Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Alice Margaret Betheras - Locating a World War I nurse (part 2)

The website Australian Nurses in World War I provides brief details about Staff Nurse Alice Margaret Betheras in the Australian Army Nursing Service. Alice had trained at the Alfred Hospital for three years. On 5 November 1915 she enlisted as an army nurse and left Australia on 12 November 1915. Alice was a nurse in Egypt and France and returned to Australia on 30 December 1917. Alice was discharged as Medically Unfit on 27 June 1918.

Discovering Anzacs provides the service and medical records for Alice - 19 pages.
A Google search for "Alice Margaret Betheras" provide other websites providing information about Alice's service in the Army as a nurse including:
First World War Embarkation Rolls showing that Alice left Australia on 12 November 1915 aboard the HMAT Orsova. Alice was 27 when she left Australia and she had been living in Camberwell when she enlisted. She was attached to the First Australian General Hospital Special Reinforcements. Her religion is given as Methodist.
The AIF Project provides similar information as well as a list of the names of the men and women aboard the Orsova.
HMAT Orsova 1915 - HMAT ships
Alice returned to Australia aboard the HMAT Berrima on 30 December 1917.
HMAT Berrima - 1917 - HMAT ships
The medical record for Alice Margaret Betheras shows that she had a number of stays in hospital while overseas including on one occasion, mumps, and finally a gastric ulcer. Most of her service was in Egypt but in early 1917 she embarked for France to work at the 5th General Hospital. On 9 August 1917 she returned to England and left England on 31 October to return to Australia.

The Australian War Memorial has a diary containing French language exercises that belonged to Alice. The diary contains entries from 14 November 1916 until 12 January 1917. There is also a card advertising The Modern School of Languages.  Alice was obviously practising French when she was in Egypt to help her when she was transferred to France.

Alice Margaret Betheras was awarded three medals - the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

An article in Trove shows that Alice Betheras was working at the Methodist Home for Children at Cheltenham in 1940.
Argus Monday 11 November 1940
The website Find and Connect provides information about these homes. Sister Alice Betheras had been working at the homes for some time when she took over the position of Matron from 1939 until 1943.
In 1968, in the electoral rolls, Alice Margaret Betheras was living at 238 Wattletree Road, Malvern.

Victorian Birth Death and Marriage record - Ancestry.com.au
Sister Alice Margaret Betheras died in Malvern in 1972. She was 85.

A selection of websites with information about Nurses in World War I:

Australians in World War I – Researching Australian Nurses
Researching Australian Military Service: First World War, Nurses
Great War Nurses – AWM
Anzac Day – The Nurses
The nurses’ experience of Gallipoli from their letters – Gallipoli and the Anzacs
Looking for evidence - WWI – Australian Army Nursing Service
Women in action - nurses and serving women

A Google search for 'Australian nurses in World War I' will provide other useful sites. 

Monday, 12 January 2015

Alice Margaret Betheras - Locating a World War I nurse (part 1)

Recently the library where I work was provided with a digital copy of the Roll of Honour for Templestowe Primary School. This publication included information about former students who served during the First World War. Some pages contain detailed information about the soldier while others contain only a name. The name on one of the pages simply reads: Betheras Alice (nurse).
As Alice was the first nurse that we had encountered on the Diggers of Whitehorse and Manningham database I thought we should investigate to locate information about her.

A quick Google search for Alice Betheras brought up some sites with family information which was worth investigating further. Fortunately Betheras is not a common name which made searching easier. The person that I found was Alice Margaret Betheras
Victorian Birth Death and Marriage record - Ancestry.com.au
The next step was to establish if this Alice Betheras had any proven links with the school in Templestowe,  a long way from Castlemaine where she was born. I started searching Trove for the terms "Alice Betheras" and Betheras Templestowe and found a short article mentioning the school and Alice.
Argus Thursday 23 December 1897
Other articles in Trove had shown that Alice's father was a school teacher in different schools in country Victoria. Articles also showed the results of exams he had taken at the University of Melbourne for a Bachelor of Arts degree. The following article in the Bendigo Advertiser provided additional information including that Mr J Betheras was head teacher at the Templestowe School and at the end of 1899 was appointed as an Inspector of State Schools.
Bendigo Advertiser Wednesday 20 December 1899

