Tanks part 3: A Black Ice AAR. Attack on Greece

Author: Yoper101
Published: 2017-02-02, edited: 2017-02-06

Part of the campaign:

Tanks, A Black Ice AAR

Previous part:

Game: Hearts of Iron III

Tanks part 2: A Black Ice AAR. Lake Burgas

Images: 11, author: Yoper101, published: 2017-02-02

Notes on this AAR:

I'm playing using Black Ice version 8.4 for Hearts of Iron 3 Semper Fi edition. I've used a custom start option to lower my neutrality to the point where I can declare war at a reasonably early start time.

The politics of it all were lost to me, but shortly after the parade in Belgrade the army was moved to the Greek border. It was obvious even to the dullest of the enlisted men what would come next.

I awoke uncomfortable and shaking. I lifted my head a little and moaned. The shaking stopped.

'Sorry sir. But a messanger's just arrived. Orders from the Lieutenant General for your eyes only, he says.'

I sat up and gave my batman a dark look. He did certainly look apologetic. I waved him away and set about getting dressed to meet the messenger.

Ten minutes later, I had the sheet of orders in one hand and my codebook in the other. I was to attack with Nikolic. Our orders were to occupy the port of Thesoloniki, and then aid the rest of the army in encircling the Greek army in the Pindus mountains. Broz Tito also implied that Headquarters wanted us to reach Athens before the Italians, whom we would be attacking alongside.
Armoured Spearhead
Our tanks smashed through the Greek defensive formations. They were completely unprepared for fighting armoured vehicles and their lightly equipped soldiers gave up mile after mile of land, slowing only to blow bridges and railway tracks when they could.

Some companies of enemy soldiers tried to set up small ambushes, but the four infantry divisions advancing behind the tank line cleared out any soldiers that we at the front missed.
The siege of Thesoloniki
At the end of August, we'd reached the outskirts of Thesoloniki. The Greeks were scrambling to retreat back into their heartland so they only left a token garrison in the city. At the time, I thought taking the city would be a quick affair. How mistaken I was.

I frowned over the map of the city I'd placed on a block of collapsed masonry. We held most of Thesoloniki, but the Greeks fought like demons and refused to give up their last few positions. They'd set up crude mines that could tear one of my tanks in half, so I had to rely on the infantry to clear them out, and that took time.

There was a crack of gunfire and I instinctively ducked. The brigade commander who'd been standing next to me collapsed to the floor, blood pooling under his head. I drew my pistol and thumbed the safety off. All around me, soldiers scrambled for cover.

Thinking quickly, I took my cap off my head and slowly lifted it up over the block of stone. A shot took it though the middle.

'Sniper!' I called out. 'Someone get a tank over here.'

After a rushed conversation, three men who'd been sheltering behind a wall jumped out. One ran back towards where we'd left the tanks. The other two levelled rifles to cover him.

The man on the left went down instantly. The other man got off two shots at a target he couldn't really see before he went down too, but by the time they'd both died, the third man was out of sight.

From where he lay dying on the ground, the second man winked at me, but otherwise didn't move. I blinked a couple of times and then gathered my wits. I pointed in the direction where I thought the enemy had been shooting from. The man on the ground smiled, which I guessed meant I'd assumed correctly.

Ten minutes later, a tank rumbled around the corner of the street and began shooting in the general direction of the sniper. We went and searched the blasted buildings afterwards, but found no sign of a body. Either he'd taken a direct hit, or he'd had the good sense to get out while we waited for the tank.
The city falls
The last vestiges of Greek resistance were forced out of the city this morning, but not without great effort. The trickle of information I get through Broz Tito indicates that the Greek soldiers have been ordered to fall back and defend in the mountains. I fear without these orders that the Greeks would fight to the last man.
Finally radios
After returning from inspecting the defensive positions set up along the harbour, I returned to the main camp to find an engineering corps was drilling holes in the tops of my tanks.

'What's all this about?' I shouted over the noise of the heavy tools.

One of the engineers stopped work to answer me. 'New radio equipment. Your tanks'll be able to talk to one another now.'

