Beginning of problems - National division
(source: G. Mezeviris Vice- Admiral R.H.N.,
"Four decades in the Service of the R.H.N", Athens 1971)
When Turkey joined World War I, some sporadic cases of involvement of Greece in the War started to appear. However Greece’s wish to remain, if possible, away from the Great powers war and continue its reconstruction effort following the Balkan Wars was apparent.
Gregory Mezeviris narrates:
“The naval circles in Greece were deeply moved when the Allied Navies tried to break into the Dardanelles Straits. It had then been said that Greece had been invited to join the Allies for this operation and that the Prime Minister was agreeable to the idea, but the King refused. For the Greek naval personnel the participation of our Fleet would have been the realization of an old dream. Who among all us, fighting in front of the Straits just two years earlier, was not dreaming the day our ships, after so many centuries, would sail to Constantinople the Capital of the Palaeologues? There was a bitter sense of disappointment because a unique opportunity to see our flag streaming among those of the Allies was being lost. We were however keeping these thoughts for ourselves; politics weren’t influencing yet those serving the armed forces and our officers knew well that they were not qualified to judge the decisions of the Head of the State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in victorious wars. [see: The Balkan Wars 1912-13 Days of Glory Part A’ & Part B’]. The disastrous failure of the Allied operation of breaking into the Dardanelles Straits and the heroic but pointless loss of so many Allied ships contributed even more to the strengthening of these beliefs and we continued our work, without being influenced by articles in the press and the discussions of those dabbling in politics.
From the autumn of 1915 war events in the eastern front multiply. The new Dardanelles campaign, after bloody sacrifices on land and at sea, seems to be a definite failure. Bulgaria joins the Central Powers. French and British troops land in Thessalonica. Serbia is invaded by German and Austrian armies. The Greek Prime Minister maintains that our allied obligations compel us to rush to assist the Serbs. The King disagrees, the Government resigns and Parliament is dissolved. Political passions worsen, foreign propagandas thrive and the Press cultivates intensively internal division.
1915, Happy hours onboard the b/s "AVEROF"
The turmoil that was created could not leave the Navy unaffected. We continued working as before but our discussions are not about professional matters and jokes anymore; they take a political shape. Until that period most of the officers were completely indifferent concerning the persons forming the Government and the younger ones didn’t even know the name of the Minister of the Navy. Now some officers, while still not criticizing intensively the King’s policy, would justify the Prime Minister who resigned and maintain that Greece could no longer abstain from the war effort. These officers were especially influenced by the position taken on the matter by the Admiral of the Balkan Wars P. Kountouriotis who, while being close to Royal Court having served as adjutant to King George I, supported the position that led to the resignation of the Government. Most officers however continued believing that their personal views and wishes should not lead them in judgments on matters of such importance, especially when ignoring the diplomatic negotiations that were taking place. Besides the King was the only person qualified to judge if and when the supreme interest of our nation would impose joining the War. Those who shared these beliefs were mainly the conservatives and those who defended the old notions about military discipline. I was one of them. While, however, our only motive was our loyalty to the Supreme Commander of our armed forces and our sympathies were on the side of the Entente, the Allies behaved in such an ill-considered way that they succeeded turning these sympathies to outright hate against them.
The national division
From the moment the French and the British landed in Thessalonica they abandoned the caution they were showing till then, not limiting to behind the scene actions and promises, but started to exercise pressures and provoking public sentiment. Those arguing that Greece should join the war effort with no delay had now an additional argument: Abandoning neutrality would keep us clear of humiliations. To others, this behavior had the exactly opposite result; up to the point, unfortunately, that in the tragic period 1916-17 they were looking forward to the victory of the Central Powers as the only way to regain our national sovereignty. Besides, the evolution of war operations in that period was so unfavorable for the Entente that the policy of neutrality followed by the King seemed justified. More fanatical were those belonging to the small minority of the Germanophiles; some of them were so imprudent as to publicly express their beliefs, a behavior that doesn’t suit officers of a neutral country and is detrimental to the official policy followed by the State.
