The Battle for Athens: Strategy and Tactics
by ANDRE GEROLYMATOS
The Axis occupation of Greece resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and mass destruction which included the devastation of entire villages.1 Equally compelling for the future of Greek society was the occupation's bitter legacy of political division and civil strife. Liberation brought about a temporary period of euphoria but was short-lived due to failure of the Greek government to address the immediate issues of the organization of a new army and the demobilization of the guerrilla forces. Underlying these problems were the future of the monarchy and the disposition of the collaborators. In addition, the Government of National Unity had to cope with a country and a society in shambles. Hyper-inflation, food shortages, and the almost total destruction of communications between the cities and the countryside had paralyzed Greece.
However, the primary concern of both the government and the resistance organizations was the demobilization of the guerrilla bands and the organization of a new army. To the leadership of EAM-ELAS, the largest and most powerful resistance organization, the road to renewed conflict stemmed from their fears that the government had no intention of sharing power with the Left but was bent on reestablishing the prewar political and social status quo. It was these fears that had brought about the spectacle of a civil war during the occupation in October 1943 and would lead to a new conflict in December 1944. The fighting in October 1943 represented a struggle between the revolutionary forces of the Left against EDES, which by this time had become identified with the monarchy and the Greek government-in-exile. More precisely, the "First Round" (October 1943) was a proxy war between EAM-ELAS and the forces of the monarchy after Napoleon Zervas had shifted his allegiance to King George II. In this respect, the "Second Round," as the December crisis is referred to, was a continuation of the war between EAM-ELAS and the forces of the Right. Only this time the battle would take place in the streets and suburbs of Athens and directly involve the British army.
In the post-liberation period Napoleon Zervas and EDES accepted the rule of the Government of National Unity and quickly faded as a factor in the Greek political power struggle. To a great extent the political and military marginalization of EDES only became evident during the December crisis. As a guerrilla band EDES often held its own against the Germans and later against units of ELAS, but it failed to establish a mass following with a political infrastructure throughout Greece.2 At the end of the Axis occupation EDES offered limited potential as a military force, and the government, with the exception of a small British relief force and the hated police and gendarmes, gendarmes,had no military organization to speak of in order toenforce its decisions and policies. On the contrary, while thegovernment maintained limited control only over Athens, Thessaloniki,and a few large towns, the rest of the country waseffectively controlled by EAM-ELAS.
In the absence of a credible and effective military force, the Government of National Unity had little recourse but to rely on political compromise and try to outmaneuver the Left in order to attempt to govern the country. This was at least until the government was able to create a new army and security forces that would enable it to establish its authority throughout Greece. Paramount to this policy was the demobilization of the guerrilla forces of EAM-ELAS that had the capability to challenge and even topple the new regime. 3
During this period the Left faced a similar dilemma. EAM-ELAS, hamstrung by the Churchill-Stalin "percentages agreement,"accepted to join the Government of National Unity and agreed not to oppose the return to Greece of the new government along with the British. 4 As a result, both EAM-ELAS and the Government of National Unity were forced to coexist, at least in the short term, and to use political pressure to impose their respective agendas on postwar Greece. The outcome led to an uneasy truce that was maintained for almost two months while each side interpreted the actions of the other as provocations. For its part, the Government of National Unity, along with the British, were convinced that EAM-ELAS intended to use force and transform Greece into a communist state even before the liberation. 5
Accordingly, the Government of National Unity devoted considerable time and effort to the organization of a new army and the elimination of the guerrilla forces.6 To achieve these aims quickly, the George Papandreou government was forced to rehabilitate many officers who had close affiliation with the monarchy and some who had even served in the notorious security battalions. On the other hand, it made every effort to exclude most officers who were members of ELAS, regardless of their political loyalties before the occupation.7 This policy, as well as the urgency by which the government pressed for the demobilization of the EAM-ELAS forces, created an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and hostility. 8 The leadership of EAM-ELAS had little choice but to avoid the demobilization of its forces, since without the guerrilla fighters it would lose its political leverage and be at the mercy of the "new Right." 9
Prior to the occupation the Greek political spectrum was dominated by the Venizelist-royalist schism. Although the Venizelist faction was synonymous with various aspects of Greek liberalism and the royalist with conservatism, their bitter and often personal rivalry blurred the ideological differences between them 10. On the other hand, the Communist Party was small, as were the other parties of the Left, and thus had little impact on the political proclivities of Greek society 11. During the period of the resistance the terms "Left" and "Right" acquired new definitions that did not necessarily emanate from defined constituencies of conservatives, liberals, communists, or socialists within Greek society. It is difficult to determine the political sentiments of those who followed EAM-ELAS, yet it is evident from the extant sources that many who followed EAM-ELAS did so out of patriotic and nationalistic motives. The same can be said for many who supported the other resistance organizations. For example, it was not unusual to find large numbers of Greek officers fighting in the ranks of ELAS and monarchist officers joining EDES. In addition, approximately 1,000 Greek officers became members of the security battalions, many of them prewar Venizelists who had been purged from the Greek armed forces 12.
