The battle of Leros during WW2
With the Treaty of Lausanne, the Dodecanese belong permanently to Italy. Mussolini’s Fascism, which took over Italy in the days of post-war poverty and unrest, had been promised to its people a lot. In order to be supported and held, he had to show strength. The power over the weak is easily shown, even if it still does not really exist. The Dodecanese people, thrown unconditionally under the shiny black boot of black fascism, were small in the face of the Great Power of Europe, Italy.
It implements its program, or the Government of the Acquisition of the Islands, a program that is implemented systematically. Economic pressure, Education, Church, Municipal Administration. Four goals. By conquering these goals he will annihilate every force of the people, he will annihilate them. Finance is The first goal. The economics of Leros are: small trade, agriculture, light livestock. Trade collapses easily. As long as the wholesale trade passes into Italian hands. Invasion of the Franks, Levantine, Italian Commercial Company of the Aegean (Compagnia CommerciaIe Italyiana Aegeo) Bank of Rome (Banco di Roma). “All the imports and all the wholesale trade passes through their hands. Our merchants thrive. Taxes little by little, but systematically. Stamp on the licenses of shops, tax on the wine, closed wine, etc. rgia: city plan in Lakki where it becomes a military port and is closed for foreign flagged ships. The city plan takes almost all the vineyards of Lakki. Expropriation in favor of the Municipality of Lakki, which is an Italian municipality. (Appointed Mayor) For the armament of the island, which began after the First World War and gained momentum and intensity in the Italian-Abyssinian War, but for this all artillery is needed in the mountains. And it’s a lot. And the area where it is closed is large. ‘Here neither expropriation is needed. No compensation of course, prohibits the cutting of bushes, the fields become forested and automatically become the property of the State. With this plan of fortification, most of the fields escaped from the hands of the villagers. This is how agriculture is beaten and at the same time livestock that is deprived of food. But the beautiful partridges and the rabbits find shelter. This is needed for the entertainment of the Italians. Few Lerians have a hunting license. Farmers must resort to the labor wage. Part-time hunger. They fall into the dependence of the local commander. There is work and workers from other islands are invited. Even from as far as Karpathos. Cement and iron were loaded on Leros: Naval Base with submarines, destroyers, torpedo boats, , etc., with 6,000 personnel. At Gonia, the Ai Giorgis airport, with military aircrafts at Lepida. Auxiliary services and air force 2,000 men. Artillery at all peaks. One hundred and five cannons planted in the mountains of Leros.
On September 3, 1943, Italy capitulated by the Allies and on October 13 declares war on Germany.
THE FORCES OF DEFENSE
The English Prime Minister Churchill in the History of World War II writes:’ The guard we had at Leros was limited to the formation of a single brigade. There were three British battalions that had been excluded from Malta and the famine, and had not yet fully recovered from the point of view of their physical strength. In other words, it was around three thousand, eighteen cannons and 515 tons of material. Leonard Marsland Gander, a war correspondent who was at the Battle of Leros, writes: “The fort seems to have been made up of about 3,000 Britons and about 8,000 Italians. The British force consisted of a battalion of the Royal West Kents and a battalion of the Buffs. There was also a battalion of Royal Sovereignty. A group of Buffs sank at sea to the Island, but according to the information most of them gathered and returned to Alexandria “. The total strength of the Italians according to their archives were at 8 of September: Regular 7,602 and 697 Marines and Air Force 20 aircrafts. In the History of the Italian Navy we read: “For all the needs of the defense, A total force of about 8,000 men was present, of which about 6,000
26 SEPTEMBER 1943
German planes sink the destroyer “QUEEN OLGA” and cause serious damage to the British “INTREPID”. We read in the History of the Italian Navy The formation of 25 JU 88 reaches over Leros at a very high height and reaches without being perceived, because from the west, with the fall of Syros island in the hands of the Germans, all possibility for signaling and pre-alarm was lost .
