October 28, 1940
At 2:50 am on Sunday, 28 October 1940, General Ioannis Metaxas, Prime Minister of Greece , was awoken in his Athens home. At the door was the Italian Ambassador, Count Emmanuelle Grazzi, with a written ultimatum to the Greek government demanding that Italian forces be given free passage into Greece from Albania and that they be allowed to garrison certain unspecified "strategic points of Greek territory". Italy claimed that its request for this "temporary" occupation was the result of British attempts to involve more and
more countries in the war. If Greece refused to comply then resistance would be "broken by force of arms". A reply was demanded by 6.00 am, but Metaxas gave it at once — "Alors c'est la guerre" (well, this means War, in French). At 5.30 am Italian troops crossed the Greek–Albanian border and Greece was at war with Fascist Italy.
The Italian Ultimatum:
"The Italian Government has repeatedly noted how, in the course of the present conflict, the Greek Government assumed & maintained an attidute which was contrary not only with that of formal, peaceful, good neighborly relations between two nations, but also with the precise duties which were incumbent on the Greek Government in view of its status as a neutral country. On various occasions the Italian Government has found it necessary to urge the Greek Government to observe these duties and to protest against their systematic violation, particularly serious since the Greek Government permitted its territorial water, its coasts and its ports to be used by the British fleet in the course of its war operations, aided in supplying the British air forces and permitted organization of a military information service in the Greek archipelago to Italy's damage.
The Greek Government was perfectly aware of these facts which several times formed the basis of diplomatic representations on the part of Italy to which the Greek Government, which should have taken consideration of the grave consequences of its attitude, failed to respond with any measure for the protection of its own neutrality, but, instead, intensified its activities favoring the British armed forces and its cooperaticn with Italy's enemies.
The Italian Government has proof that this co-operation was foreseen by the Greek Government and was regulated by understandings of a mllitary, naval and aeronautical character.
The Italian Government does not refer only to the British guarantee accepted by Greece as a part of the program of action against Italy's security but also to explicit, precise nengagements undertaken by the Greek Government to put at the disposal of powers at war with Italy important strategic positions on Greek territory, including air bases in Thessaly and Macedonia, designed for attack on Albanian territory.
In this connection the Italian Government must remind the Greek Government of the provocative activities carried out against the Albanian nation, together with the terroristic policy it has adopted toward the people of Ciamuria and the persistent efforts to create disorders beyond its frontiers.
For these reasons, also, the Italian Government has acceptedthe necessity, even though futilely, of calling the attention of the Greek Government to the inevitable consequences of its policy toward Italy. This no longer can be tolerated by Italy.
Greek neutrality has been tending continuously toward a mere shadow. Responsibility for this situation lies primarily on the shoulders of Great Britain and its aim to involve ever more countries in war.
But now it is obvious that the policy of the Greek Government has been and is directed toward transforming Greek territory, or, at least permitting Greek territory to be transformed, into a base for war operations against Italy.
This could only lead to armed conflict between Italy and Greece, which the Italian Government has every intention of avoiding.
The Italian Government, therefore, has reached the decision to ask the Greek Government, as a guaranty of Greek neutrality and as a guaranty of Italian security, for permission to occupy with its own armed forces several strategic points in Greek territory for the duration of the presert conflict with Great Britain.
The Italian Government asks the Greek Government not to oppose this occupation and not to obstruct the free passage of the troops carrying it out.
These troops do not come as enemies of the Greek people and the Italian Government does rot in any way intend that the temporary occupation of several strategic points, dictated by special necessities of a purely defensive character, should compromise Greek sovereignty and independence.
The Italian Government asks that the Greek Government give immediate orders to military authoritles that this occupation may take place in a peaceful manner. Wherever the Italian troops may meet resistance this resistance will be broken by armed force, and the Greek Government would have the responsibility for the resulting consequences"
The Army Group Albania was created under the command of General Ubaldo Soddu
It comprised the 9th Army/Armata (General Mario Vercellino), and the 11th Army/Armata (General Carlo Geloso):
(General Mario Vercellino)
-24th Infantry Division "PINEROLO"
-53rd Infantry Division "AREZZO"
-4th Alpini Division "CUNEO"
-41st Infantry Division "FIRENZE"
-18th Infantry Division "MESSINA"
-32nd Infantry Division "MARCHE"
-38th Infantry Division "PUGLIE"
-Infantry Division "TARO"
-Infantry Division "FORLI"
-53rd Infantry Division "AREZZO"
-19th Infantry Division "VENEZIA"
-Infantry Division "PINEROLO"
-The "RICAGNO" Brigade
-29th Infantry Division "PIEMONTE"
-49th Infantry Division "PARMA"
-3rd Alpini Division "JULIA"
(General Carlo Geloso)
-23rd Infantry Division "FERRARA"
-51st Infantry Division "SIENA"
-131st Armored Division "CENTAURO"
-The Cavalry Division:
7th Cavalry Regiment
19th Cavalry Regiment
Opposite the Italian forces, on the Albanian-Greek borderline, these units were deployed:
-VIII Infantry Epirotan Division
(Maj. Gen. Charalambos Katsimetros)
It comprised 15 IB, 1 Reckon Platoon, 16 Arty Batteries, HQ/III Inf.Brigade (Col. Demetrios Yiatzes), 39th Evzone Regt.
