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The Greco-Italian War 1940

April 30 2008 at 3:55 AM

  (Login panos1980)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

The Greco-Italian War (Greek: Ελληνοϊταλικός Πόλεμος Ellēnoїtalikós Pólemos or Πόλεμος του Σαράντα Pólemos tou Saránda, "War of '40", Italian: Guerra di Grecia, "War of Greece") was a conflict between Italy and Greece which lasted from October 28, 1940 to April 23, 1941. It marked the beginning of the Balkans Campaign of World War II. From the April 6, 1941 intervention of Nazi Germany onwards, this conflict is known as the Battle of Greece.



Strength
Italians:
529,000 men,
463 aircraft



Greeks:
Under 300,000 men,
77 aircraf


Casualties and losses

Italians:
63,000 dead,
100,000+ wounded,
25,067 missing,
12,368 incapacitated by frostbites,
ca. 23,000 taken prisoner,
64 aircraft (another 24 claimed)

Greeks:
13,325 dead,
42,485 wounded,
1,237 missing,
ca. 25,000 incapacitated by frostbites,
1,531 taken prisoner,
52 aircraf




Initial Italian Offensive (28 Oct 1940 – 13 Nov 1940)
The Italians attacked on the morning of October 28, pushing back the Greek screening forces. The "Ciamuria" Corps, spearheaded by the "Ferrara" and "Centauro" divisions, attacked towards Kalpaki (Elaia), while οn its right the Littoral Group advanced along the coast and was able to secure a bridgehead over the Kalamas River. The Italians faced difficulties because of the harshness of the terrain, with their light L3/35 tankettes and medium M13/40 tanks, unable to cope with the hilly terrain or the muddy tracks that served as roads.

On October 31 the Italian Supreme Command announced that "Our units continue to advance into Epirus and have reached the river Kalamas at several points. Unfavourable weather conditions and action by the retreating enemy are not slowing down the advances of our troops". But in reality, the Italian offensive was carried out without conviction and without the advantage of surprise (not even for air action), under a leadership uncertain and divided by personal rivalries, and was already becoming exhausted. Adverse conditions at sea made impossible to do a projected landing at Corfu.[10] By November 1, the Italians had captured Konitsa and reached the Greek main line of defence. On that same day, the Albanian theatre was given priority over Africa by the Italian High Command.[14] However, despite repeated attacks the Italians failed to break through the Greek defences until November 9, when the attacks were suspended.

A greater threat to the Greek positions was posed by the advance of the 11,000-strong "Julia" Division over the Pindus mountains towards Metsovon, which threatened to separate the Greek forces in Epirus from those in Macedonia. "Julia" achieved early success, breaking through the central sector of Colonel Davakis' force. The Greek General Staff immediately ordered reinforcements into the area, which passed under the control of II Greek Army Corps. A first Greek counteroffensive was launched on October 31, and met with little success. The Italians managed to capture Vovousa, 30 km north of Metsovon, on November 3, but it had become clear that the Division lacked the manpower and the supplies to continue in the face of the arriving Greek reserves.

Greek counterattacks resulted in the recapture of several villages, including Vovousa, by November 4, practically encircling "Julia". Prasca tried to reinforce it with the newly arrived 47th "Bari" Division (originally intended for the invasion of Corfu), but it arrived too late to change the outcome. During the next days the Alpini fought bravely, under constant attacks by Greek cavalry and in atrocious weather conditions, but on November 8, the commander of "Julia", General Mario Girotti, was forced to order his units to begin their retreat via Mt. Smolikas towards Konitsa. This fighting retreat lasted for several days, until by November 13 the frontier area had been cleared of Italian presence, ending the "Battle of Pindus" in a complete Greek victory.

In Western Macedonia, in the face of Italian inactivity and as to relieve the Epirus front, on October 31 the Greek High Command moved III Corps (10th and 11th Infantry Divisions and the Cavalry Brigade, under Lt. Gen. Georgios Tsolakoglou) into the area and ordered it to attack into Albania together with TSDM. For logistical reasons this attack was successively postponed until November 14.

The unexpected Greek resistance caught the Italian High Command, which was expecting a 'military picnic', by surprise. Several divisions were hastily sent to Albania, and the plans for subsidiary attacks on Greek islands were definitively scrapped. Enraged about the bogging down of the offensive, Mussolini reshuffled the command in Albania, replacing Prasca with General Ubaldo Soddu, his former Vice-Minister of War, on November 9. Immediately upon arrival, Soddu ordered his forces to turn to the defensive. It was clear that the Italian invasion had failed.