The Evelyn Observer and South and East Bourke Record Friday 15 October 1897 provides additional information about Mr J H Betheras and his connection with the Methodist Church.
After attending Templestowe State School, Alice was a student at the Methodist Ladies College. A report of a MLC Speech Day held at the Melbourne Town Hall on Monday 15 December 1902 mentions Alice.
Argus Tuesday 16 December 1902
So, from articles in Trove we know that Alice's family lived in Templestowe at the end of the 1890s and that her father was head teacher at the Templestowe State School where Alice was a pupil. We can then conclude that the Alice Margaret Betheras, born in 1887, is the Alice Betheras, nurse, mentioned in the Roll of Honor for Templestowe State School No 1395.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Ken Moses - possessions from the Army

Among my father's papers relating to his war service I found a number of artefacts including two leather identity discs threaded on a leather thong.
The soldiers wore the identity discs for identification purposes in case of injury or death. If required the round, often red disc, was kept with the belongings of the soldier while the octagonal, often green disc, was kept with the body. Each disc was imprinted with the soldier's number, surname, initials, religion and unit.
There was a collection of photographs relating to the places where Dad served or went during leave breaks in the Middle East but there was also a small negative album measuring 12 cm x 9 cm.
The album contains a series of transparent pockets holding negatives each measuring 6.5 x 4 cm. A subject index at the back of the album provides information for some of the negatives. I suspect that it is not complete. Some of the sleeves have one negative and holding the page up to the light provides an indication  of the image. Many of the sleeves hold multiple negatives and some are empty - they may have been mixed up when images were being sought for the book, White over green. Dad also kept leave passes, a bus ticket from Cairo, folded concert programs and tickets in the pockets of the wallet.
One of the next projects will be to scan the negatives and try to identify where they were taken.
There is also a brown leather, stitched, wallet measuring 22.5 x 15 cm when closed. An army badge is attached to the top right corner with the words Australian Commonwealth Military Force. A leather strap with press stud closes the wallet.
Inside the wallet, on the left, there is a large pocket on one side for documents. There are two pockets for holding cards or small items and also a pocket which would have had a clear plastic window, possibly to hold an identity card. In the centre there is a small pocket and stitched piece of leather to hold a pen. On the right of the wallet a strip of leather is stitched in place to secure a document or map.
After the war my father kept a number of Army related documents in the wallet including his final medical certificate declaring that he was unfit for service and letter of discharge, copies of telegrams sent to his mother when he arrived back in Australia, a letter re his pension in 1943 and Manly Life Saving Club card.
Other documents important to Ken were kept in the wallet including a passport and international certificate of vaccination, letters of sympathy from when his father died, the invitation to his brother's wedding, the receipt for the hotel where my parents stayed after their marriage, documents relating to the purchase of their house and letter of appreciation from Victorian Branch of the Australian Journalists' Association for years of service on that committee.There were also two articles about criticism he made of the condition of the training track for the Empire Games in Auckland in 1950 plus a cartoon relating to a series of weight loss articles he had written.
The other important item relating to Dad's war service that I own is the book, White over green. This history of the 2/4th Battalion was published in 1963. Dad wrote some of the chapters in the book and was a co-editor. White over green has been a major source for the blog posts that I wrote about my father's experiences during the Second World War. It provides a first-hand account of the life the men experienced when they served in the 2/4th Battalion as well as a record of of the war service of this battalion.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Ken Moses - Going home 1942