As was the case with the rest of the Greeks, the Navy officers were progressively divided in two camps. The first of the venizelists or the Ententephiles included those believing to the infallibility of the Prime Minister, those who believed that at the end the Entente will win and those who believed that independently of the result of the War Greece should be on the side of those fighting against her recent enemies. The other camp, the royalists or Germanophiles, included those law-abiding by character that recognized that only the King had the right to declare war, those who believed to the victory of the Central Powers and considered that Greece had to lose less remaining neutral than being on the side of the losers, those wishing the victory of Germany as the only way to get rid of the pressures of the French and British and finally a small number of Germanophiles. For the majority of this camp it was unfair however to attribute the label of Germanophile, the indignation for the humiliations inflicted by the Allies was not due to our sympathy for their opponents.
The battleship “LEMNOS” onboard of which I was serving was the center of the Germanophiles with the only exception of Rear-Admiral D. Papachristos, the Squadron Commander, who as a real patriot refused any involvement in politics and was irritated by some vivid manifestations of a few fanatic Germanophiles. On the other hand, on the b/s “AVEROF” the vast majority of the Staff was Ententephile.
With the upheaval that this situation created and with the long stay at the Naval Base of Salamis, service onboard the battleship became dull. I had personally found a way out in the writing of two books on Electricity for the staff of the Royal Hellenic Navy, published by the Ministry of the Navy [see: “Books”] and in collaboration with other colleagues a Firing Textbook for battleships of ‘LEMNOS’ type. I was also a regular contributor to the Naval Newsletter published by the printing shop of the b/s “LEMNOS”, the first naval magazine issued before the Naval Review started being published.
In April 1916 I was transferred to the b/s “AVEROF” to be used at last in the specialty I had working on, as Director of the Electricity and Torpedo Department. The results of the systematic work done in the previous 5 years on this ship were apparent and her organization very good. The Staff included many likeable colleagues and under different circumstances life onboard would have been quite pleasant. Unfortunately, political passions had worsened to such a point that, in spite of my effort to avoid involvement in political discussions, I have often been in difficult situation. In a particular case, a harmless joke I made regarding a politician so much enraged a colleague -who later became a good friend- that he challenged me to a duel and we exchanged witnesses. They succeeded in finding a solution by providing mutual explanations and thus the matter was settled.
The sorry events continued. After the repeated violations of our neutrality by the Allies, the invasion of the Bulgarian army in Greek territories and the fight-less surrender of the fortresses were a heavy blow for the supporters of the policy followed by the Greek State. Of course, after having allowed one of the opponents to use our territory as base for war operations, it would have been very difficult to refuse the other without actively participating in the war. Surrendering to the Bulgarians territories liberated by our Army just three years earlier had a different effect on the soul of every Greek patriot, than allowing the Great Powers to provisionally occupy land on which they had no long-term interest. For those of us belonging to the so-called royal camp, it was only our complete trust to the patriotism of the King and the belief that the Central Powers will win that persuaded us that the policy followed was the correct one. On the other hand, those supporting the opposite started abandoning any reserve and in the discussions between them started talking about treason, a word that half of the Greeks begun using for the other half.
At the beginning of June 1916, there were rumors that the French were planning to occupy Athens to make arrests including members of the royal family. The new Government Zaimis accepted some requests of the Allies and this brought provisionally some relaxation to the situation that was not to last too long.
In July 1916, the Commander of the Battleship Squadron Rear-Admiral D. Papachristos engaged me as his Flag Lieutenant on his flagship, the b/s “AVEROF”, at the great astonishment of those aware of his ententephile feelings. However his choice of an officer of known opposite ideology to a position of trust was in line with the whole attitude of a loyal soldier that honestly and sincerely executed every order during all the period he accepted to remain as Commander.