-TSDM (West Macedonia Army Section)
(Lt. Gen. Ioannes Pitsikas)
It comprised 22 IB, 2 Reckon Platoons, 22 Arty Batteries.
-The Davakes Detachment
(Col. Constantine Davakes), with 2 IB, 1 Cavalry Troop & 2 Arty Batteries.
THE BATTLE OF PINDUS (OCTOBER 28th 1940-OCTOBER 30th 1940)
At 5:30 am, on October 28, 1940 , according to the Italian plan, the 3rd Alpini Division "JULIA" invaded Greece, towards the Greek town of Metsovon . The Italian objective was to cut off the Greek VIII Infantry Division from the rest of the Greek forces, in order to split the Greek units deployed in Epirus, W. Macedonia & Thessaly. The Pindus Sector (i.e. the central sector of the front) was vital for the Greek defence. The Pindus Mountain range, extending across Greece (150 Km/93 miles), contains high, steep peaks, dissected by many deep canyons and other karstic landscapes.
The only Greek force deployed in the region, was the Pindus or Davakes' Detachment , named after its CO, Colonel Constantine Davakes
It comprised two out of the three Infantry Battalions of the 51st Infantry Regiment (I/51 IB, II/51 IB). The III/51 Battalion was moving to the front when the Italians invaded. The Detachment comprised also a mountain artillery battery (75 mm), a field artillery battery (65 mm) & a Cavalry troop. Its total force was 2,000 men. The Deachment's objectives were:
-To secure its sector according to the Greek defence plan (code name: IBa plan).
-To play the role of the liaison between the VIII Division & the TSDM (W. Macedonia Army Section).
-To block the Pindus mountain paths that lead from E to W.
The DD had to cover an area of around 37 Km/23 miles .
To fullfill its mission, Davakes divided its front into 3 sectors:
-Left sector (one Infantry Battalion).
-Central sector (one IB).
-Right sector (one Infantry Coy, two MG Platoons, one Reckon Team, one Field Arty Battery, one Platoon out of the IX Division).
The Italians launched their assault at 5:30 am. The Alpini troops, attacked the three DD sectors, following five major directions, with platoon or company strength. This assault took place under heavy rain.
Against the right sector, the Alpini attacked with two companies, without any artillery support. Due to the fierce Greek resistance, this attack failed. During the night of October 28-29, the sector's Greek CO, organized a commando operation against the Italian troops stationed at the village of Grammos, which resulted to the capture of 11 Alpini troops & one Officer.
At the central sector, the situation was more dangerous. The Itallians advanced against the Greek entrenchments with the main force of the Division, with the support of Artillery guns & mortars. The Greeks fought obstinate; however at noon, they were forced to withdraw further to the S.
At the left sector, the Italians attacked with a force of two battalions. Despite their courageous efforts, they failed to overcome the Greeks covering this area.
During the first night (October 28th), though, the Italians managed to establish a bridgehead at the village of Kastaniani . The Greek HQ was worried about the new situation & ordered the I Infantry "THESSALY" Division (Maj. Gen. Vassilios Vrachnos) to move immediately with a 24-hour limit to the area. It also issued an order for the immediate strenghtening of the DD.
In the morning of October 29 , the Italians continued their attacks.
At the central sector, they managed after heavy fighting to capture the Muka top. The Greeks counter-attacked (with the III/51 Batallion that had just arrived to the area) & recaptured the top. Yet, within a few hours, the Greek defence line (central sector) was shaking. Davakes ordered immediately his troops to withdaw their forces to the second line of defence (Kato Arena-Gusteritsa).
At the left sector, in the evening of the same day, the Italians succeded in creating a gap between the defence forces (they surrounded an entire company). Davakes ordered his men to regroup towards Kerasovo .
During the night of October 29th , the Italians succeded in creating a gap at the central sector, they moved their forces towards the Greek VIII Division & they were threatening Metsovon .
In the morning of October 30th , Davakes decided to withdraw its entire force towards the Samarina-Koutsouro-Tsouka line. At 16:00 , elements of the I Infantry Division arrived at the area & its CO Maj. Gen. Vrachnos, took over the command
Maj.Gen. Vassilios Vrachnos (center) & his staff at Heptachorion, upon his arrival at the front, October 30, 1940
The front remained on stability until November 14th, when the Greek Counter-Offensive began. On November 14th, the total number of the Greeks mobilized, was 420,000 men.