The HMT Ranjula finally sailed from Port Tewfig at 2.30 pm on 19 February 1942. They were returning to Australia. The men quickly adapted to the shipboard routine of parades, guard duties and domestic chores as well as lifeboat drills and company and platoon sand-table exercises. The Rajula reached Colombo on 4 March but there was no shore leave. Stores, oil and water were loaded and two days later the Ranjula, in a convoy with four other troopships plus two tankers set off for Fremantle, arriving on 20 March. This time there was shore leave before the ship left in a convoy of seven ships escorted by five other ships for Adelaide on 22 March.
Arrival - the first telegram home - from Fremantle
The ship arrived at Port Adelaide on 27 March. The troops travelled to Mount Lofty where the unit took over Crafers Hotel for battalion headquarters. The men were stationed in other houses and halls and some were billeted with civilians. This was luxury compared with more recent accommodation. Training programs were implemented and undertaken. The men attended a church parade at Stirling Oval to observe Anzac Day. In the last week of April they were on their way back to Sydney for seven days home leave.
Second telegram home - from Adelaide
However from this telegram Ken Moses appears to have had only a few days in Adelaide before travelling to Sydney on 30 March.
The next part of the 2/4th Battalion story was to take them to northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, however Ken's war was over. A medical certificate dated 22 June stated that Ken was unfit for military service.
A communication from Australian Military Forces - Eastern Command, stamped 18 August 1942, advised Ken his discarge from the A.I.F would take effect as from 16 September 1942.

Initially Ken returned to Bourke and an article in the Western Mail 21 August 1942 reported that three privates including K Moses attended the first anniversary of the Bowls Club. He then worked as an overseer on Victoria Downs, Morven, in Queensland. On Anzac Day 1943 Ken attended the Morven Anzac Day commemoration where he gave the address.

Although Ken returned to the bush when discharged from the Army he eventually realised that his health no longer allowed him to work in that environment, particularly if there was dust. He therefore travelled to the city to become a journalist working first in Sydney before moving to Melbourne.

When he moved to Melbourne Ken kept in touch with the men he had served with in the 2/4th.  Ken regularly attended the Anzac Day Dawn Service and March at the Shrine. Each year we hear stories of people with birthdays on Christmas Day feeling that they don't actually celebrate their birthday. My mother's birthday is on Anzac Day and it was accepted and expected that Dad would not be home. It was not unusual for former Army mates of Dad to ring Mum during the week before Anzac Day to wish her a happy birthday. It was a date they all remembered.
When the battalion history was to be written Ken was a member of the Unit History Editorial Committee as a co-author and editor. The work of the committee resulted in the publication of the book White over green in 1963.

Ken was also a member of the local RSL. Continuing his interest in swimming he helped organise a swimming carnival in Victoria for returned servicemen and for many years one of the trophies was named in his honour.

Although Ken didn't talk directly about his service in the Army, the family knew and respected that his army experiences remained an important part of his life. Unfortunately the health problems that developed when he was overseas worsened resulting in chronic asthma. Pneumonia and pleurisy were common illnesses, particularly during winter. He was unable to give up the smoking habit developed (and encouraged) in the Army which further complicated his lung problems resulting in emphysema.

On 16 September 1984 Ken died at Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital in Brisbane. He was 66. As he was a returned serviceman, members from a local RSL in Brisbane attended the funeral service and the Last Post was played. A moving tribute that was really appreciated by Ken's family.

Ken Moses - Palestine and Syria 1941

The sudden change from the tension of Greece and Crete to the quiet and safety of Egypt and Palestine was something of a shock to the system. It was a pleasant enough shock, though; and one which time and rest soon overcame. [White over green page 197]
On 1 June 1941 the battalion was back at Kilo 89 in Palestine. From there they travelled to Khassa where they rejoined battalion members who had gone to Palestine directly from Greece. Rest camps were organised at Askalon Beach. By the end of June they were back at Julis, a camp they knew well. A decision was made to reform the unit's brass band. Most of the instruments had been stored in Palestine. Two of the other battalions had lost their instruments so a composite brigade band was established. The band played at parades, guards and other ceremonies. Some of the men took leave visiting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Training was the main activity for the following months. Films were used for the first time as an aid to training and lectures on a variety of topics were held. Regular physical training ensured that the fitness of the men was maintained. In August Ken Moses attended AIF School of Signals training. In September the men were shown films on tanks and gas warfare. There were range practices at Jaffa and many day and night exercises in the field were undertaken. Sport was not forgotten and the battalion shared fourth place in a divisional sports meeting held at Hill 69.

