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Middle East 1930 - 1947:

Greece 1944

In August 1944, the Allies commenced planning for the reoccupation of Greece in anticipation of the withdrawal of the German troops from the country. Greece had been allocated to the British zone of influence, so the British Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Winston CHURCHILL, dictated that British forces should be prepared to move to Greece as soon as conditions allowed.

The 23 Armoured Brigade was initially designated as Force 140 to be sent to Greece. On 18 September 1944, Headquarters III Corps was designated as Force 140 with 23 Armoured Brigade and 2 Parachute Brigade under command. The 139 Infantry Brigade from the 46 Infantry Division was also added to the force to occupy Greece.


On 3 December 1944, the first brigade of the 4 Indian Infantry Division began landing in Greece. One of the brigades was sent to Macedonia in northern Greece, another to Piraeus (the port for Athens), and the last to Patras in the Peloponnese. These forces were sufficient to reoccupy Greece, but the country slid rapidly into civil war. The two opposing factions were the communists and the royalists. The British became drawn into the civil war, and in a decisive step, the General Officer Commanding the British forces in Greece, Lieutenant General SCOBIE, aligned his forces against the communist forces. Fierce fighting broke out in December 1944, which lasted through Christmas and into the new year. The British reinforced their forces in the country, until about 75,000 British and Indian troops were serving in Greece. The communist forces could not cope with the strength and professionalism of the British forces, all of which had seen active service in Italy.

Political pressure rose in the United Kingdom against the campaign, with several media organisations critical of the British role in Greece. In addition, political pressure grew from the United States. which was wary of the United Kingdom rebuilding its influence in the Mediterranean. Despite all this, SCOBIE stuck to his task, and eventually the communist forces were defeated. In the end, the communist forces agreed a truce, and a new Greek government was formed that did not contain any communist politicians. This campaign is noteworthy as a foreign government intervened in a civil war for strategic aims, and dictated the government of the country of Greece for several generations. It is also noteworthy for the role of the senior politicians, and in particular, the senior Army officers in the strategic outcome of the campaign.

British and Indian casualties were light compared to those sustained in Italy. The people who suffered were the Greek people themselves, many of whom were tortured and killed simply because they were on the wrong side. The number who died in this civil war is not known, but it was considerable.

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