Greek Cavalry man, 1940. He's armed with the Manlicher-Carcano M1938 Carbine & the M1887 Cavalry Sabre
The battle of Kalpaki-Kalamas river, October 28-November 8, 1940
The river Kalamas or Thyamis (its ancient Greek name) springs from Mt. Merope of the prefecture of Ioannina, Epirus. Near the village Lithinon it passes under a natural bridge called Theoghefyron , then it crosses the plain of Mazaraki , outside Ioannina and finally empties into the Ionian Sea opposite to Corfu, between the bays of Sayiada and Igoumenitsa.
By October 28, 1940 , Albania has already been conquered by Italy. The Italians since the summer of 1940 have been preparing for the attack on Greece.
Band and cannons under review by Mussolini in preparation for Greek invasion. On the Greek side, in the Epirotic sector, where Greeks had to face the Italian invasion, Epirotan volunteers under the guidance of Colonel Panayotes Mavroyiannes , an outstanding artillery man, built fortifications along the border to make the Kalpakis' narrow passage impregnable.
The Army HQ sent Major Georgios Grivas to Ioanina (Epirus' capital), to advise the Epirotan army commander (VIII "EPIRUS" Infantry Division) Maj. General Charalambos Katsimitros
about their plans in case of an Italian attack. The orders were:
1-Mobilization of the youth of Epirus;
2-if attacked, the Epirus army was to withdraw its units for a two fold purpose; part of the army was to occupy Zygos passage near Metsovon and block the eastern advance of the Italians towards Thessaly and the other half of the army was to withdraw east of Arta and block the passages of the Pindus Mountain in order to stop the Italian advance towards Acarnania and capture it;
3-any deviation from these orders of the general staff was left to the commanders of the Epirus army, their discretion and judgment.
Maj.Gen. Katsimitros had a hard choice to make, following orders or his own conscience, as Greece's destiny was up to his decision. He decided to follow his instincts and decided to fight at the Kalpaki pass . He foresaw Italy's plans which were to capture loannina, Epirus' capital. To do this, the Italian army had to go through the Kalpaki pass, crossing the Kalamas river. This pass was suitable to be defended with small forces. Katsimitros had just two infantry regiments under his command.
When October 28, 1940 arrived, at 5:30 a.m. , on the left of the border, Colonel Siapence's first Italian contingent is deployed at the left edge of the borderline near Pepeli Village . Near the village Hepiskopi the second contingent of General Giannini is stationed. Near the village Sopini the third contingent of Colonel Trizzio is deployed. Finally on the right edge in Leskovik Area , the fourth contingent of Colonel Solina is stationed .
The Greek front line forces are deployed on their battle positions near the border. From the village Kastaniani at Mourgana until the village Stratsani at Konitsa there are four battalions. The Italian army attacked the Greek border soldiers who retreated, according to plans to positions along the Kalpaki pass. In less than 24 hours, the Italian army appeared before the Greek line at Kalpaki . The Italians, despite fierce assaults for four days, failed to break the Greek line. On November 2, the fifth day , an Italian infantry battalion managed to climb the Grambala, a steep mountain 1,219/4,000 feet high.
They reached the top and occupied it. This barren mountain to the right of Kalpaki was not fortified and was left unprotected by the Greeks. It was a great chance for the Italians to outflank the entire Greek army, but they could not get additional troops so they could cut off the Greek army's only road of escape to Ioannina and Metsovon.
After a violent bombardment by field artillery and Air Force, the Italian forces started attacking on the Kalamas area.
From the left, the Italians of Colonel Siapence advanced to Haravghi, Stratinista, Kala-Dendra hill . The second contingent of General Giannini advanced following the paths to Argirohori, Stavrodromi, Hani-Delvinaki, Limni hill . The third of Colonel Trizzio had been forwarded to Drimades, Merope, Roupsia, Ano Ravenia . The fourth contingent of Colonel Solina moved on the right edge to Aedonohori and the hill Scopia . Until the night, the Italian FERRARA Division, had achieved its objectives.
Italian Machine-gunners in Greece
Blackshirts operating a 47mm gun
At four o'clock in the afternoon of Novenber 3rd , the CENTAURO Division entered the battle with about 80 tanks.
131st Centauro Armoured Division (Generale Giovanni Magli)
-31st Armoured Regiment
-5th Bersaglieri Regiment
-14th Motorized Battallion
-22nd Motorcycle Battalllion
-24th Motorized Battallion
-131st Artillery Regiment
-131 other Units (including two Albanian battalions)
They concentrated their attacked on the Kalpaki hills. The tanks were targeted and destroyed by the Greek artillery, also being impeded by anti-tank obstacles. So some of them stopped their movement, some were destroyed and the others withdrew in disturbance.
This was the first important success for the Greeks, a hope for the final battle. In the night of November 3rd to 4th , the Aghios Athanasios hill was occupied by the Italians, until then held by the Greeks. The unique and incomparable bravery of the Greek forces continued during the next two days too. The general attack of the Italian Forces anticipate for the 4th November, was finally postponed for the next day. The main burden of the attack was undertaken by the CENTAURO Division, assisted by the FERRARA Division. In the night of 4th to 5th November , the Greek units deployed north to Kalamas withdrew in the South, in order to avoid the enemy tanks. On November 5th at about 10:00 o' clock in the morning a strong enemy attack was launched against the hills Koumata, Palaiokastro and Velas Convent without any result. An attempt to cross Kalamas river near the village Parakalamos by at least 60 enemy tanks failed, while 15 of them were trapped and stuck inside the swampy area. The battle got intensified every day, every hour. The Greeks fought more decisively.
