World War I: Greece

World War I Salonica
Figure 1.--This photograph was taken in Thessaloniki where the French Army operted. The Allies (British and French) landed at Salonica--in French Salonique (October 1915). This was before Greece entered the War. The objective was to releave the besieged Serbian Army. The ininital effort failed and the Central Powers occupied Serbia, although much of the the Serbian Army escapdd. The photograph here shows Greek Macedonian refugees coming from Vardar district. The photo was probably taken after October 1916, when a big battle took place in the region. Looking at the clothing in the picture, it could be taken in the following summer. The Allies landed additionl troops as well as the Serbian Army which after a terribkle winter msarch over mountin passes had escaped to Corfu.

The Allies and Central Powers offered enducements for the Balkan countries to enter the War on their side. The Balkan countries had fought wars just before World War I. The principal targets were Turkey and Bulgaria. Thus when those two countries joined the Central Powers it helped build support for the Allies in Serbia and Romania. Serbia of course had already been attacked by Austria. This World War I in the Balkans was a continuation of the wars begun earlier, but on a wider scale. Greece which had participated in the Balkan Wars, was more reluctant to enter World War I. This was primarily because of King Constantine. Border disputes with Bulgaria meant that there was support for the Allies in Greece. There were also historic ties with Britain because the Royal Navy had played a role in Greek independence during the 19th century. Primeminister Eleftherios Venizelos wanted to join the Allies. King Constantine was against this. The royal family had ties to the Germans. His wife was German, but the King also thought entering the War was not in Greece's interests, especially as it was not at all clear who would win the War and fighting the Turks, Bulgarians, and Austrians seemed a dangerous undertaking. The King even began negotiations with Germany. Primeminister Venizelos resigned (March 5, 1915). About a month later Venizelos won a substantial mandate in national elections (June 1915). Venizelos then persued efforts to join the Allies. He also wanted to support Serbia. King Constantine continued to oppose this. Venizelos resigned again (October 5, 1915). The Bulgarian army moved into northern Macedonia, at the time occupied by Serbia (October 1915). Venizelos saw this an act of war. He formed a government in Crete and challenged the King. The opposition government consisted of Eleftherios Venizelos, Panagiotis Daglis and Pavlos Kountouriotis. The Venizelos Government began recruiting volunteers. An estimated 20,000 men enlisted to fight the Bulgars. The fighting proved difficult in tough mountenaous terraine. As the King anticipated, the Allies provided only limited support. The Allies continued to try to convince King Constantine to formally enter the War. When he refused, French Admiral Dartigue du Fournet blockaded Athens. The King abdicated and left Greece (June 11, 1917). Prince Alexander became king and agreed to work with Venizelos who formed a new government. Greece declared war on the Central Powers Germany (June 29). This opened a new front in the war. The Greeks deployed 250,000 men in Macedonia.


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Created: 7:52 AM 1/3/2009
Last updated: 7:52 AM 1/3/2009