World War II Liberation of Greece: British Landings (October 1944)

British landings in Greece
Figure 1.--This RAF photograph was taken October 5, 1944. The caption reads, "RAF lands in Greece: The first arrival on the mainland of Greece of our firces, which included British labd forces and units of the Royal Air Force Regiment; met with a wildly enthusiastic welcome from the inhabitants. On a beach in Greece, BAC. Frank Harper, 160 Canongate, Edinburgh (left), and BAC Edward Carswell, Ivy Cottage, Stanley, Stoke-on-Trent, members of the RAF Regiment, share their early morning breakfast rations with a little Greek boy." He seem to be enjoying breakfast with his new friends. Notice what looks to be a landing craft in the background.

The British Government was concerned about a Communist take over in Greece. The British wanted to invade Greece in early 1944, but were unable to interest the Americans who were focused on Normandy. They planned a series of small actions in the Agean. Operation Accolade focused on the Dodecanese Islands. Operation Hercules was planned to assault Rhodes. After the Germans began withdrawing and ELAS seized control in Athens, Primeminister Churchill ordered a small force to accompany the Greek government-in-exile home. Lieutenant General Ronald Scobie was appointed to command Force 140 in Opperation Manna. British troops in 1944 finally entered Greece as the Wehrmact withdrew north--Operation Noah's Ark. This was the second British landings in Greece. The first had confronted a very different Wehrmacht (April 1941). Noah's Ark was an unopposed landing. The southern area of Greece had been evacuated by the time the British began landing, although there was still fighting going on in thre north. Force 140 first landed on the Peloponnese. The Special Boat Squadron (SBS) captured Araxos airfield. Parachute troops dropped at Megara (October 4). The British occupied Athens and Peiraias (October 14). The remainder of Force 140 landed soon afterwards. The biggest problem for the British was the Greek ELAS Resistance forces and within only a few days fighting flared.

D-Day Deliberations

The British Government was concerned about a Communist take over in Greece. The British wanted to invade Greece in early 1944, but were unable to interest the Americans who were focused on Normandy. Somehow out of this disagreement, the Alliance managed to achieve the perfect sollution. The British disuaded the Americans from acting eashly before they were prepared. The Americans helped to prevent wastefull effoirts in the Mediterranean and ensure that the reluctant British committed to an incason in 1944 when delay woulsd have been disatrous for the future of Europe.

Operation Accolade/Hercules (September-November 1943)

The British planned a series of small actions in the Agean. Churchiill was determined to launch the attack. Operation Accolade focused on the Dodecanese Islands. Operation Hercules was planned to assault Rhodes. Churcholl say it as a way of following up on the Sicily invasion. The British failed to gain American support for the enterprise. General Eisenhower was dubious about diverting resources from the planned cross-Chasnnel invasion to Italy. Operations in the Aegean struck him as a British attemp to delay the cross-channel invasion. Fasilure to gain American support significantly limited the resources available. The LRDG, SBS and various other Allied units participated along with assorted Naval assets. The British seized Leros, Cos and Samos and several smaller islands (September 1943) as preparation for the planned invasion of Rhodes. The German reacted quickly. The Luftwaffe made a key difference as British air cover did not extend to the Aegean. The Luftwaffe flew in reinforcements to Rhodes. The Germans retook Cos (early October). Thev British suspended operations (Late November), They suffered over 5,000 casualties and lost 26 ships.

German Forces in Grrece: Army Group F

The German Arny Group F in Greece were commanded by Generaloberst Alexander Löhr. There were four coros made up of 10 divisions and 0.3 million men. Four divisions were ion the mainland and three divisions in the islands. There were six fortress brigades abd 33,000 sailors who were mostly used to man coastal artillery. There were 12,000 airmen, including FLAK gunners. LXVIII Corps commanded by General Helmuth Felmy was in southern Greece. XXII Gebirgskprps Corps commanded by General Hunert Lanz was in Epiros. XXI Gebirgskprps Corps commanded by General Paul Baeder was in Albania. XIC Corps was in Thessaly. Occupation duty in Greece was fairly easy compared to what German forces were enduring on the Eastern Front and adter D-Day in France. The German commanders in Greece, however, followed reports of the Red Army moving into the Balkans with increasing concern.