[edit] Greek counter-offensive and stalemate (14 Nov 1940 – 8 Mar 1941)
Extent of Italian and Greek advance.
Extent of Italian and Greek advance.
Greek soldiers celebrating New Year's Day 1941 on the Albanian Front
Greek soldiers celebrating New Year's Day 1941 on the Albanian Front

Greek reserves started reaching the front in early November, while Bulgarian inactivity allowed the Greek High Command to transfer the majority of its divisions from the Greco-Bulgarian border and deploy them in the Albanian front. This enabled Greek Commander-in-Chief Lt Gen Papagos to establish numerical superiority by mid-November, prior to launching his counter-offensive. Eleven infantry divisions, two infantry brigades and one cavalry division opposed fifteen Italian infantry divisions and one tank division.[15]

TSDM and III Corps, continuously reinforced with units from all over northern Greece, launched their attack on November 14, in the direction of Korytsa. After bitter fighting on the fortified frontier line, the Greeks broke through on the 17th, entering Korytsa on the 22nd. However, due to indecisiveness among the Greek High Command, the Italians were allowed to break contact and regroup, avoiding a complete collapse.

The attack from Western Macedonia was combined with a general offensive along the entire front.[16] I and II Corps advanced in Epirus, and after hard fighting captured Agioi Saranda, Pogradec and Argyrokastron by early December, and Himara on Christmas' Eve, practically occupying the entire area of southern Albania the Greeks called "Northern Epirus". A final Greek success was the forcing of the strategically important and heavily fortified Klisura pass on January 10 by II Corps. But the Greeks did not succeed in breaking through towards Berat, and their offensive towards Valona failed. In the fight for Valona, the Italians suffered serious losses to their Lupi di Toscana, Julia, Pinerolo and Pusteria divisions, but by the end of January, due to a combination of Italian numerical superiority and their own bad logistical situation, the Greeks' advance was finally stopped.

Meanwhile, General Soddu had been replaced in mid-December by Gen Ugo Cavallero. On March 4, the British sent their first convoy of troops and supplies to Greece, under the orders of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. Their forces were four divisions (57000 soldiers), two of them armoured

Naval operations

At the outbreak of hostilities, the Royal Hellenic Navy was composed of the old cruiser Averof, 10 destroyers (4 old Theria class, 4 relatively modern Dardo class and 2 new Greyhound class), several torpedo boats and 6 old submarines. Faced with the formidable Regia Marina, its role was primarily limited to patrol and convoy escort duties in the Aegean Sea. This was essential both for the completion of the Army's mobilization, but also for the overall resupply of the country, the convoy routes being threatened by Italian aircraft and submarines operating from the Dodecanese Islands.

Nevertheless, the Greek ships also carried out limited offensive operations against Italian shipping in the Strait of Otranto. The destroyers carried out three bold but fruitless night-time raids (14-15 November 1940, 15-16 December 1940 and 4-5 January 1941). The main successes came from the submarines, which managed to sink some Italian transports. On the Italian side, although the Regia Marina suffered severe losses in capital ships from the Royal Navy during the Taranto raid, Italian cruisers and destroyers continued to operate covering the convoys between Italy and Albania. Also, on November 28, an Italian squadron bombarded Corfu, while on December 18 and March 4, Italian task forces shelled Greek coastal positions in Albania.

From January 1941, the RHN's main task was the escort of convoys to and from Alexandria, in cooperation with the British Royal Navy. As the transportation of the British Expeditionary Corps began in early March, the Italian Fleet decided to sortie against them. Well informed by ULTRA intercepts, the British fleet intercepted and decisively defeated the Italians at the Battle of Cape Matapan on March 28.

With the start of the German offensive on April 6, the situation changed rapidly. German control of the air caused heavy casualties to the Greek and British navies, and the occupation of the mainland and later Crete by the Wehrmacht signaled the end of Allied surface operations in Greek waters until the Dodecanese Campaign of 1943.