After liberation, thousands of resistance fighters, regardless of their personal political ideology, were labeled as leftists simply because they had fought with ELAS or worked for EAM. This included many officers who had royalist or Venizelist credentials. Another consideration is that the constitution of the "new Right" in the postwar period not only included royalists but also a large percentage of republicans and Venizelists. For some in the latter category the specter of communism had superseded the old Venizelist-royalist schism, while for others the motive was professional opportunism to secure or acquire positions in the new armed forces. Consequently, the convergence of these elements constituted a new Right that represented a dynamic in the Greek political landscape brought together by the force of circumstances and the impact of the resistance during the occupation. Equally significant is that all those who were not adherents of the Right were characterized as members or sympathizers of the Left. Yet the followers of what can be termed the Left did not represent a monolithic entity, nor can it be argued that themembership of EAM-ELAS was one and the same with the cadres of the KKE. Under these conditions, and despite the numerical superiority of EAM-ELAS, the Greek Communist Party could not be certain if the rank-and-file of these organizations was prepared to fight in order to establish a communist regime in Greece. Without the full backing of ELAS-EAM, it is highly unlikely that the KKE was in a position to launch an all-out campaign in 1944 to take over the Greek state by force 13. In this regard a military analysis of the December 1944 events provides another prism of the political aims and military actions of the protagonists. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that the main theater of operations throughout the uprising was Athens. Arguably, control of the Greek capital represented the most important asset for the eventual control of the country, but this in and of itself does not explain the failure of EAM-ELAS to concentrate its main forces in Athens.
As events unfolded in the late fall of 1944 it had become evident by the end of November that a crisis was imminent, yet neither EAM-ELAS nor the Greek government and the British had made concrete plans to deal with a potential military confrontation.Both sides had taken steps that indicated military aggression during November, but other than contributing to the deteriorating political situation the British and the Greek Government of National Unity were ill-prepared to deal with the outbreak of fighting in December. The British had initially prepareda small force to enter Greece as the Germans began their evacuation. The designated liberation force was limited to two brigades (2nd Parachute and 23rd Armored) and a few hundred British and some American commandos. In addition, one Greek brigade, the Rimini Brigade, and the Sacred Battalion as well as the Free Greek Air Force were to be made available for transfer to mainland Greece at a later date 14.The total number of British forces that entered Greece upon liberation did not exceed 10,000 officers and men 15. British hopes for a smooth transition from occupation to a post-liberation Greece were based in part on the fact that George Papandreou headed the Government of National Unity, which included ministers from EAM, an agreement that King George II would remain in exile until a plebiscite determined the fate of the monarchy, and the fact that EAM ELAS had signed the Caserta Agreement, placing all Allied and guerrilla forces under the operational command of British General Ronald Scobie. Finally, the Churchill-Stalin "percentages agreement" essentially guaranteed Soviet neutrality in the event of an attempted take-over of Greece by EAM-ELAS.
Indeed, the objectives of Operation Mane were to maintain good relations with EAM-ELAS so that the British would be able to enter Greece with limited forces as soon as the Germans left. According to the official British history of the Second World War, the purpose of Operation Mana 16 was designed to prevent, not to counter, a seizure of power by the Communists. .. ." 17 However, by the end of October, as ELAS agitation escalated, the British increased their forces to 22,600 troops and five air squadrons, and began the transfer of two more divisions and the Greek Rimini Brigade from Italy to Greece 18. By this time it was becoming evident to the British that a confrontation with EAM-ELAS was unavoidable. In early November Winston Churchill commented that "I fully expect a clash with EAM and we must not shrink from it, provided the ground is well chosen 19. On 8 November Churchill telegraphed General Maitland Wilson, the Commander-in-Chief Middle East, and Sir Reginald Leeper, the British ambassador to Athens, requesting urgent reinforcements to be sent to Greece. Leeper was instructed that "British troops should certainly be used to support law and order, even by shooting if necessary." 20. On 15 November General Wilson reported that the "Communists seemed likely soon to bring matters to a head," and he instructed Scobie to hold all troops already in Greece, to concentrate on Athens whose neighborhoods would be declared a military area, and to order ELAS to withdraw entirely from the region. In the event of attack, Scobie was ordered to use British and Greek forces to crush any opposition 21.
