I Was There! - Mine Were the Last R.A.F. Men to Leave

The War Illustrated, Volume 4, No. 93, Page 597-598, June 13, 1941.

In addition to the Empire Forces, R.A.F. personnel had to be moved out of Greece when the position became untenable. The story of the escape of the last 2,000 was told by a senior staff officer who was entrusted with the organization of the evacuation.

The last R.A.F. man to leave Greece was a staff officer, who himself got away under cover of darkness in a 25-foot boat crammed with 35 men. He said:

When it was clear we had to leave Greece the R.A.F. sent me to arrange for embarkation from the Peloponnese. I was supplied plentifully with money to buy or charter ships.

The total R.A.F. personnel to be evacuated, including flying men, was about 3,500. About 1,000 comprised the most highly trained men and officers who were evacuated with their own machines and Sunderland flying-boats from the port of Argos.

The remaining 2,500, who had been subjected to bombing and ground strafing for several days, were beginning to feel the strain. Of this number 500 were eventually evacuated from Nauplia, 1,000 from Kalamati and 400 from Gythian.

After destroying all our material and the bulk of our kit among the olive groves we hid near the shore.

One of the most touching parts of the whole affair was the help and kindness shown us by the Greeks in towns and villages. We might have been a conquering rather than a withdrawing force. Although we were going in the wrong direction they loaded us with food from their scanty stores, gave us flowers and provided us with billets.

Unhappy, a 2,000-ton ship which we had earmarked for the evacuation was found to be too slow to make a safe getaway from the range of Nazi planes during the night hours, but I secured a 500-tonner and aboard this we evacuated 600 men.

Articles in the I Was There! category