German Withdrawl (September 1944)

The Red Army began pushing into Bulgaria and Hungary (August 1944). The Germans finally decided to evacuate the Greek mainland so that they would not be cut off in the Balkans by the advancing Red Army. Even Hitler conceded the point and apprived the order (August 26). On the same day, Bulgaria withdrew from the Axis and declares its neutrality. The Germans attempted to keep the evacuatioin secret as units are quietly shifted north. The Germans succeeded in airlifting some combat units off Crete, but British aircraft carriers moving into the eastern Meditteranean meant that German garisons on other Greek islands were isolated. The Germans begin the evacuation of the Aegean Islands (Septembe 2). The British land unopposed on the Greek Island of Kythera off the Peloponnese (September 10). On the same day the Red Army enters Sofia, making the German position in Greece increadsingly perilous. The Germans ecacuate Rhodes (September 12). The Eighth Army’s Greek Mountain Brigade take Rimini on the Adriatic coast (September 21). On the same day, German Army Group F began to evacuate the Peloponnes peninsula. Army Group E negins the evacuation of western Greece (September 27). Tito and Stalin agree to allow the Red army to enter Yugoslavia (September 28). The Germans surendered the last of the Greek islands under their control (Masy 1945).

British Preparations (September 1944)

The British assembled a substantial naval force (Force 120). It began operating in the Aegean to intercept any German evacuations of the islands by sea. A military force (Force 140) was organized under the command of Lt-General Ronald Scobie. Force 140 was assembled at Alexandria.

Operation Manna: British Landings in Greece (October 1944)

British troops in 1944 finally reentered Greece as the Wehrmacht withdrew north. This was the second British landings in Greece. The first had confronted a very different Wehrmacht (April 1941). The British action was aimed at assisting the Greek Government in its efforts to prevent a take-over by Communist-dominated ELAS insurgents. Two reconnaissance forces landed on the Peloponnese. The British launched Operation Manna with 2nd Airborne Brigade landing at Patras (October 4). The British also land on Crete and the Aegean islands to the north thst had been targeted as year earlier. The Russian 46th Army at the time was 10 miles from Belgrade. Force 140 first landed on the Peloponnese. The Special Boat Squadron (SBS) captured Araxos airfield. Parachute troops dropped at Megara (October 4). The remainder of Force 140 landed soon afterwards. These forces then headed for Athens. The British took Corinth as Army Group F begins escalates its retreat from Greece (October 10). The southern area of Greece had been evacuated by the time the British began landing, although there was still fighting going on in the north. The Germansfinally evacuated Athens (October 12). They had been hanging on to the city as forces to the south ecacuated. The British liberated Athens and Piraeus 2 days later (October 14). They salso land on Corfu. The main British force, supported by the Balkan Air Force, landed at Piraeus (October 16). Primeminister Churchill ordered a small force to accompany the Greek government-in-exile home. Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, arrived in Athens (October 18). He proceeded to set up a new governmernt. British troops occupied Salonika (October 31).

Operation Noah's Ark

Noah's Ark was operations launched by Greek guerrila fighters in association with the British to harry the retreating Germans. It was the resistance counterpart to Operation Manna. XXI Gebirgskorps Corps retreated through Scutari and Cattaro against opposition from the Albanian partisans. The other three German corps in Greece had to pass through the Skopje bottleneck located in Yugoslavia near the Greek border. Here Greek Guerrillas launched attacks. XXII Gebirgskorps Corps suffered casualties at Yannina. All this took place with the Red Army entering Yugoslavia from Bulgaria.

Fightng with ELAS

After the Germans began withdrawing, ELAS seized control in Athens. The biggest problem for the British was the Greek ELAS Resistance forces and within only a few days fighting flared.







HBC






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Created: 3:03 AM 11/30/2008
Last updated: 3:03 AM 11/30/2008