Towards the middle of August, while Rumania was joining the war against the Central Powers, we were getting intelligence that a powerful Allied fleet was assembling in the island of Melos. Early in the afternoon of August 18, 1916 the watchmen on our ships reported the appearance of a large number of war ships in the Gulf of Keratsini and soon after we were observing ships laying anti-submarine nets in the channel leading to the Naval Base of Salamis. The impressive French- British fleet under the command of the French Admiral of the Mediterranean
Dartige du Fournet, included 6 battleships (of which 5 French), 5 cruisers and many destroyers and auxiliary ships. What a powerful force to impose the will of the mighty upon a small state!
The Commander of the battleship Squadron ordered me to immediately disembark, go to the Naval Base and have a telephone call with the Minister of the Navy Admiral I. Damianos. Report to him the arrival of the Allied fleet and the net barriers laid in the Naval Base channel and ask whether our ships should go to war alert and forbid the continuation of the anti-submarine net laying. The Minister’s answer was: “No, no, I ask the Admiral not to take any action whatsoever”. I transmitted this answer to the Commander who simply replied “good” without making another comment. His was apparently relieved with this answer, because if he was ordered to react he would have done so to the limit, as honor and military duty impose, although he personally believed that Greece’s interests dictated not to consider the Allied fleet as enemy.
After the Minister gave these instructions, the battleship Commander expressed his intention, in line with international regulations, to send an officer to the French flagship to convey the salutation of the Greek Admiral and to settle issues relating to the exchange of formal visits. With respect I submitted to my Admiral my belief that international regulations cannot be applied in the present case, given that the Allied fleet had arrived in our Naval Base without warning and with the laying of anti-submarine nets had taken an action against our national sovereignty. I also added that since we were not given authorization to defend the honor of our Flag with our weapons, at least we shouldn’t take the initiative of taking humiliating for our Navy steps. The Admiral listened to me with attention, agreed with my opinion and postponed any action concerning the exchange of visits. Three days later however, eventually following steps taken by the French Embassy, the Ministry ordered him to pay a visit to the French Admiral.
I was present in this first encounter of the two Admirals, as I could be used as interpreter. My admiral pretended suffering from stomach troubles to explain the delay of his visit. The Frenchman replied: “I can see that you are very feeble and you should take care because these stomach troubles can often have serious consequences. This answer was facilitated by the sickly appearance of the Greek Admiral and was not an expression of irony.
The French Admiral explained that he didn’t come with enemy intentions and in the contrary the Allied Governments would have been happy to contribute to the liberation of the territories occupied by the Bulgarians. He added that he wished to ask two things only from the Greek Admiral: Greek ships to abstain from transmitting encoded radio telegrams and allow free movement of the Allied ships in the Gulf of Elefsis to confiscate enemy cargo ships anchored there. Our Admiral, probably on the basis of instructions from the Ministry, accepted both demands. Besides these requests were minor compared to those addressed to the Greek Government and to those gradually expressed the following months. The French Admiral himself characterized these demands in his memoirs [Vice-Amiral Dartige du Fournet: “Souvenirs de guerre d’un Amiral”] as “unbearable humiliations that caused increased irritation on part of the Greek public opinion”. The French Admiral immediately returned the visit onboard the b/s “AVEROF”, but I wasn’t present in this second meeting.
Following these events, the difference in opinions between officers developed in outright hatred and loss of trust. A rumor was circulating that the venizelists had the intention to launch a revolutionary movement and this obliged the officers who were loyal to the Government to continuously remain onboard, watching over the ships’ safety. The situation was so pitiful that, contrary to any rule of discipline, the Minister asked me in private about the political beliefs of my chief! I complained with indignation about the suspicions concerning a person commanding respect and a real soldier.
The following scene is characteristic of the daily humiliations of our national pride: A few days after the arrival of the Allied ships, a French steam launch with an officer onboard arrived at our Naval Base and started circulating among the ships, stopping momentarily at their stern, the officer noting on a pad the name of the ships. I reported the fact to the Admiral and he ordered me to board a steam launch and rush to meet the French and let him know that “if the officer was in need of some piece of information I had orders to provide it and therefore he could spare the trouble of having to circulate among the Greek ships. I transmitted this message to the French Junior Lieutenant who appeared very uneasy; he warmly thanked me and added that he was in no need of information but wanted to simply confirm if a destroyer sent to a mission was returning from Elefsis! He nevertheless interrupted his tour and headed to Keratsini.
