The Battle of Brallos Pass was a hectic, one-day battle on 24th April, 1941, fought on the Greek mainland, just under 200 kilometres northwest of Athens. Its goal was to delay the German advance long enough to evacuate all British and imperial troops from Greece. It was successful in this, and caused a fair bit of damage to the invaders in the process.

Visiting a battlefield is the best way to understand what took place there. Walking the ground gives you an appreciation that no amount of reading can.

I’m a big believer that to really understand what happened in a battle or campaign, it is best to walk the ground.

James Holland, Historian.

This is how you can visit the Brallos Pass battlefield. There are plenty of other interesting things to do and see in this region too!

Begin to the northeast of the battlefield region, in Ag. Triada. This is around 2 hours drive from Athens.

Ag. Triada

Directions – Ag. Triada

This is where the New Zealanders of the 6th Brigade had established defensive positions, close to the historic Thermopylae battlefield. The New Zealanders fought tenaciously, blocking the advance of German tanks, infantry and motorcycle troops. This battle was a twin engagement with the Australians defending the Brallos pass to the south. If either force had given way and allowed the Germans to penetrate their lines the other force could have been encircled and cut off.

As you travel along the thin coastal strip you can see why it was excellent defensive terrain. The German tanks had little room to manoeuvre, and fell prey to the New Zealand artillery and anti-tank guns.

Ag. Triada has an excellent local Greek restaurant if you need something to eat before you explore the battlefield. From here drive past the Thermopylae battlefield to Irakleia, on the plain south of Lamia.

Map of the Battle of Brallos Pass. History Guild.

Irakleia

Directions – Irakleia

The Australians had withdrawn to Lamia, about 10km north of here, then along the road running through Irakleia to Brallos Pass in the days before the battle. Germans from the 1st Battalion, 31st Armoured Regiment and 112th Reconnaissance Battalion advanced down this road on the eve of the battle, where they were engaged by Australian gunners of the 2/2nd Field Regiment from their positions in the mountains to the south.

Germans from the 141st Infantry Regiment and the 55th Motorcycle Battalion advanced parallel to this road, about two kilometres further west.

The mountains to the south overlook the plain, making for excellent defensive terrain for the Australians who had established positions there.

Travel south from here through the spectacular Asopos River Gorge then up the steep switchbacks to the 2/2nd Field Regiment Positions.

2/2nd Field Regiment Positions

Directions – 2/2nd Field Regiment positions

This key terrain was where two Australian 25 Pounder field guns from the 2/2nd Field Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant John Anderson, MC fought a fierce artillery duel with Germans advancing from Lamia.

At Brallos on 23rd April, despite intense fire from an enemy medium battery, he commanded his two forward guns with such accuracy that the German advance across the plain leading to Brallos was held up for 31 hours. When finally his guns were shelled out and the personnel killed or wounded he took one of the wounded men up the hill to safety under observed enemy fire. He then returned to the gun position, and as our own ammunition was exploding he sent the wounded troops to cover and fired the gun for some time afterwards. When the gun was finally damaged by enemy fire he personally removed the sights and brought them back.

Military Cross Citation for Lieutenant John Anderson

There is a memorial commemorating the courageous men of the 2/2nd Field Regiment who fought here.

Continue up the steep, winding road to Skamnos.

Skamnos

Directions – Skamnos

This is the area where C Company, 2/11th Battalion had established defensive positions, that allowed them to fire down upon the advancing Germans. This slowed the advance of the German 55th Motorcycle Battalion, who were pushing up the hills towards them, as well as harras the German 141st Infantry Regiment advancing along the far side of the valley, further to the west.

A Company, 2/11th Battalion were just south of this position, providing supporting fire to their C Company compatriots, as well as B and D Companies, 2/11th Battalion, which were in positions further west.

B and D Company Forward Positions

Directions – B and D Company Forward Positions

The hills to the north are where B and D Companies, 2/11th Battalion established their initial defensive positions. They fired on the Germans as they advanced from the north, struggling uphill under fire.