Effects on World War II

Despite the ultimate triumph of the Axis powers in the Greek campaign, the Greek resistance to the Italian invasion, according to several historians, greatly affected the course of the Second World War. More specifically, it has been argued that the need for a German intervention in the Balkans delayed Operation Barbarossa, and caused losses, especially in aircraft and paratroopers during the airborne invasion of Crete, which affected its outcome. Adolf Hitler, in conversation with Leni Riefenstahl, would bitterly say that "if the Italians hadn't attacked Greece and needed our help, the war would have taken a different course. We could have anticipated the Russian cold by weeks and conquered Leningrad and Moscow. There would have been no Stalingrad".[20] Furthermore, the need to occupy the country, suppress the partisans and defend it against Allied actions, tied down several German and Italian divisions during the course of the war. However, other historians such as Antony Beevor claim that it was not Greek resistance that delayed the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, but instead the slow construction of airfields in Eastern Europe.[21]

At the same time, however, the Greek resistance ultimately necessitated an Allied intervention. The decision to send British forces into Greece was primarily motivated by political considerations, and is considered in hindsight, in the words of General Alan Brooke, "a definite strategic blunder", as it diverted forces from the Middle East, at a very critical stage, to Greece. These forces in the event proved insufficient to halt the German invasion of Greece, but could have played a decisive role in the North African Campaign, bringing it to a victorious conclusion much sooner.

Also important was the moral example, set in a time when only the British Empire resisted the Axis Powers, of a small country fighting off the supposedly mighty Fascist Italy, something reflected in the exuberant praise the Greek struggle received at the time. Most prominent is the quote of Winston Churchill:
“ Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.[23] ”

French general Charles de Gaulle was among those who praised the fierceness of the Greek resistance. In an official notice released to coincide with the Greek national celebration of the Day of Independence (25 March), De Gaulle expressed his admiration for the heroic Greek resistance:
“ In the name of the captured yet still alive French people, France wants to send her greetings to the Greek people who are fighting for their freedom. The 25th of March, 1941 finds Greece in the peak of their heroic struggle and in the top of their glory. Since the battle of Salamis, Greece had not achieved the greatness and the glory which today holds.[24] ”

Greece's siding with the Allies also contributed to its annexation of the Italian-occupied but Greek-populated Dodecanese islands at the conclusion of World War II, in 1947.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Italian_War


............................................

""Maniots, known for their martial qualities, were the first to join the Greek liberation movement. The society called the Filiki Eteria ("Company of Friends") sent their representatives Perrevos and Chrisospathis to organize the Maniots. On March 17, 1821, 12,000 Maniots gathered in the church of Taxiarchs (Archangels) of Areopoli and declared war against the Ottoman Empire. The flag of the revolution was white with a blue cross in the center. On top of the flag there was a sign, "Victory or death". The Maniots were responsible for writing "Victory" and not "Freedom" on their banner since Mani was always free. On the bottom of the flag lied an ancient inscription, "With the shield or on the shield."
...........................................

 
 Respond to this message   
AuthorReply


(Login panos1980)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

April 30 2008, 4:03 AM 

photos:























german tank

























............................................

""Maniots, known for their martial qualities, were the first to join the Greek liberation movement. The society called the Filiki Eteria ("Company of Friends") sent their representatives Perrevos and Chrisospathis to organize the Maniots. On March 17, 1821, 12,000 Maniots gathered in the church of Taxiarchs (Archangels) of Areopoli and declared war against the Ottoman Empire. The flag of the revolution was white with a blue cross in the center. On top of the flag there was a sign, "Victory or death". The Maniots were responsible for writing "Victory" and not "Freedom" on their banner since Mani was always free. On the bottom of the flag lied an ancient inscription, "With the shield or on the shield."
...........................................

 
 

SimosGR
(Login SimosGR)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Megalo Euxaristw

April 30 2008, 9:41 PM 

Thanks for the nice thread and photos file

that facts are the reason that nake me feeling proud of beig greek

and turcos, shut the **** up about greece in WW2, because u were the biggest gaycockroaches, staying neutrally like pussies ad declaring war on axis in the last days of their exist....

Greetings from Germany




 
 


(Login SpartanSoldier)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 1 2008, 3:18 AM 

Hellas was the first Allied country to reclaim axis held land, that is a little known fact.




 
 
nappyheadedHO
(Login Veles25)
Imperium Europeum (Europe)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 6:51 AM 

The Italina offensive was so fullish that eavn Hitler was shocked by it...........
But anyways.Greek resistance proved vary effective..............
Despite the odds.......

 
 

roland
(Login ultrarep)
La Grande Armee (France)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 9:09 AM 

I see one one picture a Bloch 152. I didn't knew Greece had some. How did it do against the Italians ?

The Bloch 150 serie is one of my favorite. The 152, the only one that was ready against the Luftwaffe was seriously underpowered and was inferior to he Me109 despite it was incredibly strong: one went back to base with 360 hit !