After that, I quickly commandeered one of the armoured vehicles for myself. Being able to see the battlefield up close without fear of being shot at would no doubt prove most practical as the war progressed.
ANZACs
Nikolic and I examined the uniform of the captive soldier from a distance. None of us could understand what he was saying, despite having some men in our divisions who could speak Greek.

'Well, his arm patch indicates he's Australian,' I said.

'New Zealander, actually,' Nikolic corrected. 'The stars are slightly different.'

'Do you think it might be a ruse?'

'No, They're probably over here as volunteers. We'd better inform Headquarters of this.'
Pushing south
We continued south along the coast of the Aegean, cutting off access to ports wherever we could. Infantry divisions trailed behind our tanks to hold the supply lines. We encountered no more ANZACs, or any other volunteer troops for that matter and the Greeks constantly folded before our onslaught.
Cutting off Athens
Finally we've managed to bottle up the Greeks in Athens and on the Peloponnese. There's now only one link to the Greek mainland; a bridge over the gulf of Corinth.
Supply lines in danger
We were given no time to rest. Word reached us from outlying scouts that the Greeks were trying to move mounted infantry divisions around behind us to cut off our supply lines. Without fuel for the tanks and food for the men, I fear we'll be quickly forced to surrender.

Nikolic told me to deal with this new threat while he kept the roads to Athens blocked.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
The tanks' rapid advance forced the Greek soldiers to abandon the merge defences they'd managed to set up. Reports from the front informed me they'd mounted up and rode off away from the tanks. Later in the day, while I was setting up a new command post to hold the supply lines until re-enforcements could arrive, I heard the men begin to cheer.

Curious, I went outside the abandoned farmhouse to where a dozen infantry trucks had been parked. The men were listening around a radio set.

'Hey, Major General!' One of the men called. 'Great news. Those antiquated Greek bastards rode their own horses to death. Hundreds of them have fallen and broken their necks.'

I didn't really know how to take this, so I just nodded and went back inside. The cheers quieted down. Perhaps the men thought I'd be more excited by the news, but it was a shame. The Greek generals had stuck to antiquated principals, and they'd lost men for it. Men who didn’t really deserve to die in such a way. I supposed that I'd gained a degree of respect for the brave Greeks fighting them in Thesoloniki.
News from our allies
A report came in from headquarters the other day which cheered the men. Our allies in Germany had just completed their conquest of France. High Command also indicated that soon our divisions may be backed up by experienced German military advisors.
Foolish attack
With the supply lines stabilised, Headquarters ordered us to attack Athens. Nikolic and I had two infantry divisions to attack with us and we felt pretty confidant about the attack. We expected it to take weeks, or even months to fully capture the city.

Things began to go wrong from day one. At first, we found the city had been heavily fortified with fixed artillery positions and barbed wire defences all around the perimeter. Our tanks could overrun the defences, but the Greeks had laid down mines that would blast through the weak bottoms of the tanks.

After only three days, Nikolic had lost a quarter of his men. He ordered a halt on the advance and informed Headquaters that the city was far better defended than they'd hoped.
Holding the bridge
With Athens being so well defended, I was ordered to secure the bridge across the gulf of Corinth. The enemy was trying to evacuate command divisions across it when my tanks arrived. However, my orders were to capture the bridge; not to destroy it. I ordered my men to secure the north end of the bridge and set up defensive positions.
A great victory in the mountains
I watched nothing happen on the bridge from atop a hill where a new machine gun nest was being set up. The Greeks had nothing they could take it back with without risking destroying it, so I was just waiting around for new orders.

Behind me the radio squawked to life. I walked back to it, glad to have something to break the monotony.

'The last Greek fighters in the Pindus mountains have surrendered. Seventeen-thousand soldiers are now being sent to prisoner-of-war camps in Skopje.'

Despite the pace of the fighting slowing down in the south, it seems that my fellow Slavs had been fighting hard in the north and been rewarded for it. I hailed down an infantry truck passing by and ordered the driver to take me to where most of the men were encamped. I had some good new to tell them.

So ends part 3 of Tanks.

Sorry its been a bit of a while since the last part of this story. I've had a really busy weekend.

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