Wednesday, June 10, 2015


In October 1940, at the time of the Italian invasion, the Greek army, commanded by General Alexandros Papagos, numbered some 430,000 men in 18 divisions. By April 1941, when the Germans invaded Greece, army strength was some 540,000 men. Each division numbered at full strength approximately 18,500 men, formed in three regiments of three battalions each. Most of these were of World War I type and were lightly armed mountain divisions. The army had almost no tanks, although in the course of the fighting the Greeks captured some Italian L3 “tankettes” and formed a weak motorized division. The Greeks also had little in the way of antiaircraft artillery, and much of the army’s equipment was also antiquated. Although the Greeks had few mortars, they possessed more machine guns and more effective heavy artillery than did the Italians. Greek supply services were poor, leading to much hardship among the troops in the mountains and during the winter.

In October 1940, when the Italian army invaded from Albania, the Greek army had four first-line divisions on the Albanian frontier. The Greek army fought well against the Italians; in its counterattack, it expelled the Italian army from Greece and penetrated into Albania. The Greeks were overwhelmed when the German army entered the fighting in April 1941, however. During the 1940–1941 campaign, the Greek army sustained 13,408 killed and 42,485 wounded. Some 9,000 soldiers were evacuated to Crete, and others escaped through Turkey to Egypt. Ultimately, the Greeks formed the 18,500-man Royal Hellenic Army, which fought under British command in the Middle East. It consisted of three infantry brigades, an armored-car regiment, an artillery regiment, and the Greek Sacred Regiment composed entirely of officers.

One brigade of the Royal Hellenic Army fought in the Battle of El Alamein, but most of the force saw little action, the consequence of political infighting. A mutiny in 1944 led to the internment of much of the army, although part of it was used in nonoperational duties. A newly formed unit, the 2,500-man Third Mountain Brigade, did fight with distinction in the Italian Campaign, where it was known as the Rimini Brigade.

Bitzes, John G. Greece in World War II to April 1941. Manhattan, KS: Sunflower Press, 1989.
Dear, I. C. B., and M. R. D. Foot. The Oxford Companion to World War II. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Higham, Robin, and T. Veremis, eds. The Metaxas Dictatorship: Aspects of Greece, 1936–1940. Athens: Hellenic Foundation for Defense and Foreign Policy, 1993.
Montanari, Mario. L’Esercito Italiano nella campagna di Grecia. 2d ed. Rome: Ufficio Storico, 1991.
Spyopoulos, Evangelos. The Greek Military (1909–1947) and the Greek Mutiny in the Middle East (1941–1944). New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

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