On November 6th , a new attack was launched by the Italians on the sub-sectors of Kalpaki and Vrontismeni without any success due to the strong resistance of the Greek troops. By the morning of November 7th a new bombing began on the whole sector. At about 10:30 o'clock in the morning the enemy attacked on the hills of Assonisi, Psilorachi. The battle was intensified but the Italians were succesfully pushed back by the Greek forces. Elements of the Italian cavalry rode on the Vrontismenis' hill, but were dispersed by accurate firing of the Greek artillery. By the evening, the north side of Grambala's hill was occupied by the enemy, but soon was recovered by Greek troops. By November 8, 1940 the enemy pressure is limited, as well as the activity of the Air-Force and artillery. The Italian forces started getting defensive deployment. The Greek troops crossed Kalamas river and recovered the Siasti hill and Sossinos Convent . Then they counter attacked the Italians and threw them out at the border line. So the Kalpaki-kalamas battle finished with an absolute triumphant victory for the Greeks. On November 14, the Greek counter-attack commenced. By early January 1941, the Italians are driven off the Greek soil.
"They have chosen to die resisting, rather than to live submitting"
Pericles' Funeral Oration, 431 BC
The Greek Alpine Battalion
In December 1940 , two months after the Italian invasion, Greek Army HQ decides to form an Alpine Battalion. It sends a request to the Greek Snow Club (a private sport club) to suggest a number of alpine skiing experienced personnel. This Alpine Battalion is decided to be composed of three companies. 1st Company was manned by personnel suggested by the Greek snow club (a force of 130 Officers & men) under Captain (reservist) Emmanuel Bamieros . 2nd & 3rd Company was decided to have a force of 200 Officers & men. Hundreds of men came urgently from Korce, experienced men who had faught on the front line. These men attended alpine skiing training course for a month. Major Ioannis Paparrodou , the CO of the Alpine Battalion, picked 50 men & under an experienced skier, 1st Lieutenent (reservist) Constantine Talios who was a member of the Thessaloniki snow club, formed the 2nd Company. 3rd Company was in reserve. Most of the men of the 1st Company, were athletes & volunteers (like the Cypriot volunteer Renos Phrangoudes who was a Balkan champion in track & field) or even underaged (like the 17-year old Alexander Vouxinos). 1st Company's I/1 & I/2 platoons were sent to the Mnema tes Grias (beldam's grave) a 2,100 meter/7,546 feet top & put under the orders of Colonel Printzos of the 53rd Infantry Regiment, the Army's most forward echelon on the front line.
Major Ioannis Paparrhodou (center) with his staff officers at the Battalion's HQ (Moschopol, Albania)
This was an "embryonic" attempt made by the Greek military to form a unit able to conduct war in Alpine conditions. Alpine Battalion lost Pvt Georgios Pappas & its CO Major Ioannis Paparrhodou (he was killed in a clash with German troops on April 15th, 1941 ) during WWII.
Today, Greek Army doesn't have separate operational Alpine units. Every Special Forces and Marine unit attend Alpine & Mountain Warfare training by completing training courses at the Special Forces' KEOAX (Kentro Ekpedaephseos Orinou Agonos Chionodromon/Alpine & Mountain Warfare Training Center) at Mount Olympus.
Greek Personal & General Purpose Weapons, in 1940
Boys M37 anti tank rifle
Saint-Etienne M1907T Machine Gun
The Mannlicher-Schonauer M1903/14 twin-bolt rifle (6.5 mm) was the main rifle of the Greek Army
The Mannlicher-Carcano M1938 Carbine (6.5 mm) was issued to the Cavalry Units
A small number of the Hotchkiss MK1 MG, was delivered in Greece with the British aid. Unfortunately due to its unique caliber (7.7 mm) was scarcely used by the troops
The Breda M1930 MG (used by the Italian Alpine troops), was captured in big numbers (war spoils) & was issued as a general purpose MG, later in the War
The Beretta M1938A sub-machine gun, was captured in big numbers (war spoils) & was used by the Police & the Gendarmerie units
The FN M1930, 7.92 mm was planned to replace the Mannlicher-Schonauer M1903/14 (early 1940). Unfortunately, only 50,000 were delivered by the FN just before the War. They were issued to the frontline troops
In 1917, a great number of the Lebel Mle 1886/93 were delivered in Greece. These rifles were used against the Italians as the preferred weapon for firing the VB rifle grenades. Due to its length & shape, the Greeks called it "the troblone"...