Remarkably, and despite the reinforcements, General Scobie was ill-prepared for a military confrontation with ELAS. Throughout October and mid-November British forces were concentrated in Athens, Patras, and a few other cities. Little effort was made to maintain secure communications with Piraeus and the airfield outside Athens. As a result of this deployment, the British forces, even before the outbreak of hostilities, were virtually besieged. The rest of Greece with the exception of Epirus, the Drama area, and a few of the islands were under the control of ELAS Part of the explanation for the poor strategic order of battle for the British army in Greece was due to the fact that General Scobie was not an experienced commander; he had been placed in charge of the allied forces in Greece more for his abilities as an administrator. Another factor was that both Scobie and Papandreou expected that since EAM-ELAS had signed the Caserta Agreement, the guerrilla forces would obey Scobie's orders and agree to hand over their weapons. The escalation in numbers and deployment of the British forces in Greece and the transfer of the Rimini Brigade from mid-October to mid-November did not alter the strategic situation. Rather, it simply added more forces into those already-established pockets of isolation. At the same time, the transfer of the Greek unit and the increase in the British contingent further destabilized the precarious political situation.
ELAS, meanwhile, enjoyed the strategic advantage of controlling most of mainland Greece. By the end of November the ELAS order of battle was based on approximatealy 49,000 men and officers deployed in 11 divisions 22 and a regiment of cavalry, as well as a small makeshift navy. In addition, ELAS maintained a reserve of almost 45,000 men and women, of whom 22,000 to 23,150 were based in Athens. These latter forces were designated as the 1st ELAS Army Corps. The majority of the rank-and-file of this unit was of uneven quality, but at least 6,000 were armed with rifles and another 3,000 carried revolvers and pistols. Many of these troops had attained considerable experience in urban guerrilla warfare during the last phase of the occupation 23. During the critical weeks of November, the BIAS reserve in Athens received additional reinforcements from the Peloponnese as well as supplies of weapons and ammunition 24.
Despite the initial advantages held by EAM-ELAS, the leadership failed to exploit the strategic and tactical superiority of its forces. Even before the outbreak of hostilities, George Siantos, the acting General Secretary of the KKE and the dominant figure in EAM-ELAS, gave every indication that he was uncertain of how to proceed with plans for the upcoming confrontation. His first actions were to reconstitute the Central Committee of ELAS (1 December 1944) and at the same time evacuate KKE party headquarters from Athens to Hashia, in northern Attica. These changes effectively made Siantos the overall commander of ELAS, and for the duration of the hostilities he directed all military operations from the headquarters of the ELAS 1st Army Corps in Athens.
The general headquarters of ELAS in Lamia was instructed to direct its efforts against Zervas in Epirus, thus diverting three valuable divisions from the main theater of battle to a secondary theater of operations 25. ELAS forces were also dispatched to destroy the units of Anton Tsaous, the leader of an ndependent Right-wing guerrilla band operating north of the Drama district in northern Greece. After the fighting had broken out and Stephanos Saraphes asked permission from Siantos to attack all British forces scattered throughout Greece, his request was rejected 26. A little later Saraphes once again asked permission to disarm the British garrisons but was instructed by the ELAS Central Committee to inform the British garrisons that all movement on their part was forbidden. Before any action was taken on the part of ELAS, however, the British were able to withdraw all their outposts with little difficulty 27.
