The German-Italian Campaign in Greece (1940-1941) Part II

In February there were other offensives by the Greeks who were trying to obtain a decisive victory, before the dreaded German military intervention took place. But every attempt was almost unsuccessful and the opponent had to renounce at first the conquest of Berat and then that of Tepeleni. On 9 March, General Cavallero wanted to resume the initiative, albeit locally, and launched an offensive at the center of the deployment, between Tomor and Voiussa. Due to the insufficiency of forces and the tenacious Hellenic resistance, the battle, which Mussolini had wanted to witness, ended with heavy losses on both sides. But he confirmed that the balance of forces had been achieved.

Meanwhile serious events, foreshadowing the imminent materialization of the German threat, were maturing in the rest of the Balkan. The Hellenic government had received from England, at the beginning of the war against Italy, only 60 planes (in addition to some departments based in Crete) and, in January, another seventy aircraft; he insisted on getting more tangible aid, asking for it to be substantial, as their arrival would in all likelihood offer Germany an opportunity to attack Greece. When, on March 2, 1941, the Wehrmacht divisions passed from Romania to Bulgaria, the British rescue, even at the cost of making a strategic mistake in the overall framework of operations in the Mediterranean, could no longer be delayed,

However, it was always far from the 9 divisions considered the minimum sufficient by the Greek supreme command to face the new enemy. The British expeditionary force, which under General Maitland Wilson began to embark on March 7 in Alexandria, Egypt, and he completed his transfer to Greece on April 4, was formed by the Ist Corps, with 6 in Division Australian, the second in New Zealand, the brigade’s tanks 2 to British armored division, and services auxiliary troops. The 7th year should also have been part of itAustralian division and a Polish brigade, which, however, had to remain in Africa due to the successful Italian-German counter-offensive in Cyrenaica. The expeditionary force was largely equipped with lorries which made it possible, for the most part, to be transported; together with two Hellenic divisions, it formed the Wilson grouping and took up position in central Macedonia, on the Vérmion, between Vevi (20 km. east of Florina) and Katerínē (near the Gulf of Thessaloniki).

On the morning of April 6, the German military intervention against Greece began. In Thrace, he was deployed a so-called “armed” (general K. Bachópulos), in reality there were the 12 toper division, a few companies in the covering sectors and the garrison of the fortifications: apart from three, all the Greek divisions were engaged in Albania, on whose theater of operations the Greek supreme command was determined to insist – as General Papagos explicitly declared – in order to maintain the position of winners towards the Italians. The German army that operated against Greece was under the command of Marshal S. List and included two army corps. One (general F. Böhme), consisting of an armored division and three infantry, moved towards Dojran, pushed into Thrace, immediately occupied Xánthē, Komotinē and Cavala, and attacked the Metaxàs line, engaging it frontally and bypassing it on its right, through the Rupel massif and the high course of the Struma River. The maneuver was successful and a wide gap was opened between the Wilson grouping and the Thracian army, into which the armored division was thrown to aim directly at Thessaloniki. He reached it on April 9, forcing the Thracian army, which had remained isolated, to capitulate. At the same time, the other body of the List army, commanded by General Greece Stumme and formed with 2 armored divisions, 1 motorized by SS “Adolfo Hitler”, 1 Alpine and 1 infantry, from the Sofia region broke into southern Serbia, on two columns; the one on the right (v.yugoslavia, in this App.) made contact with the Italian troops of Albania and the left one pushed on Veles. Immediately afterwards, the SS motorcycle vanguards headed for central Macedonia and, on 10 April, reached Florina. General Wilson, seeing the support of the Yugoslav army vanish, lost all hope of being able to resist on Hellenic territory and decided to reach the southern ports to re-embark his expeditionary force, entrusting departments, mostly Greek, with the task of delay the German march. He began by falling back on Olympus, leaning on the left near Kozánē; However, the position was overcome on the right, along the sea, by Böhme who entered Edessa on the 12th and Verria on the 13th, and, on the left, by Stumme who took possession of Kozánē, after a fierce battle of tanks. The English expeditionary force then tried to cover the Larissa plain, and Stumme attempted to circumvent it by launching the entire SS division along the Grevenà – Kalabáka – Tríccala – Larissa route but was prevented by Böhme, who managed to pass between the ‘Olympus and the sea and, on the 18th, occupied Larissa. Then, the Adolfo Hitler division was diverted to Métsovo and Ioannina, which could reach 19, without encountering any resistance, since by the Greeks, determined to prevent the Italians from invading Greece by means of arms, the Germans were allowed to to be the first to reach the Greek-Albanian borders.

According to, the games were Italian armies to attack the Greek positions on April 14 and, while the 9th contacted the German troops near the lake Ochrida, coryza reoccupied the same April 14 and moved toward the gap to Kapeshtica incontrarvisi with patrols Germanic motorized vehicles dating from Florina, 11 aarmata had to overcome a fierce resistance from the Greeks, who always withdrew fighting with obstinacy and valor, carrying out numerous massive destruction and interruptions, which considerably delayed the march of the Italians. Nevertheless elements of six Italian divisions managed to advance into Epirus and western Macedonia, where they were stopped by German motorized patrols. The bulk of the SS division then reversed course and headed for the Gulf of Corinth, while the New Zealanders tried to stop the remaining German columns at Thermopylae. On 23 April, the gen. Greece Tsolakoglu, commander of the armies of Epirus and Western Macedonia, signed the armistice in Thessaloniki and the whole Hellenic army laid down their arms. On the 25th the German columns reached Livadia and Chalcis and on the 27th Athens, while paratroopers took possession of Corinth and departments of the SS divisions, landed on the 26th in Patras and continued towards the southern ports of the Peloponnese, in pursuit of the British troops who, abandoning the material, sought refuge on ships. It was the Hellenic Dunkirk and Admiral Cunningham communicated that he had saved about 45,000 men by collecting them on the beaches of Attica and the Peloponnese. British casualties in the Greek campaign had been 30,000 dead and wounded and 8,000 prisoners.

Italy employed about 30 “binary” divisions in the enterprise that faced 17 Greek divisions ternary infantry, one cavalry and 3 infantry brigades: despite the continuous influx of reinforcements, the desired superiority and campaign was never achieved, which it was not crowned with success, costing 14,000 dead, 50,000 wounded, 25,000 prisoners and missing, 12,000 frozen.

The German-Italian Campaign in Greece (1940-1941) 2