Friday, October 27, 2017

A Very Brief post about the 28th October 1940 Anniversary.

("Objectivity is not possible, but honesty is possible". I must be honest. The following post is written from a liberal cosmopolitan perspective. Bear that in mind. Also this is no way a through or complete treatment of the issue, nor an academic treatment. I am not writing ex cathedra here.)

The event celebrated

The protagonists on the ground for the Kingdom of Greece

“Ochi” Day (No day/ Hμέρα Οχί) is the state celebration for the decision of the authoritarian Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, to refuse the ultimatum given to him on behalf of the authoritarian Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy, Benito Mussolini, which demanded that the government off Greece permit the entry and occupation of key geographic positions within the territory of its dominion, by the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and its Albanian Protectorate.



The authoritarian prime minister of the Kingdom of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas


The ultimatum was given by Emanuele Grazzi, ambassador of the Kingdom of Italy to the Kingdom of Greece at 3:00 am on 28th October 1940. Metaxas was roused from his sleep by one of his adjutants, police officer Dimitrios Travlos, who is a relative of mine (his father was a first degree cousin of my great-grand father). In his sleeping habit he met Grazzi and very quickly turned down the ultimatum, telling Grazzi “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Then it is war!/Πόλεμος λοιπόν!). The army of the Kingdom of Italy had already begun illegally crossing the border of the Kingdom of Greece on the night of the 27th of October, before the ultimatum was given. The morning of the 28th of October, the population under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece was informed of the onset of war and the fighting at Epirus, via radio and newspapers. Spontaneous mass demonstrations erupted in Athens with people chanting “Ochi”. This was the first time since the establishment of the authoritarian regime under Metaxas in 1936 that a spontaneous mass action by the people was in support of a decision made by it.

The background

The war did not come unexpected. Ever since the invasion and annexation of the State of Albania and the territories under its dominion by the Kingdom of Italy, the government of the Kingdom of Greece expected war. This expectation was reinforced by the buildup of military forces in Albania, and aggressive actions by the Italian government, including the sinking of the Light Cruiser “Elli” (15th August 1940). This deterioration of relations, should be seen in the context of the deep rivalry between the Greek state (whether in its form as Kingdom or Republic) and the Kingdom of Italy. Since 1913, the two states clashed over competing influence and territorial claims on the territory under the dominion of the Albanian state, the issue of control of the Dodecanese islands with their overwhelming Greek population, Italian irredentism targeted at the Ionian islands under the dominion of the Greek state, and competing claims on the territory of the Ottoman Empire in the 1918-1923 period.  Indeed it would not be an exaggeration to argue that part of the decision of Eleutherios Venizelos  to launch the Asia Minor Campaign was due to a fear that if the Greek government did not act, the Italian government would do so.

A period of stability in relations between the Greek and Italian states. The signing of a friendship treaty between the prime minister of the Republic of Greece, Elefterios Venizelos, and the fascist prime minister of the Kingdom of Italy, Benito Mussolini

 During the period of the 2nd Hellenic Republic (1923-1935), the new Italian government of Benito Mussolini, ideologically motivated by fascism, took advantage of the political divisions between various factions within the state(conservative-nationalist Royalists vs. liberal-nationalist Venizelist Republicans) and the weakness of the Greek state following its defeat by the state of Turkey, to press Italian claims. In 1923 he attacked the island of Kerkyra/Corfu. During the Pangalos dictatorship of 1925-1926, Mussolini was able to gain a lot of influence in Greece, thanks to his promises of supporting Pangalos planned war against the Republic of Turkey. Indeed as long as greek governments were still considering a war with the Republic of Turkey, they were vulnerable to Mussolini’s foreign policy. This came to an end with the policy of Eleutherios Venizelos, when as prime minister he sought the resolution of all extant issues with the Republic of Turkey. After that, Greek governments, whether Royalist or Venizelos sought to keep a balance between the Kingdom of Italy and the Republic of France and United Kingdom.  As long as Mussolini was committed to cooperation with the UK and the Republic of France, such a Greek policy was tenable. That did not stop Mussolini’s interference in Greece. The Italian Government played a role in both the failed 1933 coup by the Venizelist Nikolaos Plastiras, and the failed 1935 attempted coup by Venizelists. Fascism as an ideology had begun to take root in greek politics with both republican politicians, like Plastiras, and royalists, like Metaxas, indicating some admiration and preference for elements of the Mussolini political program.

