Battle of Vevi (Veve)

09 April 1941 - 12 April 1941

Vevi (Veve), approximately 16 kilometres south of the Yugoslav border in northern Greece, was the site of the first engagement between Australian and German troops in the Greek campaign. Vevi stands at the narrow end of the Monastir Valley and at the head of a pass, surrounded by steep hills, which carries both the road and railway south through the mountains. It was a strong natural defensive position. On 9 April 1941, troops from the 2/4th and 2/8th Australian Infantry Battalions, and the 1st Battalion, the Rangers, supported by elements of the 2/1st Australian Anti-Tank Regiment, the 2nd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, and the 27th New Zealand (Machine Gun) Battalion began taking up positions at Vevi. Their job was to hold the advancing Germans long enough to allow the withdrawal of Greek forces in Macedonia and Albania and the preparation of a new defensive position along the line of the Aliakmon River further to the south.

German troops closed with the forward positions at Vevi on 11 April and began a series of attacks that afternoon - cautious at first, but increasingly bold and aggressive as night closed in. These attacks were directed mainly at the positions of the 2/8th Battalion. Despite being strung out and exhausted from a long march to the position and bitterly cold weather, the 2/8th managed to fend them off. The main German attack was launched on the morning of 12 April. After a few hours, the Rangers withdrew, opening a gap between the 2/4th and 2/8th Battalions, which the Germans began to exploit. By late afternoon, a prearranged withdrawal by Greek troops to the east of the 2/8th left both of the battalion's flanks dangerously exposed. Confronted with a renewed German attack led by tanks, the battalion could not hold out any longer and a confused withdrawal resulted, which effectively destroyed the 2/8th as an effective fighting force for the rest of the campaign. To the west, the 2/4th Battalion was spared the German assault, but, outflanked by the collapse of the rest of the position, was also forced to withdraw on the evening of 12 April; one of its companies was captured at a German roadblock. Although Vevi Pass was not held as long as was intended, its defence did achieve its aims.