Too bad the french fighter industry started to warm up too late before the war. A prototype of the serie, the Bloch 157, powered by a 1580 hp Gnome-Rhone 14R "Météore", couldn't be sent back in the south on time and was captured by the Germans. They tested it and were amazed. It had exceptional performances: 710km/h at 7800m, faster than the P51 Mustang while still more maneuvrable and much stronger than the Me109. They took the engine and sent it to the BMW factory in Germany to be studied.



Sorry for the OT I'm sure the Greek ones did well against the Italians.



 
 

(Login TuAF35LightningII)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 9:12 AM 

Quote:
and turcos, shut the **** up about greece in WW2, because u were the biggest gaycockroaches, staying neutrally like pussies ad declaring war on axis in the last days of their exist....



That's called Byzantine diplomacy

 
 

(Login TuAF35LightningII)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 9:19 AM 

MUHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!





American Empire, Byzantine/Ottoman Empire, British Empire

 
 

(Login TuAF35LightningII)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 9:48 AM 

I wish we were "gaycockroaches" also in WWI

 
 
Reaver180
(Login Reaver180)
Panzer Brigade (Germany)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 11:00 AM 

Bleeding hell, over 60'000 Italians killed? Damn.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 
 

nappyheadedHO
(Login Levend)
Moderators

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 11:27 AM 




 
 

Mario
(Login diquinonsipassa)
The Roman Legions (Italy)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 6:43 PM 

Campagna italiana di Grecia

Perdite italiane nel corso della campagna (dati Ministero della Difesa): 13.755 morti, 50.874 feriti, 12.368 congelati, 25.067 dispersi, 52.108 ricoverati in luoghi di cura.

Greco-Italian War

italian losses

13,755 dead,
50,874 wounded,
25,067 missing,
12,368 incapacitated by frostbites,
52,108 hospitalized

the greek losses were equivalent





Melissa Satta

 
 

(Login VG2000)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 2 2008, 7:39 PM 

Great photos!

But I think that every Greek scrapbook should have this one, just to tell the complete story;



Italian troops on patrol near Acropolis

 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 2:17 PM 

Quote:


I see one one picture a Bloch 152. I didn't knew Greece had some. How did it do against the Italians ?




Greeks didn't have the Bloch 152, they had 9 Bloch 151 aircraft.

They performed well against the Italians, but had overheating problems with the Gnome-Rhone 14N-49 engine. As a result, keeping those aircraft in flyable condition was the biggest challenge-since France capitulated before Greece had acquired sufficient spare engines and engine parts.

Here's a link to a visible drawing of the Bloch 152 which was very similar to the 151:

Bloch 152

The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 2:18 PM 

Quote:


I see one one picture a Bloch 152. I didn't knew Greece had some. How did it do against the Italians ?




Greeks didn't have the Bloch 152, they had 9 Bloch 151 aircraft.

They performed well against the Italians, but had overheating problems with the Gnome-Rhone 14N-49 engine. As a result, keeping those aircraft in flyable condition was the biggest challenge-since France capitulated before Greece had acquired sufficient spare engines and engine parts.

Here's a link to a visible drawing of the Bloch 152 which was very similar to the 151:

Bloch 152

The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 
Landos
(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 2:34 PM 

Bloch 151 aircraft similar to what Greece had:



The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 2:36 PM 

Greek infantry weapons during the war with Italy:

Mortars
323 Brandt M.1927/31 81mm

Machine Guns
400 Hotchkiss M.1914 7,92mm
1,752 Hotchkiss M.1926 7,92mm
2,300 Saint Etienne M.1907 T 8mm
230 Schwarzlose 6,5mm
170 Maxim (sMG 08) M.1908 7,92mm

Automatic Weapons
200 Hotchkiss M.1922 7,92mm
6,000 Hotchkiss M.1926 6,5mm
7.000 Chauchat M.1915 8mm

Rifles&Carbines
50,000 Mauser 7,92mm
196,050 Mannlicher-Schönauer M.1903/14/27 6,5mm
33,650 Mannlicher-Schönauer M.1903/14/30 6,5mm (Carbines)
10,150 Mauser 7,65mm (Carbines)
16,000 Mannlicher 8mm
27,000 Mannlicher-Berthier M.1907/15 8mm
15,000 Mannlicher-Berthier M.1892 8mm
16,000 Lebel M.1886/93 8mm (Rifles/Grenade Launchers)
60.000 Gras M.1874 11mm (Rifles&Carbines)

9,150 Mauser 7,92mm rifles for Gendarmerie
700 Mannlicher 8mm carbines for Gendarmerie
26.000 Mauser 7,65mm rifles for Navy

Pistols&Revolvers
1,150 Colt Army Special 0.38’’ Special
9,980 Browing M.1910/22 9mm
2,900 Ruby-Martian M.1914 7,65mm
550 Nagant M.1898 7,62mm

The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 

roland
(Login ultrarep)
La Grande Armee (France)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 3:07 PM 


Thanks for the info Landos.