Venizelist officers suffering degradation after the failure of the attempted coup in 1935


With the defeat of the 1935 Venizelist coup, and the restoration of the monarchy, the influence of the Italian state in Greek politics begun to wane. The new king, George II was an anglophile. And while Metaxas, who established an authoritarian regime on 4th of August 1936, had some sympathies to fascism, ultimately his own views about Greek foreign policy, as well as the power of the King, spelled a restriction of the ability of the government of Italy to influence Greek politics. Finally, the ending of free political activity by the authoritarian regime (including the mass arrest and internal exile of socialist and communist politicians, the prohibition of all political parties, and the annulment of freedom of speech), greatly restricted the ability of the government of Italy to play on the internal divisions of Greece. With the Ethiopian Crisis the increasing rift between the government of the Kingdom of Italy and the governments of the western Major Powers was becoming more evident. The balancing act of Greek governments became untenable.  A choice had to be made between the western allies and the Kingdom of Italy.

The power behind the authoritarian regime, King George II


 There were two problems with this. First, the governments of the UK and the Republic of France were unwilling to ally with Greece in the 1936-1940 period, because they still hoped to use Mussolini against Hitler. Secondly Mataxas himself was leery of Greece committing to one side or the other, without iron-clad guarantees.  The harsh lessons of the 1914-1918 period, when he was one of the proponents of a pro-Central Power stance by Greece, had taught him that no government of Greece could realistically hope to stand up in a war against the great naval powers (the United Kingdom in 1940). But he still strongly believed that Greece should not offer to leave neutrality in favor of the naval powers until given iron-clad guarantees, a belief that for him has been validated by the complete wreckage of the Venizelos policy of 1917-1920. Greece thus should not rush into a war, but if war came, it should side with the great naval powers.

Thankfully for him, the brutal treatment of the Kingdom of Greece by the government of Benito Mussolini in the 1936-1940 period, did wonders in reconciling many Venizelists and republicans with the authoritarian regime. It is highly possible that if Mussolini had been more patient and less aggressive, the internal disputes momentarily put at rest by his aggression and authoritarianism, would had come to the top opening the space for increased Italian influence. But in the period of machpolitik as practiced by Hitler and his Nazi government of Germany, such patient political activity seemed out of the question for the fascist Duce.  Instead Metaxas was able to continue and complete an impressive re-armament and military re-organization program, which included the fortification of the vulnerable border of the Kingdom of Greece with the Tsardom of Bulgaria.

The facist prime minister of the Kingdom of Italy, Benito Mussolini


 Why did Mussolini drive the issue to war now? The indicators seem to be that he worried that if he did not act Germany would decide the fate of the Balkans with little regard of Italian interests. He felt that he needed proof of still being an important factor of international politics. He saw the territory of the Kingdom of Greece, as a strategic threat to his policy of war against the United Kingdom. He felt he needed to consolidate the dominion of the government of Italy over the Albanian protectorate, by satisfying some of the Albanian irredentist claims on Southern Epirus. Finally, he was always worried about the careful balancing game which he had to play with the politicians around the King of Italy. Like Metaxas, Mussolini was not the absolute ruler of the state, but had to share power with a powerful monarch.  Whatever the exact reasons, he decided in 1940 that the time was opportune for war. Perhaps he expected Metaxas to cave in. like the Greek government in 1923. Perhaps he hoped that the attack would lead to a republican coup. Perhaps he bet on an intervention of the government of the Tsardom of Bulgaria against the Kingdom of Greece. He would be proven wrong on all of these.

The war, briefly
Mussolini expected a quick victory. As a result, and also for domestic political reasons, he only assigned 150000 men to the campaign in Greece. Furthermore these forces were given military objectives far beyond their capability (for example the Giulia Alpini Division was tasked with attacking a 35km front, characterized with extremely broken terrain and conduct a double envelopment).

