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Episodes & Studies Volume 2

British Mission to the Greek Guerrillas

British Mission to the Greek Guerrillas

Greece is well suited to guerrilla war. Most of the country is mountainous and the few plains which exist are cut off by ranges of desolate hills. There are no large towns apart from Athens, but the exhausted soil supports a poverty-stricken peasantry in widely separated villages. Roads are few and primitive, and in the mountain areas the only communication is either by foot or on mule. All this makes the country, even in peacetime, difficult to control. But most important of all is the spirit of the Greeks. During centuries of foreign rule they never submitted to captivity but fought fiercely for freedom. The Germans and the Italians had come to Greece as conquerors and were hated.

Even before the Gorgopotamos party arrived in Greece, small bands had taken to the hills from which they carried out minor raids on the enemy. The most important of these bands were those formed by Zervas and Ares. When Myers and his men parachuted into Greece they found that the two bands were few in numbers, had hardly any arms and ammunition, had little training and experience, and were poorly clothed and equipped. During the next two years these bands grew into small armies, the ELAS by far the greater of the two. Its strength at the end of 1943 was estimated at 20,000, and that of EDES at 5000.

After the saboteurs had received orders to stay in Greece and attach themselves to the guerrilla forces, they received arms and supplies from the Middle East. These were distributed to the guerrillas. Also, large sums of money were paid locally for clothing and feeding the swiftly growing numbers. Myers, now a brigadier, became head of what was called the British Mission to the Greek Guerrillas. His second-in-command was Woodhouse; Barnes was liaison officer with Zervas while Edmonds was liaison officer with Ares at ELAS headquarters. Under these men a secret organisation grew, covering all Greece. More and more soldiers came to Greece to join the British Mission, and by the end of 1944 it had four hundred men of various nationalities on its staff.

With the arrival of United States officers the mission was renamed the Allied Military Mission. Woodhouse became its commander after Myers left in September 1943.