The daily emotions and the continuous internal fight of the Commander of the battleship Squadron had shaked him morally and physically and towards the middle of September 1916 he announced to me his intention to submit a request for a monthly regular permit. I had the courage to tell my opinion to the Admiral; I considered that it was not right for him to leave in these critical moments. I however realized that his decision was final and that he didn’t intend to return to the Fleet, unless Greece joined the War. The Minister of the Navy who had realized how valuable was in that period a Commander of the Fleet loyal to the Government and ententephile at the same time, tried hard to make him change his mind. It was pointless. On September 23, 1916 Rear-Admiral Papachristos striked his flag and G. Kalamidas, the Commander of the b/s “LEMNOS”, provisionally assumed the duties of Squadron Commander. A few days before, Eleftherios Venizelos, Admiral Kountouriotis and a significant number of officers had been to Crete and then to Thessalonica to declare their revolutionary movement.
The new Squadron Commander kept me in my duties as Flag Lieutenant and was transferred from the b/s “AVEROF” back to the b/s “LEMNOS”. The few ententephile officers of the battleships that participated in the movement were the more fanatics. So, there was a relative calm on the ships after their departure. We were living in such an atmosphere of political passions that we had stopped trusting each other. Two documents offer insight in the perceptions of the two camps in that period.
The new Commander of the battleship Squadron upon assuming his duties on September 24, 1916, issued instructions number 40 written by myself, that included the following:
“I am proud because I know that those who tried to violate their oath have found few imitators in the battleship Squadron and in the Navy in general. I am persuaded that, in the future also, those who serve under my command will not be tempted by anyone and will continue to provide their enviable example of adherence to their oath to the Country and the King and their blind obedience to the orders of their superiors. All must realize that only if they behave in such a way they will prove that they have set as their life objective the service of their Country in the context of their military duties and are entitled to boast that they are real Greeks and real soldiers.”
On the other side, on October 14,1916, Admiral Kountouriotis addressed from Thessalonica a letter to all officers that hadn’t participated in the revolutionary movement, through Captain G. Kakoulidis who remained at Keratsini onboard the cargo ship «Marienbad». This ship operating under the orders of the French Admiral was used to collect those who were abandoning their ships to join the movement. The letter was an invitation to join the mutineers, addressed to all those who felt the sacred nature of the struggle that had been launched and still trusted the Admiral who had led the victorious campaigns of 1912 and 1913. It was further stressed in this letter that they shouldn’t listen to those trying to mislead them by claiming that they will become perjurers, because perjurers were those who violated the Constitution and delivered their country to their traditional enemies. And the letter ended: “ It is so apparent that our struggle is sacred that officers must know that if they don’t join our movement they will not be able to advance any excuse and as a result, following these explanations, I will not trust those who will not rush to join our camp as soon as they receive this letter. I am absolutely sure that very few will remain in their illusion, with the exception of those who acting on the basis of other motives do not recognize the honorable struggle we have undertaken to save our Country. With the help of God we will succeed.”
If we judge today impartially, given the time distance and from an historical point of view, we must recognize to the honor of the Greek officers that the motives that dictated the actions of most officers of both camps were purely patriotic. If among the officers some were opportunists regulating their actions on the basis of their personal interest, they were only a small minority.
The first group accession to the revolutionary movement was followed by a few isolated; their example was imitated by a limited number of non-commissioned officers and sailors. Those who stayed loyal to what was called by the mutineers “The Athens State” remained the majority. The hopes of the leaders of the movement that the ships’ staffs and crews would rebel and lead them to the side of the French Fleet did not materialize with the only exception of two torpedo boats and the reserve battleship “HYDRA” anchored in Piraeus that had no fighting value. At the initiative of her crew, the b/s “HYDRA” was towed by French tugs in the Naval Base of the French fleet at Keratsini. In his memoirs the French Admiral narrates as follows the very strange event: “The Commander of the b/s “HYDRA”, Captain XXX, decided to deliver his ship in such a way only after many hesitations. How did he come to that decision? We must unfortunately admit that our director of the intelligence service boasted that in order to influence this officer he used a trick for which France should be ashamed and would have been obliged to denounce in case an official inquiry unveiled the truth and the matter was recognized as exact.”
