The first airborne troops of the British army landed in Greece on 4 October, 1944. England’s main goal in this country was not to defeat the German forces however, far from it, but a speedy advance to meet Soviet Marshal Tolbukhin’s troops, which had just carried out a successful operation to liberate Yugoslavia. With no resistance from German troops, the English hurried to occupy the liberated territory so as not to let the Russians into Greece.
Peace did not follow their arrival in Greece. On the contrary, military operations broke out with renewed vigour. The English were opposed to the powerful communist partisan movement ELAS. As a result, the British “liberators” began military operations against the Greeks.
Here are just a few facts about what today has become a completely hushed up conflict:
– In November 1944, General Scobie, Commander of the British forces in Greece, issued an order to disarm the ELAS units. Communist representatives in the Cabinet refused to sign a decree ordering the disbanding of ELAS and on 2 December they resigned. The next day, a 500,000-strong demonstration took place in Athens directed against the actions of the government and the British command. Weapons were used against the demonstrators by the authorities. On 4 December 1944, fighting began between ELAS units on one side and British and government troops on the other, and ELAS members took control of Athens and Piraeus. The fact that ELAS units were not cleared out of Piraeus until 12 December 1944 gives some indication of the seriousness of the fighting. In Athens, British troops were surrounded and they only managed to get themselves out towards the end of the month. In addition, two divisions were redeployed to Greece from the Italian front.
As we can see, there were so many ELAS supporters in the Greek capital that they took control of the whole city easily. British troops opened fire on demonstrators, showing which side of the conflict they were on. Remember that it is exactly for these kinds of actions that London condemns Gaddafi and Assad these days.
This is what Winston Churchill wrote in his book “The Second World War”:
“On Sunday, December 3, Communist supporters, engaging in a banned demonstration, collided with the police and civil war began. The next day General Scobie ordered E.L.A.S. to evacuate Athens and the Piraeus forthwith. Instead their troops and armed civilians tried to seize the capital by force. At this moment I took a more direct control of the affair. On learning that the Communists had already captured almost all the police stations in Athens, murdering the bulk of their occupants not already pledged to their attack, and were within half a mile of the Government offices, I ordered General Scobie and his 5,000 British troops, who ten days before had been received with rapture as deliverers by the population, to intervene and fire upon the treacherous aggressors. It is no use doing things like this by halves.”
– All in all, from 3 December 1944 through to 15 January 1945, British aircraft flew 1665 sorties over Greece, destroying 455 automobiles, four artillery guns and six locomotives.
– The English managed more or less to establish control over the territory of mainland Greece only after six weeks of heavy fighting. On 12 February 1945, an agreement to end the civil war was signed in Varkiza, under the terms of which all the ELAS units withdrew from the regions of Athens, Selanik and Patras.
– The majority of ELAS fighters ceased hostilities and went home. Representatives of the democratic government, however, along with the humane nation of the “free world”, breached the agreement and began to arrest them in their hundreds and shoot them without trial.
– In the end, the situation exploded as a result of the so-called “general” elections, which took place on 31 March 1946. The communists and a number of democratic parties accused the government of falsifying the results and putting pressure on voters. It is appropriate to mention that police brutality did not abate for the whole of 1945. The elections served as a pretext for a new confrontation. The first open conflict took place in July 1946, when government forces tried to rid the Vermion and Olympus Mountain regions of communists. Despite the fact that those on the offensive were supported by tanks and Spitfires, the attacks were unsuccessful. The ELAS units had wide support among the country’s population, vast experience of guerilla warfare with the Germans, and there was also the fact that there were quite a number of secret allies in the Greek army. A new round of civil war began in the country.
– The war in Greece lasted until the beginning of 1949, in other words a total (with breaks) of five years!
– According to official figures, government forces suffered losses of 12,777 people killed and 37,732 soldiers and officers injured, while pro-communist units suffered losses of 38,000 killed, and there are no figures for the number injured. But how many of those killed and tortured were civilians? The country lay in ruins; the Germans, when retreating from Greece, did not manage to destroy their lines of communication properly, which was done by the Greeks themselves – not without the help of the English and the Americans, of course.
The history of the Balkans, and especially Greece, is a clear example of the wretchedness of a black and white view on history, a history in which Stalin and the USSR are blamed for everything, while the West is always right in everything they do.
Nikolay Starikov is the Russian historian and civil activist.