But the artillery had airphones. Those who were in Lakki at that time, heard the alarm of “Queen Olga” and after the Fire (second wave jU 88). Captain Spingai forgets that there was still a Genoese artillery in Patmos, and in Levitha the observatory and the artillery of Markellos (Farinata) had airphones. None of these points warned? The alarm was always given and after a few minutes we could see the planes. Two or three minutes would be enough for the result of that day’s bombing to be different. Our shepherds saw the planes when they were still in Levitha. It is strange how the Anti-Aircraft Defense Command from Patella did not point them out. Based on these thoughts, one gets to the point of accepting not as a boast the confession of the non-commissioned officer who commanded the Lepida observatory, that “he did not give an alarm, because he knew what the ‘Greek ship was like in Lakki and that would kill Mr. Captain Spingai or his book also informed the authors of the history of the Italian Navy who write the same. The results of the first German raid that day were heavy and were supplemented by a second wave, this time beating St. George. In the afternoon of the same day we saw again in our sky the jU 88 to rush into Lakki. This visit was accepted by the base of Lakki, except for Ai Giorgis, where most of the bombs fell. Indrepid ended in Temenia with more victims now.
GERMAN AIR RAIDS ON LEROS
From September 26-30, 190 air raids took place in Leros. A few bombs escaped military targets. The City of Leros is bombed On the ninth of October, in addition to the military targets, the city of Agia Marina also received the first dose. Several bombs fell on residential areas scattered. Fortunately, the population had already left the city and had plunged into the caves. So we did not mourn the victims. The neighborhoods of Agia Paraskevi and Christos received the most bombs, which were probably intended for Merovigli, the center of the air defense, with the most perfect anti-aircraft cannons, of the latest type of 90. Taxiarchis was not excluded, the cemetery, at the feet of Merovigli, above the city. The church was disbanded, crosses were scattered in the fields, from below, crosses from the memorials, bones of the dead and even hands and other members from corpses. It was a macabre image. From the 15th of October onwards, the duration of the bombing was all day. They started at sunrise, to end at dusk. So all day long the civilian population was buried in the caves. From Kryfos to Alinda, most of the people were crowded. There were no shelters in the city. The law of indivisibility had been abolished. Those who could not sit in the caves could stand. Even the absolutely necessary exit from the cave was blocked by the … occupants. If anyone dared to go outside, to breathe, or to see if his house was still standing, he immediately accepted strong male and female protests and re-emerged in his place. There was also a case of childbirth in the caves. An English or Italian blanket came to be a screen and to separate the midwife from the public. The demonic whistling of the bombs, where they fell, broke even the strongest nerves, because those locked in the caves could not see the graphic spectacle of the bombs that fell nor the planes and they felt that they were far away. Fortunately, the weather was good for most of our life. Only in the days of the battle did he become fierce. At dusk general exit. All roads are very busy. In Lakki it is shorter because there were shelters in the city and the distances were short. Unlike in the old town, Agia Marina-Platanos, they had to start from Panagies to come and see what was left in their homes from the bombings of the day. Suitcases on the shoulder, bags in the back, bags in the hands. Bottles of drinks, as a rule, replaced the currency in the food market, by soldiers, English and Italians, above all by English, because the Italians also accepted liras. They were more condescending. The cheapest shops were the piles of English food, scattered everywhere, usually under trees. If an English guard succeeded with a bottle of cognac, he could give a good supply. There was also no lack of meat from animals, goats, sheep or oxen, which were killed by a bomb. Supply was not difficult. On each evening visit to the city, everyone would close the doors and windows of their house or shop, nailing them, because the locks had been broken, or tying them with wire, to make them appear closed until morning, when the first bombs will fall and they would all open wide again.