Operations of the armies of the Kingdoms of Greece and Italy in the 1940-1941 war


The expectations of Mussolini for a quick victory, were shared by the pessimism of Metaxas and other senior Greek officers. Metaxas decided to reject the ultimatum probably driven by personal views of honor, the fear of making a decision that might had been un-popular and against the King’s anglophile preferences, the military impossibility of the Kingdom of Greece participating in a victrious war against the United Kingdom, and the belief that ultimately any war between the Axis and Allies would be won by the naval powers.  But he did not believe Greece would win the war. It could defend, perhaps humiliate the army of the Kingdom of Italy, but once Mussolini begun focusing the full might of the war-machine of the Kingdom of Italy on the Kingdom of Greece, the result would be inevitable, even if in the long-term any gains by the Italian government would be nullified by the victory of the United Kingdom.  That said he has begun mobilization since August 1940, and the military forces of the Kingdom of Greece were at a high state of preparedness.

In the end Mussolini was proven wrong, while in the mid-term so was Metaxas. The invasion by the 150.000 strong army of the Kingdom of Italy was met by 120.000 troops of the army of the Kingdom of Greece. Between 28th October and 7 November, the enthusiastic Greek soldiers of the army of the Kingdom of Greece, in combination with the weather, defeated the badly planned offensive. The forces assigned to the task proved numerically insufficient, and the advantage of the Royal Italian Army in light tanks and airpower was nullified by terrain, the advantage of the Royal Hellenic Army in artillery, and the numerical balance. By November 14th the mobilization of the army of the Kingdom of Greece had been complete, and 300000 Greek soldiers now faced only 150000 Italian soldiers, and the Greeks went on the offensive, with British air support, driving the invading army out of the territory under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece , and then occupying most of Norther Epirus/Southern Albania. It was only then that Mussolini took the war seriously, with a steady stream of reinforcements arriving to try and stem the Greek elan. Even then, the army of the Kingdom of Italy would not gain anything more than a minor numerical advantage over the army of the Kingdom of Greece. 

A caricature published in a Greek language newspaper in the territory under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece that points out the difficulties the army of the Kingdom of Italy faces.


The counter-offensive by the Greek army lost steam by February 1941. By that time Metaxas had died, and the Greek government was fully dominated by the King. The even stronger anglo-phile tilt of the government of the Kingdom of Greece, and the humiliation of the government of the Kingdom of Italy, led the government of the State of Germany, under Hitler, to begin planning an operation against the Kingdom of Greece via the territory under the dominion of the Tsardom of Bulgaria.  This forced the high command of the Army of Greece to deviate forces from the front in the territory of the Protectorate of Albania, to the territory under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece, facing the territory under the dominion of the Tsardom of Bulgaria.

Mussolini saw this as an opportunity for gaining a victory against the Kingdom of Greece, which would then be useful in the negotiating table with Hitler. After serious preparations, and the final attainment of a serious numerical superiority, the army of the Kingdom of Italy situated in the territory of the Protectorate of Albania, attacked the army of the Kingdom of Greece in the same territory. This Spring Attack, between 9th March and 24th March 1941 was an absolute failure. His chance to decide the issue with the government of Greece on his own was gone. On 6th April 1941 the army of the German State invaded the territory of the Kingdom of Greece.

Infantry of the army of the Kingdom of Greece fighting in tough conditions


Metaxas was only proven wrong in the short term. His expectation that the Kingdom of Greece could not win the war (in the sense of making positive gains from the fighting) was confirmed with the German invasion. Within 14 days the bulk of the continental territory under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece was overrun by the army of the German State. With the flanks in danger, the army of the Kingdom of Greece in the territory of the Protectorate of Albania, first withdrew to the territory of the Kingdom of Greece, than begun to disintegrate leading to the decision to capitulate to the Germans. 

The army of the German State occupying the territory under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece. Athens the Parthenon

It is an open question of what would have had happened if the German State had not intervened. The most probable result would have been the fall of the Mussolini cabinet in the Kingdom of Italy, or the forcing on Mussolini to adjust his policy in ways that would be problematic for the government of Germany. This would not have led to an end of the war between the Kingdom of Greece and the Kingdom of Italy. But it might had led to major changes in the character of the war, as well as the World War. But Metaxas expecation that Greece could not make a positive gains, does not seem wrong. The Kingdom of Greece gained the Dodecanese only because the fall of Mussolini came to late, in 1943. There is no reason to expect the goverment of the Kingdom of Italy giving up the islands in 1941. The offensive ability of the army of the Kingdom of Greece had come to an end, and while the army of the Kingdom of Itlay in 1941 could not breakthrough, neither could the army of the Kingdom of Greece push further into the territory of the Protectorate of Albania. There was a stalemate that could only be broken by an expansion of the war to include the goverment of the UK and the goverment of  Germany (as happened in history), or an intervention by the Tsardom of Bulgaria. It is questionable if an intervention only by the Tsardom of Bulgaria would suffice, as the impressive Metaxa line forts were a challenge for the relatively modern army of the German state, let alone the still the more obsolete army of the Tsardom of Bulgaria. Thus it is my opinion, with the full understanding that this is all nothing more then abstract thoughts only tentatively based on reality, that if the war had continued the end result would had been a “white” peace.

