On 28th October 1940, the Greek premier, Ioannis Metaxis, refused to accept a deliberately provocative ultimatum from Mussolini and Italian forces began the invasion of Greece via Albania. This aggression was prompted by Mussolini's desire for a quick victory to rival Hitler's rapid conquest of France and the Low Countries. On paper, Greek forces were poorly equipped and ill-prepared for the conflict but Mussolini had underestimated the skill and determination of the defenders. Within weeks the Italian invasion force was driven back over the border and Greek forces actually advanced deep into Albania.
A renewed Italian offensive in March 1941 was also given short shrift, prompting Hitler to intervene to save his ally. German forces invaded Greece via Bulgaria on 6 April. The Greeks, now assisted by British forces, resisted by land, sea and air but were overwhelmed by the superior German forces and their blitzkrieg tactics. Despite a dogged rearguard action by Anzac forces at the famous pass of Thermopyale, Athens fell on the 27th April and the British evacuated 50,000 troops to Crete. This island, whose airfields and naval bases Churchill considered vital to the defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal, was invaded by German airborne troops the following month and eventually captured after a bitter thirteen-day battle. The remaining British troops were evacuated and the fall of Greece completed.
John Carr's masterful account of these desperate campaigns, while not disparaging the British and Commonwealth assistance, draws heavily on Greek sources to emphasize the oft-neglected experience of the Greeks themselves and their contribution to the fight against fascism.
Carr puts the reader into the heat of battle with immense verve, while marshalling the vertiginous torrent of facts and propaganda into clear and orderly prose which is always a pleasure to read. He has evidently visited many of the scenes he describes, which lends physical immediacy to his narrative, and he has studied the Greek and Italian sources with care.Anglo-Hellenic Review
This is an enjoyable read from John Carr. The book tells the stunning but tragic story of the Greek defence against the naked aggression of the Italians. Things progress very well for the Greeks and they manage to chuck the invaders out of their country into occupied Albania. Unfortunately though, they need support from the British and the growing signs of this can only upset the apple cart. The Germans are in the wings awaiting their moment. We don’t have very long to wait.www.warhistoryonline.com
This book, quite rightly, is about the Greeks and what they did to defend their country. We see how the army liked to attack, but didn’t like sitting about and really hated retreating. Unfortunately they get to do all three. There is a long look into the Greek psyche and the honest admission that crippling doubt spread like a cancer once the army had finished walloping the Italians.
Solid straightforward history works for me every time. Perhaps that old rascal Alan Clark would have been more honest if he’d looked in Mussolini’s army for his lions and donkeys instead of the Western Front of WW1. While the incompetence of the Italian top brass is often on a borderline epic scale, make no mistake there was heroism a plenty from the ordinary rank and file right up to a good many battalion commanders. They were betrayed by their leaders because the Muppets calling the shots from Rome were a pantomime show of the worst sort.