I must stress that, as it results from the whole book of the French Admiral, he did not trust the information provided by the head of this service; he considered that this officer was exceptionally uncritical. However, if what he wrote is inexact, as I hope it is, a very serious lesson can be drawn from this story concerning the kind of risks run by those who collaborate with foreigners in similar cases.
The seizure of the Royal Hellenic Fleet by the Allies
When the French Admiral started to despair that it was not possible our Fleet voluntarily to be placed under his orders, he resorted to violence. As a preliminary measure, 4 battleships, 3 French and 1 Russian, had moved to Skaramanga to place our Fleet between two fires of the almighty Allied Fleet! On September 27, 1916, just before sunset, a French steamboat accosted the b/s “LEMNOS” and the officer onboard delivered to me an envelope, asking to be opened and be answered immediately. The Squadron Commander was absent and I opened the envelope myself. With great astonishment and emotion I read the document requesting the delivery of our whole light fleet with the personnel wishing to remain onboard and putting out of commission the battleships; the breechblocks of their guns had to be removed and transferred along with ammunitions to the warehouses of the Naval Base and their crews reduced to one third.
The only answer I could give was that “In the absence of the Squadron Commander there was no answer. After a while the Commander returned from Athens and after reading the letter ordered me to disembark and go to the Naval Base of Salamis and request by telephone orders from the Minister of the Navy. The letter of the French Admiral had been also addressed to the Greek Government and right then the Council of Ministers was meeting chaired by the King to decide on this ultimatum. The Minister called me after a while and asked me to convey to the Squadron Commander that we should announce to the French Admiral in the deadline set (8 o’clock of the following morning) our acceptance of his request. In parallel, the Minister instructed to start immediately executing on the battleships what was requested, while he would inform the Rear-Admiral Commander of the light fleet concerning it’s delivery.
The announcement of what had been decided created of course irritation in the Fleet and the more hot-blooded maintained that we should react with violence to the claims of the Allies. Their opinion was that it was better to sink the ships and that we shouldn’t deliver them for any reason. This was of course an absurdity of the moment due to our indignation. There could be no case for serious resistance because, besides the overwhelming power of the Allied Fleet, most of our ships were running short of combustibles and our destroyers hadn’t collected their torpedoes from the Naval Base. Sinking our own ships, a measure that could have been necessary if we were facing a real enemy, would have been crazy because there was no doubt that some day they would be given back. Finally, if we refused to execute orders given by our Government we would also become mutineers with much less excuses than those that joined the Thessalonica camp. Thus, mourning in our hearts and with tears in the eyes we executed the orders we were given.
Just before 8 o’clock in the morning I was boarding the French flagship to transmit from my Commander the acceptance of the requests. Until noon that day, what had been requested from the battleships had been executed. Early in the afternoon Allied torpedo boats, tugs and fishing ships arrived at our Naval Base and accosted our light ships to tow them. Thus the light cruiser “ELLI”, all the destroyers and the torpedo boats, the submarines and the auxiliary ships anchored at the Salamis Base were towed away to Keratsini. Since noon the Greek Flag had been dipped on our ships and all the crews had landed. No one had accepted to voluntarily remain onboard. An American Press reporter, I had been ordered to accompany, followed the scene of seizure of our light Fleet from the deck of the b/s “LEMNOS”. He expressed his impressions in a long telegram that was disgraceful for the Allies.