...and the soldiers issued the Lebel, were called "the troblonists". This photo presents frontline troops with the FN M1930 rifle & a troblonist (center)
The Beretta M1934, 9mm...
...and the Ruby-Martian 7.65mm (for which unfortunately I'm unable to find any decent photos) were issued as standard service sidearms to the Greek armed forces
The Greek Submarines in WWII
One of four of the same class submarines ( Argonaphtes/Argonaut, Delphin/Dolphin, Triaena/Trident) transfered on loan by the Royal Navy . All four were built at the Vickers-Armstrong Shipyard. Pipinos' construction was completed on November 1st 1943 and she was the only one of the four that saw any action (7 war patrols). Accepted in England on October 13th 1943 by Lieutenant Commander Rallis RHN she sailed to the Middle East in February 1944 . On August 9th of the same year under Lieutenant Commander Loundras RHN she sunk in Samos island harbour the Italian destroyer Kalafatini and the small freighter Orion a former Greek lighthouse tender, captured by the Germans. Was returned to the British in 1959 .
Built in 1936 by Santieri Riuniti Adriatico Shipyards (Monfalcone, Italy). On July 9th 1942 she was seized in the Mediterranean Sea by the British corvette HMS Hyacinth . She was transferred by the British to the Royal Hellenic Navy and the Greek Flag was hoisted on December 5th 1942 under Lieutenant Massouridis RHN . Up to the end of 1944 she accomplished a total of 4 war patrols . In 1945 she was decommissioned.
One of four submarines built in France by Chantier Naval in Blainville between 1927-30 on order of the Greek Government. Same class: Nereus, Proteus and Triton . Accepted on December 1st 1930 by Commander Zagas RHN with second in command Lieutenant Commander Lambrinopoulos RHN . Did not participate in any patrols during the 1940-41 war as she was undergoing major repairs. However she did sail to Alexandria on April 23rd 1941 and from the Middle East carried out two war patrols under Commander Arslanoglou RHN. On these patrols she sunk with her guns on June 21st and 22nd 1941 two 40-ton diesel operated German vessels and on November 10th 1941 the German freighter Norburg (2,392 tons) off Souda bay in Crete. On April 4th 1942 she was attacked by air while being repaired in the port of Malta and sunk. About a month preceding this attack, during another German air attack, Commander Arslanoglou was killed.
One of four submarines built by Chantier de la Loire, Nantes in France between the years 1927-30 by order of the Greek Government. Triton was accepted on March 1st 1930 by Lieutenant Commander Protopapas RHN . During the 1940-41 war she effected 5 war patrols . On January 14th 1941 under Lieutenant Commander Zepos RHN she possibly sunk the Italian submarine Neghelli while on March 23rd 1941 it is established that she sunk the passenger ship Carnia (5,451 tons) 30 nautical miles east of Cape Galo, Brindisi . When Greece was occupied by the Germans she sailed for Alexandria where she arrived on April 23rd 1941 . From the Middle East she completed 7 patrols and a voyage taking in supplies to Malta. She was sunk on November 16th 1942 (under Lieutenant Commander Kontoyiannis RHN ) near the Euboea island after giving a heroic battle with the German patrol boat UJ201 . In total 23 of her crew died and 30 were captured among them her Commanding Officer, while 2 escaped swimming to the shore Chief Petty Officer Maroulas &
Petty Officer Papademetriou .
She was accepted on March 1st 1930 by Lieutenant Commander Tsirimokos RHN . She participated in sixteen war patrols during WWII under Lieutenant Commander Rotas RHN . On September 24th 1942 under Lieutenant Commander Rallis RHN , she sunk the troopship Fiume (1,500 tons) in the Rhodes island area. On September 25th 1942 , she sunk a large fully loaded Italian sailer as well as on different dates smaller Italian sailers. She was also used for the transport of commando units and other personnel leaving the German occupied Greece. On May 3rd 1947 she was decommissioned.
She was accepted on August 31st 1929 by Commander Xiros RHN . On December 29th 1940 , while on her third patrol mission under Lieutenant Cdr Hadjiconstantis RHN , she attacked a protected Italian convoy 40 nautical miles east of Brindisi and sunk the troopship Sardegna (11,452 tons). Due to her loss of depth she was detected and rammed by the Italian torpedo boat Antares and sunk with all hands on board.
She was accepted on December 21st 1927 by Commander Vandoros RHN . On the outbreak of the Greek-Italian war and up to the occupation of Greece she accomplished four war patrols under Lieutenant Commander Iatrides RHN during which on December 23rd 1940 she sunk a motor sailer and the following day the troopship Firenze (3,952 tons). With the German occupation of Greece she fled to Alexandria and on November 30th 1942 under Lieutenant Roussen RHN she sunk off the harbour of Calymnia islet, Dodekannese , an 8,000 ton German freighter. She also sunk a number of German and Italian sailers, in fact 'took prisoner' one of them (220 tons). Overall she accomplished from the Middle East nine more war patrols. She returned to Greece after the liberation and was decommissioned in 1945. Papanikolis conning tower was initially preserved at the submarine Naval Base but was later placed and exhibited to this date in front of the Hellenic Maritime Museum.