In the long-term Metaxas was correct. Whatever the result of a war between the Kingdom of Greece and the Kingdom of Italy, as long as the Kingdom of Italy was an opponent of the United Kingdom, any gains made by the goverment of the Kingdom of Italy against the Kingdom of Greece would be nullified by the peace treaties that ended the World War. This is of course what happened.

The end. People celebrating the liberation of the territory under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece from the army of the German State. Athens, 1944.


The Myths about “Ochi”
There are a number of persistent myths about “Ochi” all of them used to exaggerate the events. But in reality there is no need to exaggerate what is already a remarkable military and political sequence of events.

Myth I: The “Ochi” of the Kingdom of Greece was the first time a minor state in World War 2 stood up to aggression (argued by Greek nationalists of all political ideologies).

This is not true. The goverment of the Republic of Finland had refused to submit to a ultimatum by the goverment of USSR on 30th November 1939, leading to the Winter War (lasting 3 months, 1 week and 5 days). The goverment of the Kingdom of Norway also refused to submit to a ultimatum by the goverment of the German State on 9th April 1940, leading to a campaign that lasted 62 days. The governments of the Kingdoms of the Netherlands and of Belgium also refused to submit to ultimatums by the German goverment in May 1940. Both fought, but were quickly defeated. Of course their is also the case of the goverment of the Republic of Poland refusing to submit to the will of the goverment of the German State before that. Thus example of small powers standing up to major powers before the case of the Kingdom of Greece existed. The difference is that with the exception of the Republic of Finland, all of the other decisions were made in conjunction with expectation of direct assistance by a major power.  It is correct to say that to the date, the resistance of the Kingdom of Greece was the longest-lasting and most successful of the minor power wars,against an Axis major power. But only when we focus on the Kingdom of Italy. If we focus on the fighting between the Kingdom of Greece and the German State, the fighting did not last long compared to other cases of states suffering the attentions of the army of the German State.

Others who said "No". Hyosti Kallion, President of the bourgeois liberal democratic Republic of Finland.


Myth II: The army of the Kingdom of Greece was at a severe disadvantage vs. the army of the Kingdom of Italy (nationalist Greeks, as well as Greek adherent of left-wing ideologies in an attempt to criticize the Metaxas regime).

This is untrue. Due to political decisions, the army of the Kingdom of Italy sent against Greece never had a substantial numerical advantage over the opposing forces, except in the Spring Offensive of 1941. Indeed during the winter of 1940, the army of the Kingdom of Greece had the numerical advantage. While the army of the Kingdom of Italy had an advantage in air-power and armored units, the terrain at the operational zone nullified this advantage, and air aid by the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom, balanced the air-war until the arrival of the air force of the German State. Furthermore the army of the Kingdom of Greece had a superior artillery arm, and its divisions were larger organisations than the divisions of the army of the Kingdom of Italy.  This balanced condition was the result of the careful work done by Greek republican governments, and continued and intensified under the authoritarian Metaxas regime.  People who make this claim tend to count the full power of the Royal Italian Armed Forces, but the Kingdom of Greece never faced that full power.

A soldier in the army of the Kingdom of Greece sitting on top of an tankette of the army of the Kingdom of Italy, 1940


Myth III: Churchill said that the “Greeks do not fight like heroes, but heroes fight like Greeks” (Greek nationalists, many others who should know better.

There is no archival source that indicates the Churchill said something like this. Neither a BBC recording, nor a transcript of a Parliamentary speech in the British Parliament archives (Hansard). While Churchill probably did say something positive about the resistance by the army of the Kingdom of Greece there is no source of what it was. Just suppositions and un-sourced claims. Hitler on the other hand did say something positive about the army of the Kingdom of Greece and we have primary sources of it. This did not stop him implementing a requisitions policy on the occupied territory of the Kingdom of Greece that led to the death by starvation of potential 400000 of those people he praised. Furthermore it is a question if much should be given to the sayings of Churchill. He said similar words about  the resistance of the Republic of Finland to the USSR, which we know from primary sources. To put it simply he was very open with his praise.