The crews that landed formed a naval landing force that was used as order keeping force in Athens. Having been obliged to abandon their ships under these conditions it’s no wonder that they were very fanatic against the Allies and the Greeks collaborating with them. Their fanatic attitude came out actively at the events of the following November. Instead of trying to explain the reasons that created in that period enmity against the Allies, even by us who had been used to like them since our childhood, I’ll let the French Admiral Commander of the Allied Fleet do the explaining:
“The seizure of the Hellenic Fleet was seen as a success and many spectators of the operation considered that they ought to congratulate the Commander. I can now however confess that in the contrary I suffered because events obliged me to use violence against a weak, neutral State under the guardianship of France, against a Navy in which we had many friends. I had to do it and I did it. But there wasn’t and there isn’t any reason to be pleased or to boast about it.”
[From the memoirs of Admiral Dartige du Fournet]
I must confess that we never attributed to the Admiral the feelings he describes in his book. The destiny of military commanders is to carry the weight of actions of which they are simple executors.
The battleships Squadron Commander retained his position after their de-commissioning and I remained his Flag Lieutenant. We were working under tragic conditions. We were surrendered from all sides by foreigners and Greeks who were ill disposed against us. At a short distance from the b/s “LEMNOS” the cargo ship “MARIENBAD” was anchored and walking on her deck we could distinguish our mutineer colleagues. We were worried that they would attempt to seize the battleships by surprise, as the ships disposed for their defense only a small number of guns. For this reason we were taking original security measures, especially at night. We could not then imagine that in the future, even in the absence of any national crisis, these security measures would become for a long time current procedure in our Navy.
Towards the end of October 1916, the French flag was raised on the light ships seized by the Allies and the French seized the Naval Base of Salamis. Because the situation was developing in such a way, we could not exclude that we would be asked to turn in the battleships as well. Thus we used all our ingenuity to render their use practically impossible. We hid parts of the guns and the engines ashore; we intentionally made wrong connections in the complicated electrical installations and transferred their plans to Athens. The steam pipes had been altered to such degree that if someone tried to put the ships under steam he would face bad surprises.
Combustible shortage had rendered our stay on the battleships unpleasant and unhealthy. For light we were using kerosene lamps and were missing heating and ventilation. Living conditions were also quite strange at the Naval Base were Greek and French authorities co-existed. The new Commander of the Naval Base was a Greek Captain approved by the French, officially belonging to the “State of Athens” but in reality supporter of the “State of Thessalonica”. The situation was so impossible that when the Minister of the Navy asked me to a confidential telephone call, I was instructed to use the private line of the Base Commander asking him however to leave his office! I was very ashamed but I executed the order and the Commander enraged left his office.
The Greek Army resists
Then, after the refusal of our Army to turn-in their weapons as requested by the Allies, the landing of the Allied landing forces and the clashes with our Army and the bombardment of Athens, the events of November 14, 1916 followed. The situation for us serving on the battleships was especially distressing that day. We were anchored de-commissioned in the middle of a foreign fleet that was now executing war operations against our Country. While in the suburbs of Athens Greeks defending the honor of our weapons were being killed, we were just watching as powerless spectators the b/s «MIRABEAU» anchored near-by shooting against our Capital! When we learned that under the pressure exercised by our Army the Allied landing forces retreated we were taken by unbelievable enthusiasm. We knew however that very soon poor Greece would pay very dearly for her heroic attitude.
Missions in Athens at the head of a naval landing force
We were informed that in Athens the venizelists had taken up a provocative attitude and we were running the risk to have to face soon a civil war. As I was getting indignant with the forced inactivity onboard the b/s “LEMNOS”, my Commander approved my request to be transferred to the naval landing force until the re-establishment of public order. The following morning I reported for duty, as volunteer, to the Captain Commander of the naval landing force at the Headquartes of the Military Command of Athens and asked him to assign me to any mission I could be useful. I was assigned three missions:
The first mission concerned the escorting to Piraeus of an Italian sailors landing force, taken prisoners by the Philoppapos monument near the Acropolis. The difficulty of the mission was securing the safety of the Italian landing force from attacks from the enraged population. I was determined to keep the promise I had given to the Italian Junior Lieutenant in charge that his men would not be attacked. Their weapons had already been sent to Piraeus and only the officer had retained his handgun. The Italians were to be transported to Piraeus by train. The prisoners walked to the train station of Athens surrounded by two lines of armed Greek sailors and in the train I ordered to seal the windows to protect the Italians from stone attacks. I safely drove them to the docks were steamboats were waiting for them. I there realized that the poor Italian Junior Lieutenant was severely reprimanded by the Lieutenant waiting for them, for having accepted his men to be disarmed.
