Corporal T.G. Bain a driver for the New Zealand Divisional Ammunition Company recounts his experience evacuating from Greece on the evening of 24 April 1941. In the confusion of the evacuation he is searching for a lorry lost from his convoy. He witnesses the Hellas burning at the port of Piraeus. A number of New Zealanders, including Māori Battalion soldiers, were among the yatch's victims. During his search he meets the rear guard of the Māori Battalion. The Māori soldiers share a few comforts with him then journey to the rendezvous point at Porto Rafti. They find the lorry had made it through and in the early morning of 25 April they all evacuate safely to Crete.
We got underway again, all was confusion in Athens and it was getting quite dark. I was leading in the first lorry when we came to a turn off leading to the beach. I told the driver to pull up and wait for the second lorry. We waited for ten minutes but there was no sign of the second lorry at all. As I had been instructed that it was imperative that we get the beach immediately, I sent the driver on down to the beach with the first lorry load of men. By this time it was quite dark. I waited for two hours in that corner. Ambulance after ambulance, the Greek ambulances of course, rushed past with the wounded from the bombed ship. But my other lorry failed to show up. I had grave fears about what might have happened and I was debating about whether I should start walking towards Athens five miles away, when coming from the direction of ????? a vehicle appeared following an erratic course. As it came closer I could see the kangaroo emblem on the mud guard - an Australian lorry. In this we drove down to Piraeus to find out if the lorry had gone down there. It was a nightmare drive. Although the night was pitch black the whole of Piraeus seemed to be illuminated by the burning ship, the victim of the dive bombers. The port was absolutely deserted. It was horrible, the burning ship. God alone knows how many smouldering bodies below decks. I turned the lorry and got back into Athens. Round and round Athens I toured; no sign of the missing lorry. It was then well after midnight. I was all in, days and nights of incessant strain were taking their toll. I felt lost and apart from my two companions very much alone. I had visions of the despicable Boch (i.e. Germans) rushing into Athens but I had to find that lorry. I pulled into the curb and got out to stretch my weary limbs. Suddenly round the corner there appeared the lights of four vehicles, obviously a small convoy. As the leading vehicle came closer I saw on the mud guard the immortal emblem the New Zealand fern leaf. I can not describe just how I felt as I yelled to the driver to stop. I had contacted the rear guard of the magnificent Māori Battalion. A Māori officer jumped out of the vehicle. "Kiwi?" he asked. "Nothing surer," I replied, "I am glad to see you". I will never forget that Māori officer. He was cool and calm even though he too was lost. He could see that I was more or less exhausted, out came his water bottle, then a cigarette and a tin of bully beef. I explained my plight and after finding that the Aussies knew the rendezvous for their party we got them underway and debated the problem of my lost lorry. We decided that as I knew the way to beach we'd better proceed there in the hope that the missing lorry had arrived there and that the evacuation ships had not moved out. Luck was with us the lorry had got through. We were safely embarked at four in the morning. We were in the care of the navy again despite dive bombers and all the hell concoction of Hitler and his band of cut throats. And thanks to the navy we arrived safely in Crete.
Sound file from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. (12465 - sa-u-0582-s02).