9 OCTOBER 1943 AIR STRIKE
All day from the caves, those who looked towards the city, we saw the bombs falling. They raised gray-black clouds of smoke and dust that kept us anxious until they disintegrated and we saw what was left standing. Many times we said: “There it goes Panagia tou Kastrou! there it goes ‘Agia Paraskevi’ “, but when we saw them in their place through the gray-black clouds from the bombs. But as scene of hell was being removed, the whole white church of the Virgin Mary appeared, an invincible consolation to tell us “the storm will pass”. Only our Castle was seriously injured. This is the picture of life in Leros in the period from September 26 to October 31, 1943. It was already obvious how the Germans were determined to win the battle of Leros with every sacrifice. That is why they beat the defense to paralyze it and beat the civilians to ruin their morale. So they dropped bombs not only on military targets but also on the city, where there were no soldiers or civilians. Even in the churches. In addition to the church of Taxiarchis, which, if we have already mentioned, the church of the Prophet Elias west of the Castle was also demolished. The city of Leros suffered great damage. As it became known later, by a German officer, the “reference point” in the bombings was the current scout club in Plakes, next to the church of Theoskepasti. Oriented there, they dropped bombs into the city. East of it, on October 9, two loads of bombs, about twenty, were unloaded. Fortunately, they fell into the sea along the beach, 15-2O meters from the mainland. The target, of course, was the beach houses. Few did not manage to fall into the sea and fell into the warehouses of Tsalikis and Giannoukas, which we still see demolished today. The dust paints of the Tsaliki warehouse, rose in colored clouds of dust and filled the city. Stones were hurled a hundred meters away and pierced the roofs of houses. We did not have any human casualties that day. On October 14, several houses were demolished in Agia Marina. The author of this book found himself in a kitchen where part of its roof fell on him and fortunately threw him up with algae and soil.
THE AIR STRIKE OF 26 OCTOBER 1943
Of all the attacks in the city, the most devastating was on October 26. Significant day, the celebtation of “st Dimitrios” Shortly before noon, a roar was heard from the west as loud as we had never heard before. There must have been a lot of bombers. It was not long before the herd appeared. I counted thirty-seven. I was shaded behind the wall of the field and I was watching them. They were coming from the part of Mouplogourna. They came over the Patriarchate. I saw all the unloading and all the hell that was created in the city. The spectacle was terrifying. For a moment I believed what the uprooting of the whole city was like. I could not believed in my eyes. The city was still standing! But the color of the uphill from the old road Tsigada Passa, until Agia Paraskevi had changed.From most of the houses only a few walls were left standing. Around the church of Agia Paraskevi almost everything was demolished. Dominated over the ruins the tall church with its small bell tower, a symbol of hope and faith, but also a historical monument, on which priest Papanastasis’s robe waved as if he raised the Greek flag in 1933. On the first of November, no bombs. Not the next day either. This rest lasted until November 6. “We spent six days only with sparse reconnaissance flights. We got discouraged, we came out of our caves, we talked: Another army has come? What is happening in Italy? In Russia? Do you think the Germans have forgotten us?
BEFORE THE GERMAN LANDING IN LEROS (NOVEMBER 11, 1943)
With a few losses, the Germans transferred their forces from Piraeus to Kalymnos and Kos. Now it was not impossible nor was it too difficult for the German amphibians to reach the nearby shores of Kalymnos, where they were hiding and land on the shores of Leros.The Germans were the former allies of the Italians,so they knew very well the arrangement of the minefields around Leros. They even knew the vulnerabilities of the defense. They knew the zones that were invisible from the artillery that they had to defend. The deep Lagada, opposite Piganousa, below Turtouras, behind the Castle, in the bay of Pitiki, between Brouzi and Aspri Pounta, from Kryfos to Pano Zymi and in the cove of Vagitas which they could approach even a thousand meters from the mainland. in fact, in the bay of Pitiki, from 1,500 meters away from the mainland, the amphibious was not endangered by the cannons of fires. The Germans knew all this and would certainly take advantage of the weaknesses of the Defense. Only the south side of Leros had no dark spots. Gourna was by nature suitable for landings, but the cannons of the artilery covered it everywhere with crossfire. Its beach was attractive for amphibians that could reach smoothly to the beach. On the eleventh of November the fever rose. Heavy traffic, many cars in circulation, just as night fell and the flights stopped. As the darkness thickened, the floodlights fell hurriedly like lightning on the sea. These points made the civilians return to the caves earlier than usual.