The other two missions were more disagreeable. They were aiming at arresting two prominent venizelists and searching their homes for weapons and incriminating documents. I found the first in his home and asked him to follow me to the Athens Military Command Headquarters, after assuring him that I would not allow crowds in the street to hold him up to public ridicule. The second one was not home, having apparently left with his whole family. I could just search the house and found nothing incriminating. I executed this search alone in order to avoid entrance to the luxurious living rooms of my extremely fanatic men. It is true that several misdeeds took place that day against the venizelists in which took part men from the naval landing force. However what was said about numerous bloody events is not true at all. Several among those that had been mistreated were well-known agents of the foreign propaganda and the popular rage against them was natural.
As it was to be expected, the first countermeasure taken by the Allies was the blockade of Greek shores. Then the Allies formulated new demands aiming at removing our last means of resistance that were accepted under the pressure of the situation.
Beginning March 1917, I was transferred to the General Staff of the Navy Headquarters to cover needs that had been created when several officers left to join the revolutionary movement. Under the prevailing conditions there could be no interesting job in the General Staff; this position was nevertheless preferable to the depressing service at the de-commissioned battleship Squadron. I was transferred to the Direction of Naval Operations headed by a superior officer of great theoretical knowledge but who had for years interrupted all contact with the Fleet. He assigned to me some research more related to mathematics than to actual staff maters. With these duties and with reading historical and staff books I tried to forget the tough reality.
With the passage of time, stocks of food started depleting in the Country and the consequences of the blockade became much more noticeable. We were leaving however in such a world of illusion that being hungry had as only result to enrage people even more and lead them to unprecedented expressions of enthusiasm that reached their culmination on May 21, 1917, the Royal name-day, that preceded by a few days the final scene of the drama.
Inconsiderate staff promotions
Not only as a people we had lost touch with reality but even our authorities had no clear understanding of the situation. How else can we explain the inconsiderate measure taken a short time before the end of the adventure that created a precedent to similar measures taken by the authorities of the “State of Thessalonica” after their installation in Athens with incalculable long-term consequences on the peace of the Greek armed forces?
It was natural, provisionally at least, to remove from the ranks the officers that had joined the movement. There was absolutely no reason to immediately proceed to mass promotions to cover the vacancies created and in addition it was pointless to give the insulting explanation that these promotions were done to reward the officers for their law-abiding attitude! I was lucky because due to my recent promotion I was not among those in line for promotion. After the installation in Athens of the Thessalonica Government these promotions were invalidated and those wearing the insignia of their new rank had to remove them, at a loss of prestige for them and for the Corps. A number of the officers that had been promoted under these conditions had been smart enough to continue wearing insignia of their old rank, sparing thus for themselves the embarrassment of self-demotion.
The Allies drag Greece in World War I
When in the spring of 1917 the war situation of the Allies had reached a critical point after the failure of their attack on the western front and the dangerous intensification of the submarine war, they decided to officially drag Greece in the War by imposing in Athens the pro-Allies Government of Thessalonica. On may28, 1917, the Allies seize the Isthmus of Corinth and thus cut-off the only armed forces loyal to the Government based in Peloponnesus. The “State of Athens” is thus defenseless at the disposal of the Allies that formulate a new much more painful demand for our people: they demand the abdication of the King in 24 hours. With the announcement of this ultimatum, church bells toll in mourning and crowds assemble in front of the Royal Palace. The more hot-blooded ask to resist, but how to do this without weapons? The King is obliged to leave by the back door of the Palace garden to avoid those trying to prevent his departure, embarks on a Greek steamship anchored in a bay near Athens and sails to Italy with his family. With some colleagues we stayed that night in the garden of the Royal Palace…
On June 13, 1917, the Government of Thessalonica seizes power in Athens and Greece officially enters World War I…”