In October the 2/4th Battalion was on the move again, this time to Syria. Winter was coming. The country was described as 'dreary'. At night the men huddled in two by four "pup tents" - small basic sheet shelters - in wind swept valleys or sheltered behind sangars - temporary stone defensive constructions - built on the Anti-Lebanon Range. It was feared that Germany might stage a new offensive through Syria as a diversionary tactic so Allied soldiers were ready to move in if this should occur. The 2/4th was to be a reserve battalion and in the meantime developed designated strategic defences - hence the construction of the sangars in the mountains. They also assisted in the construction of tank traps.  The men were also required for guard duties at various locations.

Four day leave passes were granted and used to explore the area including Damascus with its links to ancient history. Other recreational activities were described as limited. The canteen was described as 'dark and dingy' and beer supplies were limited. There was not much to do in the evenings.
Winter came rapidly and work in the mountains had to stop. A few days before Christmas it snowed and the men from Australia experienced a 'white Christmas'. Traditional Christmas dinner was served in the individual platoon huts. This was the second Christmas overseas for members of the battalion. The previous year they had been waiting to go into battle. This year there were concerns about what was happening at home now that Japan had entered the war.

Christmas for Ken Moses was spent in the 7 Australian General Hospital where he was treated for twelve days. His medical report shows a number of occasions when he was in hospial or on the "X" list, usually being treated for bronchitis.

On 8 January, Ken was appointed acting corporal until the end of the month. Towards the end of January the 2/4th Battalion left Syria to return to Palestine, initially to Hill 69 and then to Port Tewfiq. On 12 February 1942 they were aboard the HMT Rajula. However an hour after the ship sailed they returned to Port Tewfiq and were taken to a staging camp. On 19 February the troops were back aboard the Rajula. This time they sailed for Australia.
Apparently when they first boarded the ship their destination was the Far East. However after lengthty political negotiations it was decided to return the 2/4th Battalion to Australia.

The information for this post was taken from the book, White over green, published in 1963. The two photographs are also from this book.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Ken Moses - Crete May 1941

On 27 April 1941, instead of returning to Alexandria in Egypt most of the men of the 2/4th Battalion were taken to Suda Bay on the north coast of Crete. All was quiet when they arrived as there was a lull in enemy air attacks. After a short break, where they were provided with tea, biscuits and chocolate, they were on the march to their next camp site. That night they had their first real sleep in weeks under shared blankets and greatcoats. They left the camp early next morning to head to their next destination.
[Click link for larger image] Chronicle of the Battle of Crete
In the afternoon of 28 April they were joined by the survivors from the Costa Rica. Many of the survivors had no boots, and most had no greatcoats or blankets. It was necessary to locate extra food for the men and the staple diet became eggs.
An example of some of the terrain in Crete and Greece
 They were on the move again the next day. Initially it had been suggested that they were to go to Suda Bay to return to Alexandria but instead they continued to move from camp to camp in the Suda Bay region. Arriving in camp on 29 April the men took the opportunity to wash their clothes. That night they heard 'Lord Haw Haw' on the wireless providing his version of the evacuation of Greece and stating that Crete was the next island to be invaded.

The next day was a rest day and in the evening the men staged an impromptu concert. However at the end of the concert they were told to be ready to move on again in ten minutes. The men who needed boots and basic equipment would stay until equipment arrived. They then rejoined their comrades. Because of the imminent invasion of Crete by the Germans, the men were to be moved further along the coast to help defend the airports. The men of the 2/4th travelled in the two destroyers, Hotspur and Havock, along the coast to Heraklion. At Heraklion airfield they joined forces with a number of other units.