Like the MB157 prove, with a little more developpement and a more powerfull engine, I believe the MB150 serie would have made a great fighter.

The french industry was 6 month - one year late for the war. I blame our politicians for that for having started rearmament too late. That was the same for AA guns and radio deliveries.

The Greeks had a lot of french guns, even Chauchats LOL (witch btw was nowhere near as bad as the American legend says (true that there's, with english caliber were specially bad). the first thing that could be assimilated as an assault rifle)




 
 

palioseira
(Login palioseira)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 5:08 PM 


Greece had ordered 25 blochs but we got 9 causse of the nazi invasion of France.

We used also the Potez 63 ( 24 ordered- 11 arrived). Almost all of them went down fighting (and from total lack of spares) against the powerfull regia aeronautica, so when the Germans invaded they were hardly 10-15 aircraft of all types in flying condition.



The model for Greece was the 633Grec with some added bombing capabilities. cant find any pictures of them



 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:42 PM 

Another pic of the Bloch MB151 deployed by Greece:



The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:43 PM 

This is an actual Greek MB-151 on the flying line being evaluated by two RAF personnel:



The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:46 PM 

This is an MB-155, my favorite model. It had the same Rhone-Gnome engine as the MB-151/152 series, but the cockpit was moved back a little to allow more fuel storage behind the engine. This gave the aircraft significantly improved range. Wish Greece had this model, but it wasn't deployed in France until about June, 1940-too late to sell any to Greece. This one, by the way, is in a non-standard landing configuration owing to a muddy airfield.



The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:48 PM 

Hellenic Air Force French Potez bombers:



The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:49 PM 

Greeks also had a handful of Bristol Blenheim bombers, similar to this one. They had about 12 at the start of the war:



The WeatherPixie

Would you trust this man"


 
 

(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:51 PM 

One pilot's brave exploits set the tone for Greece's six-month struggleagainst the Axis

ON THE MORNING of 2 November 1940, the Royal Hellenic Air Force's 22 Pursuit Mira (squadron) based at Thessaloniki scrambled to meet an incoming Italian air raid. None of the squadron's eight front-line pilots knew quite what to expect. None had any combat experience or even combat training. Just five days before, Greece had been plunged into World War II. Italian land forces were advancing over the Albanian border. Their bombers were already pounding Greece's cities.

Among those who climbed nervously into the cockpits of their Polish-built PZL-24 fighters was Pilot Officer (Second Lieutenant) Marinos Mitralexis. That morning it fell to 22 Mira to tangle with the Regia Aeronautica's three-engined CantZ-1007 bombers of 50 Gruppo near Thessaloniki.

Mitralexis got in a machinegun burst at one bomber, sending it weaving erratically around the sky. He didn't know it, but his first fire had killed the Italian pilot, Lieutenant Pasqualetto, and the rest of the crew were trying to keep the lumbering bomber aloft. Mitralexis fired again but missed and soon ran out of ammunition, cursing his bad luck.

Mitralexis' wingman, Sergeant (later Wing Commander) Constantine Lambropoulos, described what happened next: "I was pretty close to Mitralexis and saw him fly his plane straight into the Italian. It was the most magnificent thing I've ever seen."

In one of those gestures often seen in war that defy rational analysis, Mitralexis aimed the nose of his PZL right into the CantZ's tail, smashing the rudder and sending the plane out of control. By some miracle, the bomber made a level landing near the village of Gerakarou, and the four dazed survivors staggered out.

They met a daunting sight. A mob of peasants was descending on them, knives and pickaxes in hand, seemingly determined to finish them off. They heard a shout and saw a diminutive Greek air force officer in flying gear drawing his pistol and warning the villagers away. This was none other than Mitralexis, who had nursed his PZL to earth with nothing worse than a bent propeller. He shepherded the four grateful Italians, now prisoners, to his base on foot.

All Greece thrilled to the exploit. Mitralexis was promoted to Flying Officer (First Lieutenant) and decorated. Artists' impressions, some verging on the fanciful, filled the newspapers and magazines. The midair collision even appeared on a postage stamp.