There is no documentation to shed any light on why Siantos took this course of action, leaving only the speculation that he wanted to be solely in charge of the subsequent political and military direction of EAM-ELAS and the KKE. If that is the case, then Siantos was preparing for an urban guerrilla war and the 1st ELAS Army Corps would be the ideal weapon in the forthcoming battle. This may explain why Siantos diverted three ELAS divisions to attack Zervas and the failure to commit the main ELAS forces in the battle for Athens. It may also shed some light on the controversial meeting of the ELAS kapetanios at Lamia 29. Both Vasilis Bartziotas and Yiannis Ioannidis claim in their versions of the Lamia gathering of kapetanios that Siantos distrusted Aris Velouchiotis and suspected him of instigating provocations 30. Accordingly, it is no coincidence that both Velouchiotis and Saraphes were ordered by Siantos to command the ELAS forces sent against Zervas in Epirus, and thus neither were able to take part in the events in Athens. Were these actions by Siantos a sign of his mistrust and displeasure of Velouchiotis as well as of Saraphes, or did they simply reflect Siantos's strategy ? Certainly Siantos could have relieved both men of their positions or, at the very least, taken from their command a significant number of ELAS units that could have played a decisive role in the battle for Athens.
Colonel Christopher M. Woodhouse writes that the activities of ELAS indicated that the preparations that took place in late November were essentially defensive. He underlines his point by stating that there was considerable confusion at the ELAS General Headquarters and that no attempts were made to prevent officers and men of the gendarmerie passing through territory controlled by ELAS on their way to Athens 31. What he fails to notice, however, is the buildup of the 1st ELAS Army Corps and the possibility that Siantos planned to use that unit to seize control of Athens. If that were the case, it explains why Siantos paid little attention to the deployment of the rest of ELAS and his initial reluctance to allow these forces to attack the British 32. Siantos on 2 December still referred to the British as "our Allies" and as late as 17 December, according to Nikolaos Zachariades's accusations in 1950, committed the blunder of allowing a British regiment to enter Athens unopposed 33.
These accusations against Siantos are valid if it is assumed that the Greek communists were planning an all-out military campaign in order to seize the government. In that case, the primary target was the British forces. As previously mentioned, the Government of National Unity, without the British, had only few forces at its disposal. However, it is evident that Siantos was also aware that the Papandreou government had limited freedom of political or military maneuvering and that all major decisions required the tacit approval of the British authorities in Athens and London 34. Even on the issue of demobilization, which precipitated the crisis, it was Genera Scobie who, practically ignoring Papandreou and his ministers, issued the order for all resistance forces to disband 35. Siantos was under no illusion that the British represented the real power in Athens but had to exercise their authority through the internationally recognized Greek Government of National Unity 36. The Secretary of the KKE also understood, and as events later in the battle con- firmed, that it was beyond ELAS's resources to wage war against the British armed forces but could bring down the Papandreou government. Under these circumstances it is quite conceivable that Siantos believed that the 1st ELAS Army Corps was sufficient to seize Athens within a few days and present the British with a fait accompli.
On the other hand, such a strategy may explain the tactics employed by the Greek communists during the battle of Athens. After the incident on 3 December, the ELAS forces proceeded to attack police stations on 4 and 5 December and government buildings on 7 December. Woodhouse characterizes the actions of ELAS as "slow to escalate." 37. In one aspect this is true, in the case of confrontation with the British, but it is self-evident that ELAS moved quickly against the institutions that represented the Greek government. Scobie on his part was equally reluctant to move against ELAS, despite a strong directive from Churchill urging him to maintain order and to neutralize or destroy all EAM-ELAS bands. More precisely, Churchill informed Scobie to "... act as if you were in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress." 38. ELAS continued to concentrate on Greek government targets, including the Rimini Brigade as well as on the X (Chi) organization and against the Averoff prison, which held a number of collaborators awaiting trial. Although there were sporadic clashes between British patrols and ELAS units while the RAF began to strafe ELAS forces and positions,39 it was not until 7 December that Siantos gave permission for ELAS to at least retaliate against British forces that intervened in the fighting in Athens 40. However, the ELAS Central Committee maintained its directive prohibiting ELAS forces from initiating attacks against the British, and only after 11 December was the ELAS 1st Army Corps given orders to engage the British units—but only in the capital.
In the meantime, ELAS continued its offensive against the apparatus of the Papandreou government and captured 22 out of 25 police stations, several government buildings, and gained control over the road from Athens to Piraeus and the port itself. Indeed, after a few days of fighting, the British and Greek government forces were virtually besieged in a small area in the center of the city 44.