1 May was spent settling into the camp and digging weapon pits. This became easier when stores including picks, shovels and sandbags arrived. The ground was rocky making the digging deep pits difficult. This included the pit toilets which needed to be filled in and re-sited regularly. Local women and children visited the area selling fruit, eggs and other food as well as offering to do laundry.

On 4 May A and C companies were moved to new positions closer to the airfield. The airforce at Heraklion initially consisted of twelve Gloucester Gladiators. By the time the invasion commenced two weeks later all the planes had crashed on landing or had been shot down removing the possibility of aerial back-up when the airfield was under attack.

Apart from German daily reconnaissance the next three days were relatively uneventful as plans were made to counter an invasion. A practice counter-attack between A and C companies was staged on 8 May and the signal equipment was tested. As most of the equipment had been lost in the evacuation from Greece make-shift equipment such as wall phones, with crank handles and operated with wet cells, borrowed from businesses in the town were used. Knowing that the Germans may land at the nearby beaches as well as on the airfield, some members of C company joined forces with the Black Watch to guard the area east of the town.
German bombing of Heraklion
The Germans began bombing the area on 12 May and these raids became a regular occurrence building up to the most intensive bombing on 20 May. The men were prepared and fortunately were 'well dug in' which resulted in many lives being saved. Between 5 am and 5.45 am on 14 May bombs were dropped on one area occupied by C company while the other Australians watched in horror. Fortunately precautions were so good that there were no physical casualties however the men suffered from shock after this episode. Padre O'Callaghan was always available to help cam jangled nerves. His 'air raid tonic, - a flask of krassi - was also well utilised. Around mid-day the enemy fighters and bombers returned and once again fired on the area. Three Allied planes managed to become airborne and entered the battle - two were shot down while the other ran out of ammunition but managed to escape from the area. The bombers destroyed the airfield and the remaining planes still on the ground while fighters continued to strafe the area. There was much noise, dust and smoke during the raid but the battalion experienced no fatalities. Three German planes were shot down.
Plane crashing at Heraklion
In the afternoon, apart from a few German reconnaissance planes flying over the area, all was relatively quiet. In the evening five Allied planes managed to land on the damaged airfield but departed the next morning leaving the men to improve and repair their weapon pits and defences, including bullet proof covering of at least part of the slit trenches. Over the next few days the air-raids continued, usually at lunchtime. On 16 May C company experienced another direct attack. 'Captain Rolfe, Lieutenant Pegg, CSM Harry Watts and the two signallers, Privates Mac Wilson and Ken Moses had just finished a spring cleaning....Rolfe and his two sigs hugged the bottom of their dugout as they waited for the scream of the bombs. Watts and Lieutenant Pegg did likewise in their well protected dugout. The bombs landed horribly close - ten feet away. Moses asked Rolfe if he was all right. Rolfe replied: "Don't wake me. I can hear angels singing." ' [White over Green page 152] Once again they had survived, however before the bombers arrived Harry Watts had been airing his clothes near a box of hand grenades and a splinter from the bomb blew up the grenades plus his clothes. All that remained was his hat badge and colour patch.
Invasion by parachute
By the morning of 20 May it was obvious that something serious was about to happen and new strategies were discussed including anti-aircraft guns and small arms fire no longer being used when enemy aircraft approached. The emphasis would be on concealing positions until the first parachutists arrived. At 4 pm severe bombing of the area occurred and then all was quiet. Then the parachutists arrived. The sky appeared full of parachutes and it was estimated that 2,000 parachutists descended on the area, alive or dead. Fortunately they were scattered when they landed and had difficulty grouping together as a unit. The Allies charged out to meet them. Four men from C company died though almost ninety of the enemy were killed. The Germans who landed safely were those who landed away from the airfield zone.
More parachutes descending over 'The Charlies'
The Regimental Aid Post had been set up in near by caves and the staff worked tirelessly treating the wounded who were brought to them on stretchers. The next day was spent looking for German snipers. Although bombers and fighters appeared in the sky they refrained from attacking as they probably thought their own soldiers were in the area. Stores and additional men were dropped from some of the planes. The Australian spent the next few days salvaging German equipment including parachutes to be used as bedding, arms and ammunition. A copy of the code used by the enemy for ground to air signals was captured and used on 22 May to encourage the Germans to drop supplies in the C company area. The supplies included a motor bike, ammunition, medical supplies and a wireless. This plan only succeeded once as the next time it was tried resulted only in more bombs.
The Germans, by now, had established some strong-holds, particularly on ridges around the town. In the evening of 23 May a lone plane flew over the area dropping propaganda leaflets - some in Greek and some in English. Additional stores and parachutists continued to be dropped on the areas held by the Germans and bombs dropped in areas held by the Allies.
On 23 May explosions could be heard out to sea and the men later learned that a naval invasion by the Germans had been intercepted and destroyed. Battles between the Germans and the Australians and British continued.

