Bill Flint describes being captured in Greece

Bill Flint left New Zealand in January 1940 on the SS Orion as a member of the First Echelon of the 2NZEF. After time at Maadi Camp and in the Western Desert, he was deployed to Greece with 18th Battalion. After the New Zealand Division's hurried retreat south, Bill was taken prisoner at Kalamata before he could be evacuated.

Transcript

Ernie and I were walking along this sort of an embankment along the foreshore, and there were a lot of tracers going past us. You know tracer bullets just sort of waft along like... moths, they don't go fast like that - they just sort of float along. It must be the incandescence. The bullets probably disappeared, it's just the phosphorous or whatever it is. And we thought it was our blokes firing, they were firing right down the road we were walking on... we discovered that they were two German machine guns, and I think we were quite bomb happy. There were heavy explosions going on. We even got covered with sand and stuff and we thought it was delayed action bombs, but it was six inch mortars they were firing. Then somebody yelled out from the dark, 'Get off the road, you stupid bastards, there are Huns up there!'

We just whoof! like that and crawled across the road. An Australian officer called out for volunteers who could use automatic weapons and that we were going in to take on the Jerries, so Ernie and I hopped on this 15-hundredweight and they gave me a tommy gun and some ammo and he got some too and we went in. We actually got involved in the street fighting. That's where Jack Hinton got his VC, that night. Jack Hinton's sister was in my class at school by the way - Bunty Hinton - and Jack Hinton came from the same place, a place called Tokanui in Southland. I didn't know him - I knew Bunty. He and my mate Clem, they were both sergeants, and they both ended up in prisoner-of-war camp together and I heard that they were father and son to everybody in camp. They were both older men. Clem was always called Pop or Dad and he was much more mature and apparently they used to console people who were losing it.

I wasn't close to Jack Hinton but the Germans had put sangers out across the street

Megan Hutching: What's a sanger?

They were a sandbag sort of wall - a low wall, and they were sheltering behind them, but they were made of filled sandbags. I saw one bloke-I think he was ASC [Army Service Corps] or something-he'd had no training in bayonet, and he stuck his bayonet at a- obviously German who was behind a sanger - but he didn't know how to pull it out. There's a knack in it - you've got to jerk it and put your foot in. It was desperate. We realised we had to beat these Germans before we could get away. It ended up we all sorted - we had about 70 German prisoners right at the wharf edge, and we fully expected to still go - get out - and then a destroyer just zoomed past. It sort of semi-circled and turned and went away and loud-hailed us: 'Sorry boys, it's late. We've got to go.'

Not long after that we got - word circulated- word of mouth - that the brigadier, whoever he was, a Pommie, I think, had unconditionally surrendered to the Germans, who had offered him annihilation bombing if he didn't - didn't surrender immediately and that was something like 7:30 in the morning. We were to consider ourselves prisoners at 7:30 and in no time flat, the German tanks came in and went right round us in a circle and put swastika flags on top of their tanks and their bombers flew in at just that time and when they saw the flags, they veered off and went away but they were just going to start bombing.

Megan Hutching: Can you remember how you felt?

Yeah. It felt bloody awful. Excuse my French... That's mild. It's the heart-sinking sensation of the world.

Credit

Interviewed by Megan Hutching, 5 February 2002. See more of this interview in Megan Hutching, Inside stories: New Zealand Prisoners of War remember, HarperCollins, 2002.

How to cite this page: 'Bill Flint describes being captured in Greece', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/sound/pow-capture-bill-flint, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jul-2013

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