The military situation, however, turned against ELAS from 13 December. First, ELAS failed to seize Athens quickly. The few days that were anticipated had turned into weeks. Secondly, on 12 December, ELAS troops fired on the British, and by 15 December a new British general, John Hawksworth, had arrived with reinforcements. Although Scobie remained nominally in command, Hawksworth with forces that totalled nearly 50,000 men turned the tide of battle against ELAS. Despite the arrival of Hawksworth with reinforcements and the failure to secure Athens, ELAS at this point changed tactics and now shifted the direction of its offensive against the British. On 20 December ELAS forces overran the RAF headquarters in Kifissia, while on 21 December Saraphes and Velouchiotis launched their offensive against Zervas in Epirus, and eventually the EDES units had to be evacuated by the Royal Navy to Corfu.
These victories represented the high point of the success achieved by the ELAS forces. By 18 December the British had cleared the main road between Athens and Piraeus and were steadily pushing ELAS out of Athens, and by 27 December Hawksworth was in a position to begin a limited offensive. Siantos had not only miscalculated the ability of the 1st ELAS Army Corps to seize Athens quickly but had dispersed his forces throughout the city, and when the British joined the battle he was unable to regroup and concentrate the ELAS units against them. Furthermore, by keeping the main body of ELAS out of battle, Siantos had no available reserves to withstand Hawksworth's counterattack. At the same time, the inactivity of the ELAS units in the rest of Greece, with the exception of the divisions sent to destroy Zervas, now enabled the reinforced British to concentrate against the 1st ELAS Army Corps in Athens.
In early January ELAS was in full retreat, and eight days later an armistice was signed which took effect on the night of 14-15 January. Under the terms of the Varkiza Agreement, ELAS had to disband and surrender its weapons, but the infrastructure of the KKE and of EAM-ELAS remained. What saved ELAS from total destruction was not the benevolence of the British and the Greek government, but the situation on the western front. On 16 December the Germans surprised the Allies with a counteroffensive in the Ardennes, and Hawksworth was informed that he could not expect any more reinforcements. From a strictly military perspective, ELAS was defeated. However, EAM-ELAS was not destroyed as an organization. Even by 16 December ELAS still controlled three-quarters of Greece and had managed to withdraw its headquarters safely to Trikala. The Greek and British forces had won the battle for Athens but, by failing to pursue their victory to its ultimate conclusion, simply set the stage for the battle for Greece in 1946.
1.The impact of the occupation was devastating for the Greek state. Reprisals took the lives of over 70,000 people; approximately 310,000 died from starvation, and 60,000 Greek Jews were killed in the death camps. The Axis had established 47 detention centers throughout Greece, in which approximately 500,000 people were incarcerated for various lengths of time or transferred to concentration camps. In addition, 1,700 villages were destroyed, as well as 709 schools, 501 churches, 142,828 private homes, and 853,584 livestock were expropriated, lost, or killed. (Boumas, T., Istoria tis Synchronis Elladas (Athens: 1980), Vol. 3, pp. 423-425; IAEA [Istorikon Archion Eihnikis Antistaseos] (Athens: 1958), seg. 2.90.93.
2. One important factor in the failure to establish a mass following was the reluctance of many of the republican leaders to acknowledge or support EDES. As a result, Zervas and EDES became identified as one and the same. In other words, the absence of a political wing and a corresponding popular base reduced EDES into a guerrilla band that represented little except loyalty to Zervas. On the origins and organization of EDES, see Hagen Fleischer, Stemma kai Swastika: I Ellada tis Katochis kai tis Antistasis (Athens: 1988), pp. 149-155 and Andre Gerolymatos, Guerrilla Warfare and Espionage in Greece, 1940-1944 (New York: 1992), pp. 210-216.
3. On 31 October 1944 the George Papandreou government proclaimed that the resistance had come to an end, and on 1 November it announced that all guerrilla forces and resistance organizations as well as the civil police forces would be disbanded. These organizations, the government declared, would be replaced by a national guard and new army. The KKE, writes John O. Iatrides Revolt in Athens: The Greek Communist "Second Round," 1944-1945 (Princeton: 1972), p. 156, actually attempted to recruit volunteers for the national guard and army from the ranks of ELAS and submitted lists of names of those who were acceptable to the government.