FIRST DAY OF THE BATTLE
All the signs of the night of 11 to 12 of November were bad. Skoumbarda’s artilery fired much more often than last night. At dawn, the example of Skoubarda was followed by all the altileries, especially the heavy ones: Klidi-Pitiki-Vigla. Actually an ordinary story, but that dawn went on and on and generalized in an unusual way. Open from Brouzi, a flotilla of 7 small boats was going up to the North West. The Fire Brigades greeted them with enthusiasm. The shells of bright projectiles, golden red in the sweet light of dawn, came over them, from all over the northeastern side of the island. At one point the shells lifted the sea in front of the boats, so much so that at one point they rushed out of my sight. Do they sank them? One of them stood out from the comrades, and sailing against them and from the left, he covered them with clouds of smoke. When the smoke had dissipated the ships seemed to be moving farther west, and soon came out of the field I could see. Gander, from Merovigli was watching them, he writes that an Englishman next to him said to him: “if we had at least the Maltese gunners on the island, without delay they would have shaken the whole attacking gang”! The artilery of Brouzi is absolutely quiet, I do not see any movement. Perhaps the enemy ships were out of range of the 76/40 cannons. Less than 15 minutes passed and I saw a γερμαν amphibious boat emerge from the side of Kryfos and descends towards Panagies. The Brouzi artilery was still quiet. I then saw a missile coming from St. Demetrius fall on her from an English Beaufort cannon of 48mm, which was set up under an oak tree. Second and third followed. The sailors of the artilery broke out and began to attack the boat. The first missile missed a lot. I saw them all in orbit. The second approached but passed high, and this was followed by others, as long as the boat approached the Virgin Mary intact. At the exact height of the church she received a first missile from St. Demetrius, which passed over her bow. It was followed by three on top of it in the middle and four more on the stern. At the same time, a black column of smoke rose from the boat. She made a sharp turn right towards the mainland, received four more at the stern and half-submerged approached the mainland, did not manage to reach it and sat in the shallows leaning to the right.
Throughout the night of the 12th to the 13th, that is, towards the second of the battle, the English transport planes were buzzing over us. We already knew their characteristic buzz. They came undisturbed because the Germans did not circulate at night. This is a great fortune for us, because that way we could sleep stacked in the caves. We guessed how they were throwing supplies and we expected that we would have reinforcements from the sea as well. The visits of the English planes continued until dawn. Cannonballs were fired from the sea at the Key, and fiery cylinders seemed to cross the curve in the dark and fall into the fort. And on the heights of Alindon we accepted some. They even seemed to be sent to Pitiki. It was fleet bombing, of course allied. At dawn, the sniper rifle started again, before the Stukas appeared, while the cannons did not stop all night.
At dawn on Monday 15 November found the Castle surrounded. From the rocks of Prophet Elias the Germans controlled his shattered door. But now the Castle had many doors. The German bombs had opened them. But they did not need the secret doors either, because neither reinforcements could enter nor exit was easy since there was no ground around in allied hands.
With the surrender of Italy 3/09/1943 the islands of the eastern Mediterranean were of vital strategic importance to the Allies, the Axis and neutral Turkey. Although Churchill recognised this, the Americans did not and refused to help. Thus once more the British went into battle against the Stuka dive bombers and the parachutists of the German Luftwaffe and suffered a heavy defeat despite some spectacular sea and land battles.On the 26 0f September 1943 the Germans attacking the Naval base of Laki with 25 airplanes JU88 and sank the Greek battle ship QUEEN OLGA causing also great damages to the British HMS INTREPID.After almost 50 days of continuous air strikes they attempt the first landing on Leros on the 11 of November 1943.The island finally surrenders to the Germans on the 16 of November 1943.