She was accepted on June 8th 1928 by Cdr Arvanitis RHN . Carried on four war patrols during the 1940-41 war under Cdr Athanassios Spanides RHN .
The most heroic figure of the RHN, during WWII, was her last Commanding Officer, Commander Vassilios Laskos RHN .
On December 31st 1940 she gunned down and sunk the Italian freighter Quindo inside Yugoslav water, creating an international incident. She fled to the Middle East following the German occupation of Greece. On July 2nd 1942, she was damaged while undocking from dry dock and sunk in the harbour of Port Said. After a long overhaul she went on four patrols under Commander Vassilios Laskos RHN and Executive Officer Lieutenant Elias Tsoukalas RHN . On these patrols she sunk an Italian mine layer on April 2nd near Gythion, Peloponnese , on April 5th 1943 the Spanish merchant ship San Isidro off Kythnos island and on May 29th J943 , the freighter Rigel near the island of Skiathos . On September 14th 1943 , after a heroic battle against a German submarine chaser, off Skiathos island , Katsonis sunk taking down with her 32 men including her CO. Fifteen men were captured while Executive Officer Lt Tsoukalas RHN and Petty Officers Tsingos & Antoniou managed to reach Skiathos after a 9-hour swim. From Skiathos after an adventurous journey they returned to Egypt, and joined again the submarine flotilla.
The last interview given by Captain Elias Tsoukalas HN (ret.) , in 1995:
-Captain, please tell us a few words about Cdr Laskos
"Laskos was a brave man. Katsonis men literally addored him & carried out his orders blindly. Once, one of his junior officers had a nervous break down & tried to sabotage the ship. Thank God, he didn't succeed in doing so. I placed him under arrest & while I was filling up the papers for court marshal, Laskos came in. He ordered me not to report the incident & asked me to lead this officer at his quarters. They remained there talking for about one, one and a half hours. What was their conversation about, I never managed to find out. When this officer though, left the captain's quarters, he was ready not only to fight again, but to volunteer for the commandos! Later, during the Katsonis final battle, he was killed next to our beloved Cdr. That kind of influence Laskos exercised on his men."
-Please sir, describe Katsonis final battle
"Well, while we were patroling the Skiathos straights, we received a signal saying that a large German troop transporter was about to reach us. The sub was very old & we couldn't stay submurged for long. So, we had to stay on surface for a long time. This had the result of us being spotted by a German observation station at Trikeri island. Suddenly we spotted over the periscope a large ship coming on us. We thought it was the troop ship. Instead of the transporter though, it was a German Sub chaser (a corvette I think), which started immediately launching depth charges. As I said, the ship was old & couldn't last submurged for long. Laskos did not hesitate, never crossed his mind the possibility of surrender: "To the surface...Prepare for surface battle" he ordered. Soon, Katsonis was on the surface. The German ship, started firing on us with her guns. A gun shell, cut off the gunner's foot.
Laskos, immediately took his place on the gun. There, uncovered, was trying to give us courage, when suddenly, an enemy shell killed him, granting him a long wished and proud death."
Very nice job Valtrex! As you see I have avatar ready for the 28th
Great post @Valtrex.
Here some more about the Greek contribution in WWII.Credit goes to @Chris450
GREECE'S CONTRIBUTION TO WWII
The Italian Invasion of Greece 1940
On October 28th 1940, at 5:30 a.m., an ultimatum was delivered to Greece by the Italian Embassy in Athens. They were required to cede various coastal positions and strategically important islands to the Italians within three hours. General Metaxas , head of the Greek Council of State, refused these demands and later on the 28th October an Italian invasion of Greece (from the previously conquered Albania) began.
Over the next few weeks, the Italians were repulsed by the Greeks and pushed back into Albania. Britain and the Commonwealth sent troops and equipment to help the Greeks, and Churchill's ideas of a "Balkan Confederation" seemed a little less far-fetched...
But then Hitler and the OKW, disturbed by this turn of events, sent German forces into Greece to prop up the faltering Italians. The Greeks and British/Commonwealth forces were pushed back, and Greece fell to the Axis.
But what were the forces of the Hellenic Kingdom, that trounced such a local power as Italy? Greece 1940 (apart from Crete) is largely a forgotten conflict in the English-speaking world, and perhaps I can redress this balance a bit with the following.
The Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940 was one of Mussolini's major wartime disasters. A totally inadequate Italian army blundered into the mountains of north-west Greece, where it was defeated, thrown back into Albania, only to be rescued by the German invasion of Greece the following year.
Gen Papagos-Commander in Chief of the Hellenic Armed Forces
2.The Road to War
War with Greece in 1940 was far from inevitable. Whilst King George and sections of the Greek political elite had anglophile tendencies, Greece was led by General Metaxas, a dictator who had far more in common with the Axis leaders than the western democracies. It was the policy of Mussolini and his pro-Albanian clique including Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, Jacomoni, governor-general of Albania and the commanding general, Visconti Prasca which drove Italy to war with Greece.