It sounds impressive, but was probably never uttered in this way.


Myth IV: The Metaxas regime was a fascist regime (by Greeks adhering to left-wing ideologies)

The authoritarian regime established by Ioannis Metaxas with the support of the King was not a fascist regime. It is more proper considered as an authoritarian regime. Now it is true that Metaxas had some admiration for elements of the facist ideology as brought about in the Kingdom of Italy. And the regime tried to put an ideological patina over its character that had fascist elements (youth groups, the roman salute). But ultimately it was monarchism and anti-communism that were its main elements. The regime did contain genuine fascists and even national socialist sympathizers, many of which would go on to collaborate with the goverment of the German State. But these people were never in control, and once the war with the Kingdom of Italy began they quickly fell foul of the regime (the Kambanis affair). The regime was authoritarian, indeed absolutist, but it never was able to transition to totalitarianism. Metaxas had his own views about the organisation of the Greek state (early expressed in an article from 1935), and it was unquestionably an authoritarian image, but it would be wrong to call it fascist. Finally, fascism was in voque with many of the political forces opposed to the 4th of August Regime. Plastiras, the Venizelsit –republican coup plotter of 1935 had fascist ideas. And while the USSR was not a fascist state, the local Greek communists were loyal to it totalitarian and authoritarian model. The sad story of Greece in the 1933-1935 period is that by the time of the establishment of the 1936 regime, all of the major political forces in the Republic of Greece had been contaminated by fascism.

There is a bit of, "what is going on here" in Metaxas stance to the attempts to give his regime a fascist character.


Myth V: The unity of purpose between the population under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece and the goverment of the Kingdom of Greece in 28th October 1940 was the result of the intellectual propaganda of the 4th of August Regime via its Third Hellenic Civilization program (Greek facists and Greek nationalists)

This is a strong myth among Greek fascists and those nationalists who seek an authoritarian regime to rule over the population under the dominion of the Greek state. As noted above the Metaxas regime was never able to implement a totalitarian ideological regime. Indeed, the Kambanis affair as well as worker activity early in the regime period indicated that the regime itself never was a harmonious affair, and that there was a reservoir of mass political opposition. The reasons why this did not come to the front during the 1936-1941 period was i) the willingness of the politicians of the older political parties to accept the Metaxas regime, as long as the King held the ultimate power ii) the political weariness of the population due to the tumults of the last years of the Republic (the 1935 coup could had led t oa civil war, and did lead to serious military action) iii) the open and brutal expressions of hostility by the goverment of Italy iv) the successful prosecution of the minority of politically active parts of the population (communists and socialists) v) the fact that the political leaders that could rally opposition  were either dead (Venizelos) or in exile (Plastiras). Even during the war, cracks in the regime appeared, and after the collapse of the regime in the occupation period, the shimmering hatreds of Greek political life found their expression in the Civil War During the Occupation (Κατοχίκος Εμφύλιος) in 1944, and then the Civil War of 1946-1949. There was no magic transformation of the Greek body politic brought about by 4 years of half-hearted totalitarianism.  An external threat, coupled with a weariness with politics, collaboration by potential opponents, and intense repression created conditions conducive to what some call “national” unity.

Part of the largely failed attempt at fascism by the goverment of the authoritarian prime minister of the Kingdom of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas  


Myth VI: Only an authoritarian regime, like that of Metaxas, could have let the Kingdom of Greece resist Italian aggression, and in general this holds for all minor powers. (Greek nationalists and Greek fascists).

This is a view created by the perception that the reason for the quick defeat of the Republic of France, and Kingdoms of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark was their bourgeois liberal democratic political system. The problem of this is that a) those very same liberal democratic regimes, in the case of the Republic of France and Kingdoms of Netherlands and Belgium said “No” to the demands of the government of the German State b) and their defeats , especially of the Kingdoms of Belgium and Netherlands, had more to do with military defeat than political regime c) the Kingdom of Greece during the victorious Balkan Wars was a functioning bourgeois liberal democracy. Furthermore both the Kingdom of Norway, and the Republic of Finland that stood up to aggression by more powerful states, and fought hard and long, were functioning bourgeois liberal democracies. Indeed the example of the Kingdom of Hungary, Kingdom of Romania, and the three Baltic Republics indicates that authoritarian regimes are just as likely to submit to more powerful states are to resist them. The true point is that functioning liberal democracies were able to reconstitute a system of government after defeat, that averted civil war, while almost all of the authoritarian regimes that were defeated in World War 2 by a major power, sunk into civil war and mass violence when the occupation ended. This is the case with the Kingdom of Greece.