Constantine Hatzilakos was one of those whose morale rocketed. As an air cadet at the Tatoi air force academy, he and his classmates itched to get into action. With the first air raids they had been ordered to wear their tin hats and man the base's anti-aircraft defences. They had been taught to fly on docile British-made Avro Tutor biplanes, and couldn't wait to grab the controls of the glamorous PZL.

"The PZL's engine made a ferocious noise passing overhead," recalls Hatzilakos, now 88, and a retired air marshal. "It could even do aerobatics and gave our morale a huge boost."

The Tatoi academy was deluged by applicants.

The Royal Hellenic Air Force (RHAF) certainly needed all the morale it could whip up. Rarely has an air force gone into battle as aerially outgunned as the Greeks were in 1940. Whereas the ground forces on the Albanian front (contrary to what is generally believed in Greece) were about equally matched, the RHAF could field just 52 battle-worthy fighters and 27 medium bombers. The Regia Aeronautica, by contrast, had more than 380 fighters and bombers available for Greek operations, their crews' dogfighting skills honed in the Spanish Civil War.

The Greek mainstay was the PZL-24, a strange gull-winged plane made in Poland featuring a rugged structure and twin 20mm Oerikon cannons. There were also some French-built Bloch MB250s and Potez 633 twin-engined bombers, but they did not play much of a part in the fighting. More effective in Greece's bomber force were the British-built Bristol Blenheim IVs of 31 Mira, which hammered some Italian bases in Albania, inflicting considerable casualties.

The Italians had the cream of their aircraft industry in the air. Besides the CantZs, there were Savoia-Marchetti SM79 Sparviero bombers and SM81s, also three-engined and bristling with defences. Escorting them were Fiat CR32 and CR42 biplanes and sleek and deadly all-metal Fiat G50 Freccia monoplanes. They could roam practically at will over the northwest Greek mountains. Among the Italian bomber pilots were the Duce's sons, Bruno and Vittorio, and the foreign minister himself, Count Galeazzo Ciano, captaining CantZs of 47 Stormo that bombed the port of Thessaloniki, causing dozens of casualties.

Greece's pilots hadn't time to think about the heavy odds against them in the first days of hostilities. On the same day that Mitralexis did his death-defying feat, 22 Mira was scrambled a second time to meet 27 Italian bombers escorted by 18 fighters. Sergeant Lambropoulos, flying a venerable British Gloster Gladiator I biplane, was rattled by the size of the attacking force. Nonetheless, he made a beeline for a formation of five Fiats and sent one spinning down. But he found himself in the fight of his life. "Just when I thought all was lost," he wrote, "I tried a repeat of what I'd seen Mitralexis do that morning."

But the wheeling Fiat was a harder target than the straight-flying CantZ. "I stalled, and the Fiats were all around me firing. I got hit on my right side, right arm and right leg. My plane caught fire and I lost consciousness, reviving to find myself in a spin. With all my remaining strength, I pulled the Gladiator back on an even keel, then turned it upside down to bale out more easily."

But the battered fighter wouldn't give up its pilot. The lace on Lambropoulos' left flying boot got caught in the Gladiator's seat frame and he couldn't get out. The plane resumed its vertical dive, the pilot pinned against the fuselage outside the cockpit and unable to move. He was saved, ironically, by a shell that exploded in the cockpit. Shrapnel sliced through the bootlace, miraculously leaving his foot unhurt. "Barefoot but free, I found myself outside the plane. A few moments later, before my parachute could open, my plane broke into a thousand pieces."

Even then he was not out of danger. The Fiats kept on firing at Lambropoulos as he drifted down. They didn't hit him, but his parachute was holed in 52 places.

The first real aerial battle of the Albanian campaign occurred on 30 October 1940, when five Fiat CR42s of 393 Squadriglia jumped a lone Greek Henschel Hs-126 observation plane, slow and vulnerable. The pilot, Pilot Officer Evanghelos Giannaris, didn't have a chance. He was the first Greek airman to die in World War II.

The RHAF's mission was to provide air cover for the Greek 8th Division that was bearing the brunt of the Italian land incursion. The crack Julia Alpine division, in mountain fighting, had created a salient near Metsovo and was on the way to outflanking the Greek defence from the east. No one knew where the Julia was, until an ancient Breguet 19 of 2 Army Cooperation Mira, flown by Pilot Officer Dimitris Karakitsos with Sergeant Ioannis Katsoulas as observer, stumbled on its leading columns. Their report enabled the Greek army to entrap the Julia division and effectively knock it out of the fight.