Hitler's strategic plans required that the Balkans remain quiet. In the summer of 1940 German troops had secured the Rumanian oilfields, Bulgaria was pro-German and the Yugoslavian Prince Regent supported the axis. Even Turkish neutrality was being undermined. Yet it had been agreed that the Balkans would be in Mussolini's sphere of interest and the Italian dictator was jealous of Hitler's success. The complex diplomatic moves and political machinations of the Italian leadership are beyond the scope of this article. However, in the final analysis it was Mussolini who sanctioned the invasion, without advising his ally Hitler until after the invasion had begun.
Taken during the Greek counter-offensive
3.The War plans
The original Italian plan (known as Contingency G) was a limited territorial expansion into the Epirus region for which the nine Italian divisions in Albania were deemed sufficient. However, this was expanded in a second phase to the total occupation of Greece at a meeting only two weeks before the invasion at which the naval and air force chiefs were not even present. The Chief of the General Staff, Marshall Badoglio, who had previously indicated muted objections to the war, argued that 20 divisions would be required. Visconti Prasca asked for only three extra mountain divisions and some support units. Even these were to be fed in when the initial objectives had been achieved. His motives for refusing reinforcements can only be a matter for speculation. However, the fact that a more senior general might command a larger army, probably influenced his thinking.
For such a modest army to be successful required several favourable factors including; strategic and tactical surprise; a supporting invasion by Bulgarian forces; diversionary attacks on the poorly defended mainland; massive air support; and treachery in the Greek armed forces.
Unfortunately for the Italians the Greeks knew the approximate date of the invasion and King Boris of Bulgaria declined Mussolini's invitation to participate. This meant the Greek army was well established in the invasion area with the possibility of shifting reinforcements when Bulgarian neutrality became clear. No diversionary attacks were planned (even the island invasions were called off at the last moment) and a winter offensive coupled with negligible air planning minimised the value of Italian air superiority. Despite optimistic views expressed by commanders in Albania and substantial investment in bribes, there was no evidence that Greek forces would collapse due to internal dissent.
The Greek operational plan was very simple. It consisted of two lines using the natural defensive features of the rivers and mountain ranges. In Epirus the army was to follow the principle of elastic defence avoiding major losses. In Macedonia the first line was to be used as a platform for an offensive onto the Koritsa plateau
Mobilization of the Reservists
Italian Army (CinC General Visconti Prasca)
Julia Alpini Division (Pindus Front): 10,800 men & 20 guns
Littoral Group (coast, two cavalry regs. and one reg. of Grenadiers): 4,823 men & 32 guns
Arezzo Infantry Division (Yugoslav Front): 12000 men & 32 guns
Venezia Infantry Division (Marching from Yugoslav front to XXVI Corps): 10000 men & 40 guns
Tsamouria Corps[b] (General Carlo Rossi, Epirus Front)
[b]Ferrara Infantry Division: 12,785 men & 60 guns +3,500 Albanians
Sienna Infantry Division: 9,200 men & 50 guns
Centauro Armoured Division: 4,037 men & 24 guns + 163 light tanks (90 serviceable)
XXVI Corps (General Gabriele Nasci, Macedonian Front)
Parma Infantry Division: 12,000 men & 60 guns
Piemonte Infantry Division: 9,300 men & 32 guns
The Italian Corps were only established four days before the invasion
Greek Army (CinC General Alexandros Papagos)
Epirus Front -VIII (8th) Division +Colonel Davakis' detachment - 15 battalions & 66 guns
Pindus Front - 3 reinforced battalions & 6 guns
Macedonian Front - IX (9th) Division + 4th Inf. Brig. - 22 battalions & 90 guns
The Greek second line had a further seven battalions in position.
Italian 'standard' divisional organisation in 1940 was 2 (3 btn.) regiments usually with 2 Blackshirt battalions attached. Greek divisions had 3 (3 btn.) regiments. Artillery support was similar with 9 batteries. The Italians were better provided with light mortars and the Greeks had more MGs. Both the Italian and Greek divisions had limited AA and ATG provision. Supply services were poor on both sides although this was more vital to the Italians who had only 107 lorries in Albania out of an estimated requirement of 1,750.
In the air, the Italian Air force in Albania had 55 bombers and 107 fighters (more than half CR42 & 32's). They could also count on support from Brindisi in the form of 119 bombers, 20 JU87's and 54 fighters. The tiny Greek air force had only 27 bombers and 38 fighters serviceable. However, Italian air-ground co-operation was negligible with the Albania air commander, General Ranza being based in Tirana, many miles from army HQ. The supporting squadrons in Italy were not even in telephone contact.