Also, it is an open question if Metaxas would be the only one to say “No”. The King was a decisive anglophile and thus no prime minister, liberal, democratic or authoritarian, who had to work with him, would be able to submit to the demands of the government of the Kingdom of Italy.  Those demands and the behavior that accompanied them was so extreme that it is unlikely that even a pro-Italian Pangalos, or even  a fascist republican Plastiras , would had acquiesced to them. Popular anger against the actions of the Italian governments since 1923  was alive and well, and between the double political limit of that popular anger and the King it would had been hard for any politician to attempt submission. Perhaps, an authoritarian republican regime imposed by Venizelos and Palstiras after a short civil war in 1935, might had been able to act more, thanks to the lack of the feature of a King, but Venizelos even more than Metaxas, was opposed to challenging the major naval power, the UK. As long as the Kingdom of Italy was led by governments opposed to the United Kingdom, with the exception of the miniscule nationalist socialists, most political powers were committed to not bringing the state of Greece before conditions similar to 1915-1917, that is opposition to the naval powers. Thus any demands by the government of the Kingdom of Italy would have to be resisted.

The boogey-man of the political class of the Kingdom of Greece 1935-1940, Nikolaos Plastiras. Image is from the 1920s.


To point out these myths is not to deny the remarkable character of the decisions made by the government of the Kingdom of Greece. Considering the history of the Greek states in the 1915-1936 period, and indeed the past political behavior of Metaxas himself, one would be justified like Mussolini to expect an easy conflict, or the greek body politic to be thrown into open conflict. The fact that Metaxas overcame his own strong predilections to neutrality, the fact that he and the King were able to find a golden mean in the 1936-1940 period, the fact that the most powerful political forces were willing to put on hold their political opposition, and the fact that the population under the dominion of the Kingdom of Greece did not see the war as an opportunity to undermine an authoritarian regime, are remarkable.  They were assisted by the gross incompetence of the leader of the government of the Kingdom of Italy, both in diplomatic and military matters. But the collective decision to freeze political life for the period of the war was remarkable.

War-gaming the Wars between the Kingdom of Greece and the Kingdom of Italy and German State of 1940-1941

Neither the War between the Kingdom  of Greece with the Kingdom of Italy in 1940-1941, nor the war between the Kingdom of Greece and the German State in 1941 have received any interest from war-gamers. I would dare venture that most of the people who play games set in World War 2 prefer fronts were they can engage in the kind of mobile and technologically advanced warfare characteristic of the  Western, Eastern and Deserts Fronts. Others are really motivated by the ideological contests inherent in the war, and barring those who adhere to nationalist ideologies that specifically celebrate the history of the states involved, do not seem to find much fire in what they see as an “obscure” conflict between two authoritarian regimes. Thus the wars between the Axis powers and the Kingdom of Greece do not seem like appealing options. The 1940-1941 war was fought on terrain, and by armies, that precluded rapid movement, or the mass use of armor and airpower. It was more like a World War 1 campaign, then what we consider as the “norm” in World War 2. The 1941 war saw only a number of major operations pitting the army of the Kingdom of Greece with the army of the German State, and the most important were essentially operations against forts, which it seems to me war-gamers who tend to do World War 2 avoid playing. There is a bit more coverage  of the battles fought between the military forces of the United Kingdom led Commonwealth and the army of the German State.

This is a pity. The tactical, operational and strategic puzzles offered by both of the 1940-1941 conflicts offer a lot to entertain and educate the war-gamer. There is no excuse that there are not enough sources in the English language. Books and sources exist that give coverage to the operations of the military forces of all three adversaries.  Here is a list.

 You can find a good overview of the existing literature at Stone Books.

Osprey is having a new Men at Arms  title in the making covering the war between the Kingdom of Greece and the Kingdom of Italy.