As the German 141st Infantry Regiment approached these B and D Company positions in strength the Australians began a leapfrog series of fighting withdrawals that saw them take up positions behind A company, in Brallos. This saw the majority of the Battalion concentrated in Brallos, making it a strong defensive redoubt. Drive to Brallos now, to see the site of these positions.

Map of detailed unit movements during the Battle of Brallos Pass, close to the town of Brallos. History Guild.

Brallos

Directions – Brallos

B and C Companies, 2/11th Battalion had their positions astride the road here, with A Company, 2/11th Battalion just southeast, to their rear. Guns from the 2/2nd Field Regiment were emplaced up the slope to the east, where they had a commanding position overlooking the valley.

Brallos was the key point, on which the defense of the pass hinged. It was the point all the Australian units passed through on their withdrawal, and where many met up with the motor transport that allowed them a clean break from the Germans after the battle. Drive from here to Gravia, where B Company, 2/1st Battalion held the left flank. Along the way you will pass the Brallos British Military Cemetery, a quiet place of reflection, dating to the First World War.

Directions – Brallos British Military Cemetery

Gravia

Directions – Gravia

B Company, 2/1st Battalion had been detached from the rest of the 2/1st Battalion, and tasked with covering the left flank from the village of Gravia. They held this position against the German 141st Infantry Regiment advancing along the valley until the evening, when they withdrew to Brallos in order to depart with the rest of the Australian forces. The 141st Infantry Regiment continued their advance through Gravia after B Company, 2/1st Battalion had withdrawn, eventually reaching the road that the Australians had used to pull out. Luckily the Australians had already passed this point on the road in their withdrawal, and escaped mostly without incident.

Drive from here to the 2/4th Battalion positions, on the Brallos-Amfiklia road

2/4th Battalion Positions

Directions – 2/4th Battalion Positions

The troops from the 2/4th Battalion were stationed in this area, acting as a reserve and defence in depth. They were also positioned to ensure the road from Brallos remained open to allow for the withdrawal of the Australian forces to the northwest.

From here drive uphill to the mountain villages where A and D Companies of 2/1st Battalion had their positions.

From here drive uphill to the mountain villages where A and D Companies of 2/1st Battalion had their positions.

A and D Companies, 2/1st Battalion Positions

Directions – A and D Companies, 2/1st Battalion Positions

A and D Companies of 2/1st Battalion were instructed to defend this area to block any German troops who managed to infiltrate through the mountains to the north, or come across the mountain pass to the north after pushing past the New Zealanders defending Thermopylae. Neither of these eventualities came to pass, but their elevated position was useful for observing the valley.

From here continue down the valley to Amfiklia to complete your circuit of the battlefield.

Amfiklia

Directions – Amfiklia

As the Australians disengaged from combat with the German forces advancing along the valley they all withdrew through Amfiklia, mostly in trucks. From here they continued their fighting withdrawal t the southern Greek evacuation beaches, where some embarked for Egypt, and the remainder were shipped to Crete. The some of the units who fought here, in particular the 2/1st Battalion and 2/11th Battalion, saw fierce fighting around Rethimno in Crete less than a month later.

There are plenty of other interesting things to do and see in this region too.

Interactive Map of the Battle of Brallos Pass

Phaleron War Cemetery

Directions – Phaleron War Cemetery

If you transit through Athens on your way to or from the battlefield you can visit the Phaleron War Cemetery, where many of the Australians killed in Greece are buried. This is a short drive from either the airport or downtown Athens, or you can also reach it via the A2 bus from close to the Acropolis. Many of the Australians who were killed in this battle were exhumed from where they were buried immediately after the battle, and re-buried at this cemetery.
This quiet, contemplative place has 2,029 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery, including 172 Australians.
If you visit the cemetery prior to the Brallos Pass battlefield, you will find the graves of Australians who were killed here. You can then follow in their footsteps, and reflect on their experiences and that of their comrades.

Follow in the footsteps of an Australian who fought here

You can gain a fuller understanding of the experiences of the Australians who fought here by following the journey and story of individual Australian serviceman who fought in Greece. Please get in touch with us through the form below when you’re planning a to visit the Brallos Pass battlefield. Our volunteers will be happy to provide you with information about one or two of the Australians who fought here.


Podcasts about Australians in the Mediterranean during WW2

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