By then the snow was setting in, and the RHAF performed feats of ingenuity to keep their overworked planes in the air. Supplies and spare parts were running low, fuel was scarce and combat attrition was telling. By January 1941 the RHAF was down to just 28 fighters and a mere seven bombers, despite strong reinforcements from Britain's Royal Air Force.

In March, Flying Officer George Stavraetos of 31 Mira set off in his Potez 633 to bomb enemy artillery positions. After laying a clutch of 500-pound bombs, he flew smack into a formation of new Macchi MC200 fighters. His navigator/observer, Flying Officer Nikos Volonakis, reported: "We were corkscrewing wildly away when we felt violent hits on the wings and fuselage."

The Potez's port engine caught fire and the whole plane juddered. Stavraetos turned to his navigator. "Jump, Nikos, jump," he said. "There's nothing more we can do." As Volonakis baled out, the plane went into a flat spin.

"I saw the skipper jump from the plane which was now completely aflame," he wrote. "But his parachute didn't open. My God!" He saw nothing more as he floated into cloud. Stavraetos' body was found in the snow, his parachute unopened. He had a large wound in his chest, suggesting that he had been hit and unable to pull the ripcord.

In early 1941 it was clear the end was closing in. The Germans invaded Greece in April. On April 20, a few RHAF and RAF units battled the Luftwaffe above Athens just before the city's fall. RAF Squadron Leader John Pattle went up in his Hurricane, fighting off fatigue and a fever, and downed no fewer than 23 German planes before being shot down and killed himself.

At least 37 Greek aircraft were downed in Greece's six-month struggle against the Axis. Greek sources place Italian losses in the same period at 105 confirmed. Greek pilots carried out a total of 23,200 combat flying hours. 51 Greek aircrew died in action.

Mitralexis and the majority of surviving RHAF officers managed to escape occupied Greece and head for North Africa to join the free Greek forces fighting alongside the British in Hurricanes and Spitfires. Three years after the war, he was killed when an Airspeed Oxford he was riding in crashed into the sea on a flight between Rhodes and Athens.


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(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:53 PM 

Most numerous Greek fighter was this Polish design. It was competitive with Italian CR-42 biplanes and could even give a good account of itself against Fiat 50 and Macchi 202. Against the Luftwaffe BF-109E's it was hopelessly outclassed.



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Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:55 PM 

Standard Greek infantry weapon was the Mannlicher-Schoenaeur 6.5 caliber bolt action rifle. It was a fine weapon, but Greeks used anything they could get their hands on because they had only about 200,000 of these:



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(Login Landos)
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Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:57 PM 

French design 65 mm Schneider M 1906 Mountain Howitzer used by Greece in WW2. Greek Army used a lot of French infantry weapons, mostly of WW1 vintage.





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Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 6:59 PM 

Standard grenade used by Greek Army was the French F1 type with the Modele 1936 fuse.



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Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 7:00 PM 

Spanish Ruby-Martian pistol that was used as sidearm by top level Greek infantry officers:



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palioseira
(Login palioseira)
Hellenic Hoplites (Greece)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 7:15 PM 


manage to find this drawing of a Potez 63



Blenheims were the most potent light bombers with one drawback. The brits sold with them bombs that had two hindges (on both ends)to atach to the aircraft while Blenheims had only one. So the HAF personel had to improvise in the mudy airfields of epirus by straping them in the midle with iron rings from ..wine barrels (bet the emptied them on spot )

PZL`s performed much better than any1 could predict. There in no coincidence that in the early 80`s we became the first NATO country to purchase aircraft from eastern block (PZL M18)











 
 

roland
(Login ultrarep)
La Grande Armee (France)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 9:42 PM 


thank you everybody, interesting.

The Potez 63 was liked in Greece and Romania but not in France. Wasn't at the level to fight the Luftwaffe.



 
 

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Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 3 2008, 11:42 PM 

Greek Hotchkiss M.1926 LMG. Greek Army had about 6000 of these and used them widely. They were a French design that Greek technicians made some mondifications to to allow the firing rate to increase from 200 RPM to about 400 RPM. Was used in both the top magazine fed version as well as a belt fed version:



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ODYSSEUS
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Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 4 2008, 6:59 PM 

first of all i must say that i feel proud of our victories against the Italians however i must make clear some misunderstandings concerning the Italian courage and bravery

The Italians fought bravely especially their special forces as Julia division or the Wolfs of Toscane but they fall victims of the stupidity of their military leadership.