This WW2 Greece  English language website has useful information
Balkan War History has a good summary and some war-gaming suggestions

The Fortifications in Greece  excellent webpage has a lot of pictures of the fortifications in Greece, including the Metaxa line

My post, in Greek, about the anniversary last year can be found here.


What about war-games?

 On the board-game front I am aware of the following depictions of the campaigns
Balkan Front (1990) which covers the totality of operations in the Balkans 1940-1941 

Balkans 1941 (1997) A game by the team of the magazine Strategy and Tactics, covering the conflict between the Kingdoms of Greece and Yugoslavia and the German State and its allies.

Greek Tragedy (2001). Once more a game produced by Strategy and Tactics, this one focuses specifically on the war between the Kingdoms of Greece and Italy.



On the miniature war-gaming front I am aware of the following depictions of the campaigns.
Rommel” by Sam Mustafa. I have produced army lists, command posts, and a scenario for the Battle of Pindus for this system. You can find them in the Scenarios and Army Lists page of the blog.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum by the Too Fat Lardies (). You can get army lists for the army of the Kingdom of Greece from the “In the Footsteps of Legions” supplement and for the armies of the Kingdom of Italy and German State from the “Blitzkrieg” supplement. I have produced a scenario based on the Battle of Pindus, “Action at Molista”, which you can find at in the Scenarios and Army Lists page of the blog.

Bolt Action by Warlord Games an army list for the Army of the Kingdom of Greece can be found in the book “France and the Allies”.

Flames of War by Battle Front has some fan-made army lists covering the army of the Kingdom of Greece and covers the armies of the German State and the Kingdom of Italy in “BurningEmpires”. There is also a campaign developed for the two wars in question called Firestorm Greece.

What about Miniatures? From what I know here is what exists:
The armies of the Kingdom of Italy and of the German State are well covered by miniature ranges. Potential suggestions include Irregular at 2mm, Magister Militum at 3mm, Irregular, Pithead, Pendraken at 10mm, Battlefront at 15mm, various companies, such as Early War Miniatures, in 1/72(20mm), many in 28mm. The offerings are wide and I am not going to cover them here.

Instead I am going to focus on what is offered for specifically representing the army of the Kingdom of Greece.

Of course at 2mm and 3mm generic figures can work fine, thus at that scale both Irregular and Magister Militum offer useful ranges. While these are not dedicated ranges, they are abstract enough to work for any combatant.

There is no dedicated range for the army of the Kingdom of Greece in 6mm.

At 10mm, Pithead Miniatures offers a range for representing the regular infantry of the army of the Kingdom of Greece (which will not work for Evzones).

You can see pictures of my Pithead 1940 force of the army of the Kingdom of Greece on the blog.

Regualr infantry of the army of the Kingdom of Greece, 1940. 10mm Pithead Miniatures 

At 15mm Battlefront offers a very small range of miniatures that can be used for the army of the Kingdom of Greece.


Rif-Raf Miniatures offers the 15mm range for the regular infantry of the army of the Kingdom of Greece by Burns Miniatures.


At 20mm Early War Miniatures offers a range that can cover both Regular Infantry and Evzones.


At 20mm Lancashire Games has a range covering the Regular Infantry of the army of the Kingdom of Greece.


At 28mm Templar Wargames and Scenery offers have a range byBurns Miniatures covering the Regular Infantry of the army of the Kingdom of Greece, though the availability of the range seems to vary with time.

2 comments:

Steve J. said...

A really interesting article Konstantinos, which I enjoyed reading, especially the various points towards the end. I found 'The Hollow Legions' by Mario Cervi to be a good read on this campaign, especially as he had served in the conflict. You can see why the Italian army performed far worse than expected, aside from having to fight in extremely difficult terrain and weather as well as against a highly motivated opponent.

In terms of wargames rules, Blitzkreig Commander II had lists for the Greeks, as well as ones that covers the period for the Italians, Germans and British. As a wargamer, I can understand your points as to why most gamers avoid this period. However, having read the Cervi book, I am keen to explore some 'what ifs?' type scenarios.

The links for the books and boardgames are useful and will check them out, especially the former to see if there is anything of interest to me.

Konstantinos Travlos said...

Thank you Steve and thank you for pointing out the Blitzkrieg rules
Alo Aris Kosionids brough to attention to me this set that covers the fighting between the armies of the Kingdom of Greece and the German State http://testofbattle.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=23&products_id=51