The following account is taken from “The King’s Own — The Story of a Royal Regiment” by Col Cowper
At the conclusion of its course of combined operations 1/King’s Own had returned to Syria, no more than twenty-five miles from Beirut, where Brigadier Barraclough was commanding. Here, on November 1 1943,the battalion received orders to go to an unknown destination which later turned out to be Leros, considered by H.M. Government to be of paramount importance. All ranks embarked in destroyers at Alexandria on November 3 and arrived at Leros at 2 a.m. on the 5th. On that day, when 8/King’s Own left Malta for Egypt, the garrison of Leros consisted of 4/Buffs, 2/Royal Irish Fusiliers and 1/King’s Own, with some light A.A. gunners and Indian engineers. The Italians were manning coast defence guns, reinforced by four eighteen- pounders. As nothing bigger could use the narrow roads the transport consisted of a few jeeps with trailers. Deep bays broke up the island into a shape not unlike a butterfly flying northeast with a varying span of some eight miles and a body two miles long. 4/Buffs held the northern wing with ‘C’ Company, 1/King’s Own, under Major W. P. T. Tilly, located as “Fortress Reserve” just north of Gurna Bay. 2/Royal Irish Fusiliers with a company of Royal West Kent defended the centre portion, which included the neck of land between Gurna and Alinda Bays and Leros town. 1/King’s Own was responsible for the southern area.
On the day that Cos fell the Admiralty had ordered strong naval reinforcements, including five cruisers, to the Aegean from Malta, and General Eisenhower sent two groups of long-range fighters to the Middle East as a temporary measure, but they had been withdrawn on October 11 and throughout the week in which the Regiment was preparing to resist the impending attack there was no air support of any kind. 1t was therefore only by night that Allied ships could operate without crippling kits. By day, in spite of continuous air attacks, there were remarkably few casualties, but the effect on morale was considerable. Telephone wires were constantly cut and this, together with the unreliability of the wireless, made control difficult. The main air attack was directed against the Italian gun positions which were effectively silenced. Captain H. P. J. M. Burke was on a course in the Middle East when he heard that the battalion was going into action, and he applied for and obtained permission to rejoin. He had to make his own way in a minesweeper and succeeded in reaching the Regiment a few hours before the action began.
It was about 4.30 a.m, on the morning of November 12, when the light was beginning to grow in the east, that the German invasion fleet was sighted. The Italian coastal guns were powerless to prevent the German troops from being put ashore in Palma Bay and near Pasta di Sopra on the north-east coast of the Buff’s’ sector, also in Tangeli Bay near Leros town, This last landing was staunchly resisted by the Royal Irish Fusiliers, but although they prevented the capture of the two features of Castle Hill and Mount Appetici, they were not strong enough to drive the enemy back into the sea.
The Buffs had insufficient troops to cover the whole of their area and during the morning the enemy secured a footing on Mount Clidi. Major Tilly’s company of King’s Own was hurried to the scene in jeeps. When it deployed to attack, the fire of its machine guns was smothered by that of the German mortars and the first effort was checked. The men rallied and gained a little ground, but in the confused fighting which followed they were slowly forced back westward. They were struggling, not only against numerical superiority on the ground, but also against persistent and almost unhindered air attack. In the early afternoon Major Tilly sent a platoon to his right to occupy a small ridge running towards Alinda Bay and so to join up with the Roya1 Irish Fusiliers, No sooner was this move completed at about 2 p.m. than fighter-bombers swept over the island from the south- west. They sprayed fire from the machine guns in their wings and pounded the rugged slopes with high explosive. Behind them flew the slower Ju.52’s and from these bellied out mushroom-like puffs. Some five hundred parachutists descended on the neck of land between Gurna and Alinda Bays which had so recently been vacated by Major Tilly’s company. A few German parachutists were shot down by small-arms fire and a Bren gunner of ‘C’ Company claimed a spectacular hit when his victim fell like a driven partridge into the sea, but in spite of a stiff breeze the majority dropped successfully from a low height. In this position they effectively divided the island in two and isolated the Buffs and ‘C’ Company King’s Own from the rest of the garrison. While a fight ensued in the centre with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, Major Tilly launched a counter-attack on Mount Clidi with the survivors of his company. In hand-to-hand fighting the enemy was pushed down the forward slope and in the course of the advance Major Tilly was wounded. With the arrival of enemy reinforcements the company was forced back thirty yards before it could consolidate and hold on. Lance Corporal J, Hall noticed that Major Tilly was not there so he went back under fire from close range and within throwing distance of hand grenades. He found his company commander and brought him back to safety. In its new position the company was reinforced next day by a platoon of Buffs.