On 29 May the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the area began and the soldiers moved back towards the beach. Most of the men from the 2/4th were taken aboard the destroyers, Hotspur, Jackal and Imperial but some were boarded onto Dido and Orion and a few on Hereward. Ken Moses was aboard the Dido. There were two other destroyers in the convoy, Decoy and the Kimberley. At 3 am the first ships sailed from Crete. Unfortunately the Germans located the ships. The Imperial was the first ship hit and the men were transferred to HotspurHereward was the next ship bombed and those on board were told to abandon ship. The survivors were rescued by an Italian torpedo boat and were taken to a P. O. W. camp in Italy. The next casualty was the  Orion which was hit three times. One hundred men died, including the captain and 200 were wounded. The ship managed to stay afloat and reached Alexandria. Decoy had also been hit.  The Dido was then hit on a forward gun turret resulting in many deaths and casualties. This ship also managed to reach port. An article about the bombing of the Dido, written by Ken Moses, was initially published in the Sunday Telegraph. Part of the article read:
At 8 am we copped ours. A 500-pounder came straight through the forward gun turrets above us, killing the crew, shattering our deck and the deck below us.
The lights went out, water pipes burst and the confined space was filled with cordite fumes and the sweeter smell of burning flesh.
There was no panic. Those that were left filled the empty 5.2 shells with water from the broken pipes and began putting out the fire that started to lick the walls of the magazines. The deck below was written off and all in it. Within a few minutes of the hit the ship's inter-com came on: - "This is the Bridge. We have been hit. Precious lives have been lost - but remember this is war. We are still in convoy and we have not lost speed. Thank you for youe calmness. We will make it."
Those who could helped stretcher parties to the sick bay where blood and water swilled around the feet of the ship's medical officer and army doctor. The surgeons started amputating. The casualty list in a fraction of a second had been approximately 250.
Back in Alexandria the sick were taken to hospital while the remainder were taken by train to the staging camp near Amariya, arriving in the early morning on 30 May. Comfort funds parcels were issued, the soldiers recieived their pay and they queued to send cables home to Australia. The next evening they were on the train back to Palestine.

Once again the book, White over Green, 1963, provided the basis for this post.
Other books on experiences of Australian troops on  Crete during the Second World War include:
Australians in World War II: Greece and Crete published by Dept of Veteran Affairs 2011 This publication is also available online
Diggers and Greeks: the Australian campaigns in Greece and Crete by Maria Hill 2010
Crete: the battle of resistance by Antony Beevor 1991
Websites include:
Australia in the war of 1939-1945 - Greece, Crete and Syria (AWM)
Greece and Crete (DVA)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Ken Moses - Evacuation of Greece 1941

On 1 April 1941 members of the 2/4th Battalion, with soldiers from other Australian units, left for Greece aboard a Dutch ship the s s Pennland. Two thousand five hundred soldiers were loaded into the ship for the three day journey to Piraeus, near Athens.

