thick, and successive lines on anti-tank obstacles, consisting, according to the country, of deep ditches and a combination of ditches, rail-fields and fields of concrete crowsfeet. The permanent defences are fully manned, although some artillery and anti-tank weapons have been ‘borrowed’ to reinforce the Army in Albania. The intervals between permanently fortified areas are wired and covered by field fortifications, but they are very thinly held and there are no reserves available. The weakest part of the line seems to be the Beles, west of the Rupel defences. Here the Bulgars have cleared the tracks of snow from the Strumica Valley to the Crest and have occupied their summer posts, and advance by mountain troops down the Southern slopes of the Beles on to the Krusa Balkan and Kilkis would turn the Rupel defences and open the shortest route to Salonika. As long, however, as the Rupel defences hold out, no wheeled traffic could be used, and still less M/T and mechanised formations.
3. I was much struck with the high morale of all the officers and men I saw in this area. Intensive work was going on in preparation of anti-tank obstacles and cratering of roads. The Commander of the Rupel defences, of whom I enquired how long he thought he could hold, said he had food for a month and that he could hold on another fortnight without.
The spirt is wonderful, but the Commanders will realise their lack of anti-tank and aircraft weapons and, above all, of reserves. They realise that, with the line held as thinly as it is, it can be pierced in the intervals between fortified areas very rapidly, and that it would be useless for them to endeavour to withdraw and carry out a delaying action. They are determined, however, to give as good an account of themselves as the Greek Army in Albania has done.
4. The Army Commander is apprehensive, he feels that if he had not been deprived of his reserves the frontier could he held for a considerable time, and if the attack did not occur until British reinforcements had arrived in strength, the line could be held almost indefinitely. What he needs in addition to adequate air support to enable him to do this is field, anti-tank and anti-aircraft artillery, six battalions of infantry and the 19 Motorised Div. as a mobile reserve to deal with parachutists or mountain troops that come down the Beles to the plain.
5. The Greeks have no contact on the frontier with German troops, but German Air reconnaissances of the Drama – Kavalla Salonika – Seres Area occurred daily during my visit; from front line observation and agents the Greeks estimate that there are three Bulgar regiments in the Petric – Nevrokop area and some 1,500 or 1,400 men in the Pasmakli area. Behind these there were two German regiments and some 300 M.T., which might include A.F.V’s in the Petrich Area and one in the Nevrokop Area; considerable M.T. traffic had been observed, but there was no artillery in position and no medium artillery reported in the rear.
6. An attack by Bulgars or Germans does not appear imminent as a certain quantity of artillery would have to be deployed to take on the fortified areas. The most hopeful line of attack for the enemy would be an attack over the Beles by mountain troops and a movement by mechanised forces through the Strumica Valley and the Kosturino pass to the Vardar, which would outflank the whole frontier position, but this would involve crossing Yugoslav territory.
7. Please see my immediately following telegram.”
Heywood seems to provide a slightly mixed message here (as he does in many messages back to The War Office and to Wavell in the Middle East). With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see the weaknesses of the Greek position but for an optimist in Cairo it may be that the morale of the troops and the confidence of the commander of Rupel fort is what bolsters your confidence in the feasibility of the Anglo-Greek defence.
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