The Italian offensive was launched on 28 October in driving rain that deprived the army of air cover. The Littoral group moved slowly down the coast while the Tsamouria Corps advanced through the mountains towards Kalpaki where the only resistance it met with, was the Colonel Davakis' dettachment (2,500 men)
On their left the Julia Alpini Division split into two regimental battle groups either side of Mount Smolikas with the objective of seizing the Metsovon pass. In Macedonia the XXVI Corps (primarily the Parma Division) was thinly spread in defensive positions.
Rapidly rising rivers and mud tracks resulted in slow progress with Greek screening forces falling back onto prepared positions. Despite the difficulties the Aosta Lancers in the Littoral Group gained a bridgehead over the Kalamas River. The Tsamouria Corps made slow progress on what were little more than mountain tracks with the Centauro's tanks simply sticking in the mud where they had to be abandoned. The Julia Division in the centre began to create a wedge in the Greek position despite the conditions and Papagos responded with infiltration attacks that almost surrounded the Italians.
Bersaglieri reinforcements helped extricate the Division only after heavy losses.
On 6 November the Italian command was reorganised into two armies:
Piemonte, Arezzo, Parma & Venezia Divisions in Western Macedonia.
Julia and Bari (diverted from cancelled Corfu invasion) Divisions on the Pindus.
Tridentia Alpini Division in reserve.
Ferrara, Centauro and Sienna Divisions
To be reinforced by four divisions in preparation for an offensive after 5 December.
General Soddu subsequently replaced Visconte Prasca.
With the Italian offensive grinding to a halt, Papagos shifted the X (10th) and XV (15th) Divisions to the Macedonian front to join the IX (9th) Division (C Corps).
The Italians had dug in on the Devoli River with their backs to the Morava massif. XV (15th) Division in the north made spectacular advances in freezing conditions around Mount Ivan whilst IX (9th) & X (10th) Divisions pushed the Italians back off the mountains exposing the key valley town of Korce which was abandoned on the 21 November.
Greeks on the outskirts of Korce:
Italian reinforcements where thrown into the line piecemeal often without supporting arms and into a chaotic command structure. The loss of Koritsa and Erseke exposed the left flank of the 11th Army on the coast which was forced to retreat deep into Albania whilst being vigorously counterattacked by fresh Greek divisions. By 10 January the Klisura junction had been captured and Italian units only managed to stabilise the line south of the port of Vlore. Even this was due more to the lengthening Greek supply lines than effective Italian resistance. Marshall Cavallero replaced General Soddu.
The Greek strategy was now to capture Vlore then stabilise the line so that divisions could be redeployed to the Bulgarian front. It was becoming increasingly obvious that a German invasion was likely. The assault supported by RAF squadrons made some progress but ground to a halt in bad weather.
The Italians again reinforced up to a total of 28 divisions(4 Alpine, 1 Armoured and 23 Infantry) totalling 526,000 men. On 9 March their spring offensive used seven divisions in a limited attack between the Vijose River and Mount Tommorit. The 14 Greek divisions holding the Albanian front gave some ground until the attack was called off on 25 March after heavy casualties on both sides. This remained the position until April when the German invasion of the Balkans moved through the Pindus capturing Ioannina, sealing the Greek army in Albania.
The Italian casualties amounted to approximately 13,755 killed 25,067 missing (presumably KIA) and 63,242 wounded. The Greek losses totaled 14,562 men, including the 1,237 missing (presumably KIA) and 67,485 wounded. The Greeks suffered most of their casualties in the course of the Italian spring offensive (Operation "Primavera"-1,263 dead, 4,036 wounded. The Greek I (1st) Infantry Division accounted 559 dead, 2,067 wounded). In addition, the Greeks took some 23,000 Italians as POWs. The Italians captured 2,392 Greeks
Wraia douleia sygxarhthria.<p>
Amazing material Valtrex, once more...
What a proud day for Hellas...
You know It had never occured to me but a French friend made me realise it. You know most people celebrate the end of a winning war but we always celebrate the beginning. 28th of September, 25th of March..
Yes, but with one major difference:
althought March 25th, is a "conventional" date selected by the first Greek government as the celebration of the proclamation of our independence, October 28th, is a date selected by the people. The first celebration of our entry in WWII, took place on 10/28/1941, while the country was occupied by the Axis powers. When the University students & the people of Athens gathered spontaneously at the tomb of the Unknow Soldier to pay tribute to our dead. It is then, when the Italians attacked them killing dozens of youngsters:
October 28, 1941: The Italians attack the unarmed Greeks
"The next day (October 29), a thrilling scene took place at the monument:
The crippled veterans of the Greco-Italian conflict, gather before the tomb. Suddenly, a voice is heard...a man in wheel chair, shouts:
"Brothers, you are not the Unknown dead, you are the fathers of our children, the husbands of our black-dressed widows, you are our brothers. You gave your lives, we gave a piece of our bodies. We've shed our blood together. Rest in Peace. We will offer the rest of us, and we shall prevail! Memory eternal brothers!"
Source: Achilles Kyrou "The enslaved winners", Athens 1945
That was a great thread by @Valtrex!!
Part of the greek movie "OXI" about the battle of Metaxas line
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