Ken Moses with a number of other members of the battalion, who were recovering from wounds or illness incurred during the desert campaign, remained in Egypt when the Greek campaign began. Ken had been hospitalised with bronchitis and he and the other soldiers spent time in hospital in Alexandria before being transferred to El Kantara on 28 March. From there they went to the Australian Convalescent Depot at Julis in Palestine until they were well enough to return to the Infantry Training Battalion, also at Julis.

The campaign in Greece was not going well so the decision was made to evacuate the troops. On 22 April at the Julis camp ten men, including Ken, were told that they were off to Greece on one of the evacuation ships. They were sent back to Alexandria and two days later they travelled in a fishing caique to reach the Dutch ship Costa Rica which they boarded by climbing up a Jacob's ladder. The men were to serve as ack-ack gunners for the evacuation using four 1914 Hotchkiss strip feed guns. Five hundred rounds of ammunition was supplied for each gun. The Costa Rica sailed in a convoy from Alexandria with six other ships and was later joined by an escort of cruisers and destroyers.

Soon after dusk on 24 April the convoy experienced the first raid when they were attacked by 12 Italian bombers. However there was no damage to the convoy due to the firing of a barrage pattern of shells by the ships limiting the accuracy of the bombers.

There was more activity on Anzac Day when six Stuka raids were encountered by the convoy. After the second attack Ken Moses and Bill Leonard were minding their gun when a ship's engineer brought his wireless on deck so that they could listen to the Anzac Day service from Westminster Abbey. The congregation was singing 'For those in peril on the sea' when seven Stukas attacked the Costa Rica. As they fed the clips into the gun Bill Leonard exclaimed, "If only that mob could see what is coming at us now, they would lift the roof off that bloody cathedral!" The Stukas missed. (White Over Green pages 142-143)
Southern Greece and Crete
Off Kalamata, on the night of 26-27 April, the Costa Rica waited for the arrival of the troops from Greece. Destroyers brought the men to the ship and 2,500 men, who had spent the previous two nights near the beach waiting for rescue, were loaded on to the Costa Rica. Before dawn the Costa Rica with two other ships plus their escort headed back towards Alexandria.
Bren gunners aboard the Costa Rica - AWM image
The first Stuka raid came at dawn. Ammunition for the Hodgkiss guns was running low so additional assistance was provided by other soldiers using the weapons they had been issued for Greece including Bren guns, Vickers machine guns, Boyes anti-tank rifles and other rifles to supplement the fire-power of the other naval defence. The convoy experienced and survived nine raids that day however at 2.40 pm a lone Stuka appeared 'out of the sun' and, although the bomb missed the ship, the plates of the ship were damaged and the engines stopped. The ship started to sink. The Defender positioned itself at the side of the ship to transfer the men who jumped to the decks or swung on ropes to safety. Those who had jumped into the sea were picked up by the Hero which then came to the side of the ship to collect those on the upper decks who had been manning the guns while the Hereward, replacing the Defender, collected the remainder of the men. It took only ninety minutes for the Costa Rica to sink. Only one man died during the rescue. The survivors were taken to Crete for the next battle.
HMS Hereward taking troops from the Costa Rica - AWM image
Another convey evacuating troops from Greece was not so lucky. Also on 27 April the Dutch troop ship, the Slamat, was sunk as well as two British Navy destroyers, HMS Diamond and HMS Wyrneck, resulting in the loss of more than 980 lives. There were only 66 survivors from these three ships.

The book, White over Green, has a section on the experiences of the 2/4th Battalion in Greece. There is also a chapter on the Costa Rica, written by Ken Moses, which provided the basis for this post.

Other books on experiences of Australian troops on Greece and Crete during the Second World War include:
Australians in World War II: Greece and Crete published by Dept of Veteran Affairs 2011 This publication is also available online
Diggers and Greeks: the Australian campaigns in Greece and Crete by Maria Hill 2010