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|
|Bren gunners aboard the Costa Rica - AWM image|
|HMS Hereward taking troops from the Costa Rica - AWM image|
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