In order to dislodge the enemy paratroops train their position on the neck, it was the brigadier’s intention to counter-attack with two companies of Fusiliers and ‘B’ Company, King’s Own. The two companies of Fusiliers had already been fighting hard and to reorganise them and ensure their concentration in the darkness proved difficult indeed. Of the three companies only one arrived at the rendezvous, so the operation had perforce to be postponed. During the night more German troops were landed to strengthen the forces attacking Mount Appetici.
November 13 dawned with cloudy skies, high wind and heavy seas, but this did not prevent the enemy from landing more parachutists to reinforce the others. The resistance on Clidi that day was overcome and the Germans were able to concentrate on the built-up area along Alinda Bay. The paratroops attacked from the north east while those in Tangeli Bay took Mount Appetici and Castle Hill at about noon. For the rest of the day the heavy attacks or the Luftwaffe prevented further action, but at 2 a.m. on November 14 a counter-attack was delivered. In spite of every effort only one company of Fusiliers and ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies King’s Own, could be collected for it. ‘A’ Company, commanded by Captain D. J. P. Thirkell-White of the Suffolks with Captain C. J. Blyth as his second-in-command. was directed on to the searchlight and gun position at the top of the hill. ‘D’ Company had to cover dark ground which abounded in caves, each one of which had to be assaulted separately, and platoons therefore were forced to act independently. Touch between the companies was soon lost. ‘A’ Company reached the first gun position, after which it came under heavy fire from the flanks, the company commander and two of the platoon commanders were killed. Blyth also was wounded and in great pain, but he continued to lead the company into the attack until he was again wounded in the neck and died on his way back to the regimental aid post.
In spite of heavy machine-gun fire from the left flank, ‘D’, Company was able to gain ground and eventually, step by step, forced its way to the top of the slope where the situation was much confused. Here Major M. R. Lonsdale was wounded, Burke and Mathieson killed. Meanwhile the Germans launched an attack under cover of the fire of their mortars which threatened the safety of Fortress headquarters. ‘A’ Company was withdrawn from Mount Appetici. ‘D’ Company, with the Fusiliers, continued to hold the crest until well after dawn when, after heavy mortar fire, the Germans, “every man a Tommy gunner,” attacked in their turn. They could not be held and the King’s Own and Fusiliers were forced back down the hill amid showers of grenades.
‘C’ Company and the Buffs retook Clidi and, after capturing a hundred and thirty prisoners, re-established control of their part of the island. ‘B’ and H.Q. Companies attacked the German paratroopers from the south-west. O.C. ‘B’ Company, Major G. H. Duxbury, went forward alone at one point, bombed two enemy rnachine-gun posts and was mortally wounded while going on to deal with a third. This made it possible for the two companies to gain ground and take prisoners When all other officers of his company were killed, Captain R. L. P. Maxwell, on being ordered to send out a patrol, led it himself and was also killed. Many of these casualties were caused by accurate bombing and machine-gunning by the German aircraft. Confused fighting continued in many quarters after dark when two more companies of the Royal West Kent Regiment were put ashore in Portolago Bay from Samos. On the 15th there was more fighting on Clidi during which the hill was once more lost, but elsewhere the Germans were kept in check. The fourth company of Royal West Kents landed that night. A hundred and seventy German prisoners were sent to Samos; but the Germans were, at the same time, bringing in important reinforcements at Alinda Bay. They were estimated at a thousand fighting troops and certainly had 88-mm. guns, tractors and other heavy equipment, On the 16th, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘D’ Companies having re-formed, the battalion concentrated for a final attack on the area occupied by brigade headquarters near Appetici Hill, but before it could be launched news was received of the island’s surrender. The total number of casualties is not known. Fifteen officers were killed; of those wounded, five were evacuated and three were included among the fifteen taken prisoner.* Some sixty other ranks were killed and an unknown number wounded and prisoner.