The Greek resistance was a remarkable fact and the bravery of the Greek army and courage cannot be put into question for a minute however we should make clear the following:

1)the planning of the assault against Greece sucked big time from the beginning since the attacking forces had not the necessary strength to cope with the opponent who mobilized his forces early in the war and achieved numerical superiority comparing to the forces of the aggressor im talking of course about the initial but crucial stages of the war., later on the situation changed but things became favourable for Greece so the Italian reinforcements didnt make any difference anyway.

2)the tank division of the Italians was completely useless since the terrain did not favour the development and usage of armoured formations

3)the quality of the Italian forces was not appropriate since they send to the battlefield new recruits especially paysants who had never kept a gun in the life and after a shot time of training they were sent to the Albanian front lacking the basic fighting skills

4)the Greek ground forces may have lacked many things especially their ability to carrry ammo and support their logistics in an effective way however they pocessed a powerful artillery and a sufficient number of riffles and machine guns to cope with the Italian assault, but the italians did not have the qualitative advantage which would allow them to overpower Greeks and here we see again that the underestimation of their opponent led them to commit strategical mistakes

5)the ground and the season clearly favoured the defender

6)the Italian airforce and Navy had to cope with the British threat something which forced them to diversify and disperse their forces easing the pressure to the limited Greek airforce and Navy, to this can be added the considerable losses of the Italians because of the British assaults against them in a different case things would be much more difficult for us





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(Login Landos)
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Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 4 2008, 11:52 PM 

The Italians WAY overestimated the effectiveness of their material and technological superiority. It didn't matter that much in the winter and the mountains.

Individual Italian soldiers fought bravely, but I can't believe their hearts were really into it because they knew they were unjustly invading another nation. Nobody wants to lay their life on the line over that, whereas the Greeks were fighting to defend their nation, families and villages.

I don't agree that the Greeks had such great artillery. They had a hodgepodge of ex WW1 weapons, mostly French. Always short of ammunition because they lacked the logistical means to bring it forward from rear storage areas.

But the Greeks usually commanded the high ground and were able to use that advantage to keep the Italians bottled up in Albania by raining what artillery they had down on them.

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nappyheadedHO
(Login Fantaros)
Elite WAFF Vet Club

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 5 2008, 2:10 AM 

Another factor which was negative for the Italian side was that the whole planning was really strategically/tactically inept. Upon entering Greece, they had walked right into an almost complete double envelopment and were nearly completely surrounded and had to make a hasty retreat , this is where they suffered their first serious casualties and had no choice but to withdraw from Greece and then go on the defensive. The Italians did fight decently given the all the factors involved but their generals really were not up to par with Papagos, who showed his superiority out in the field with his "flexible defense" tactic which worked very well and his subsequent invasion of albania.



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(Login Landos)
WAFFer

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 5 2008, 4:24 AM 

I talked to my uncles in Greece who fought in the war. They told me it was obvious early in 1940 that Greece was going to war, so they all started informally training together-doing drill, physical exercise, maintaining their kit and individual weapons and so on. Also, Metaxas started calling up some of the units early.

Also, when the Greek light cruiser Elli was sunk by a-supposed-Italian sub (this was confirmed after the war) on August 15, 1940 the Greeks started mobilizing. When hostilities started 2 1/2 months later, things were already well advanced.

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Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 5 2008, 4:41 AM 

Italian CR-42 fighter shot down by Greek aircraft:



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ODYSSEUS
(Login ontyseas)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 5 2008, 2:34 PM 

well i agree that the defender had the advantage of their high moral, and this also confirms in a way that the lack of training led the Italians to a catastrophe since a better training would have allowed the Italians to balance somehow the Greek advantage, but there were several other factors as well as i pointed out earlier

i still insist that Greece had a powerful artillery comparing to its size manned by skillful crew this fact was also proved during the operation Marita where the Germans owed most of their losses to the effective and powerful Greek artillery which was well suited for the task at hand contrary to the armoured formations which were ineffective and useless in mountainous terrain, so the Greek army was better trained and adapted to conduct mountain warfare than the Italians, but the Germans did not repeat the same mistake and they waged their war using mountain troops and an extensive network of logistics





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ODYSSEUS
(Login ontyseas)

Re: The Greco-Italian War 1940

May 5 2008, 2:44 PM 

speaking of it the Germans commited a serious strategic mistake though, they launched a frontal assault to the Metaxas line and they had many losses because of this stupid military move, it would be better for them to encircle the defenders from behind using the southern Yugoslavian route and Vardar valley something that they did later on but only  after they had lost many troops for nothing



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