The withdrawal of the American fighters had sealed the fate of Leros. With no air support and heavily attacked by enemy aircraft, the three battalions had fought for five days until they were exhausted and could fight no more. The Commander-in- Chief, Ninth Army, General Wilson, reported to the Prime Minister: “Leros has fallen, after a very gallant struggle against overwhelming air attack. It was a near thing between success and failure. Very little was needed to turn the scale in our favour and to bring off a triumph.” Everything was done to evacuate the garrisons of the other AEgean islands and to rescue survivors from Leros, and eventually an officer and fifty-seven other ranks of the King’s Own rejoined the details in Palestine.
The evacuation of the Dodecanese came as a shock to public opinion at home. It was the first reverse since the summer of 1942 and it came at a time when differences between the Allies were becoming apparent. There were many of the enemy who hoped that these differences were sufficiently serious to prevent effective co-operation. Although the Allied leaders had agreed that the war against Japan was to take second place until Germany was defeated, it was inevitable that American public opinion should be largely focused on events nearer home. They saw their way clearly in the Pacific and were confident in their strategy of advancing by bounds under cover of their predominant aircraft, seizing one valuable island base after another until they should be able to invade the mainland of Japan. For the British, on the other hand, it was not a matter of policy but of hard necessity that Germany should be defeated first. The submarine war was still going well for her; it still seemed possible that the aggressive power of Russia might be seriously curtailed; it was moreover known that the enemy was developing a number of long-range weapons which might pound London and other British cities into ashes. The Burmese war had long been fought by men who could ill be spared from the Middle East, but the Japanese fleet, strong in capital ships, constituted an ever-present danger. In order that the British Empire should play a sufficient part in the war in the Far East, some new divisions were formed in India in 1943 and the air arm there was reinforced. But Japanese naval power was still such that there was no hope of recovering Burma by the obvious method of first taking Rangoon.
These points were discussed in December, 1943, when the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States met in Cairo. Even after it had been confirmed that the prosecution of the war against Germany should be the first object of Allied strategy it was not easy to settle differences about the relative value of the campaign in Italy and the invasion of north- west Europe. Eventually it was agreed that a successful landing upon the coast of Normandy should take priority over all other plans; this was to be supported by an invasion of the French southern coast at the expense of the Italian campaign; the Burma project should go ahead with the troops already allotted to it.
At this time 83/Anti-Tank Regiment was still carrying out garrison duties and continued to do so in Syria, Iraq and Egypt until it was disbanded at the end of 1944. Neither 224 Battery nor 262 saw any further active operations. When the news of Italy’s surrender reached 8/King’s Own in Egypt a joint celebration took place with the neighbouring unit, a battalion of the Royal Yugoslav Guard. The King’s Own was under six hours’ notice for a destination which was afterwards discovered to have been Leros. With the capitulation of that island the orders were changed to Palestine where, appropriately enough, the battalion replaced 1/King’s Own in 25th Indian Infantry Brigade of 10th Indian Division. When it reached Innasariye in northern Palestine it found that the brigade was standing by in case of disturbances in Beirut, but this danger passed by early December and the King’s Own moved south to Beit Juja Camp near Gaza, which was to be its home.
On this small Greek island of the South East Aegean Sea fought English Scottish Irish Indians South Africans Australians Canadians New Zealanders Italians Germans and Greeks
VICTIMS : APPROXIMATELY
68 GREEK OFFICERS & SAILORS FROM the Greek Battle ship QUEEN OLGA
1948 LEROS AND THE DODECANESE ARE UNITED WITH GREECE