4. The so-called "percentages agreement" was concluded during Churchill's visit to Moscow on 9 October 1944. The official reason for the visit was to allay American concerns over the creation of permanent British and Soviet spheres of influence in the Balkans. Churchill, however, was advocating temporary zones of operations that would apply only for the duration of the war. Accordingly, it was agreed that the British would get 90 percent of Greece and the Soviets ten percent; in Rumania 90 percent was allocated for the Soviets and ten percent for the British. Yugoslavia and Hungary were shared equally, and 75 percent of Bulgaria came within the Soviet zone, leaving 25 percent for the other allies. Winston Churchill, The Second World War: Triumph and Tragedy (London: 1953), Vol. 6, pp. 196-197; Martin Gilbert, The Road to Victory: Winston Churchill 1941-1945, Vol. 7 (London: 1986), pp. 992-1000.
5. Andre Gerolymatos, Guerrilla Warfare and Espionage (New York: 1992), p. 334. Churchill, in particular, held the conviction that the KKE would use EAM-ELAS in order to seize powe (Gilbert, The Road to Victory: Winston Churchill 1941-1945 (London: 1986), p. 882).
6. Concurrent with this policy, the British army embarked on a covert program to provide protection and assist in the gradual rehabilitation of the various Quisling military and paramilitary personnel into the Greek army and police forces (Gerolymatos, Guerrilla Warfare and Espionage, p. 334).
7. For a complete account of these policies, see Andre Gerolymatos, "The Security Battalions and the Civil War," Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol. XII, No. 1 (Spring 1985), pp. 17-27; "The Role of Greek Officer Corps in the Resistance," Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol. XI, No. 3 (Fall 1984) , pp. 69-79; also Thanos Veremis and Andre Gerolymatos, "The Military as a Sociopolitical Force in Greece, 1940-1949," Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol. 17.1 (1991).
8. These perceptions were reinforced by the almost daily marches and protests by EAM-ELAS. The government indicated little inclination to try collaborators and continued to reinstate officers and police officials associated with the puppet regimes during the occupation.
9. For lack of a better term, "new Right" serves as a convenient description of the forces that opposed and feared the KKE, EAM-ELAS, and the left in general.
10. 0n this aspect of Greek history during the interwar period, see G. Dafnis, I Ellas Metaxi Dio Polemon 1933-1940, 2 Vols. (Athens: 1955). For a discussion on the Greek party system as well as on voter patterns, see George Mavrogordatos, Stillborn Republic: Social Coalitions and Party Strategies in Greece, 1922-1936 (London: 1983).
11. As George Mavrogordatos, Stillborn Republic (London: 1983), p. 93, points out, the KKE "despite its widespread influence in the labor movement and even in some rural areas as well, remained a small cadre organization throughout the interwar period. Between 1918 and 1932, total membership hovered around the 2,000 mark, and increased rapidly only after 1932, possibly exceeding 10,000 on the eve of the dictatorship."
12. See note 7.
13. According to John Iatrides, Revolt in Athens (Princeton: 1972), pp. 149-150, the KKE, far from planning a takeover of Greece, had issued secret instructions to its members to cooperate with the Allies while at the same time making every effort to win the support of the middle classes.
14. O'Ballance, The Greek Civil War, 1944-1949 (New York: 1966), p. 87.
15. John Ehrman, Grand Strategy, Vol. VI, "October 1944-August 1945" (London: 1956), p. 61.
16. Operation Mana was the code name for the Allied forces slated to enter Greece after the Germans withdrew (Ehrman, Grand Strategy, p. 61).
17. Ehrman, Grand Strategy, p. 61, continues: "... and to hold the ring until a representative Greek Government had arranged a settlement of the constitutional question. But in the event E.A.M. could not be restrained, and the result occurred which the British had tried to avoid."
18. Ehrman, Grand Strategy, p. 61.
19. Gilbert, The Road to Victory (London: 1986), p. 1056.
21. Ehrman, Grand Strategy, p. 61.
22. Stephanos Saraphes, ELAS: Greek Resistance Army (London: 1980), p. 402, lists the strength of ELAS as 5,240 officers and 43,000 men.
23. Spyros Kotsakis, Eisphora: sto Chroniko tis Katochis kai tis Ethnikis Antistasis stin Athena (Athens: 1986), p. 236.
24. C. M. Woodhouse, The Struggle for Greece 1941-4949 (London: 1976), p. 123.
25. Other units were transferred to Thebes. Saraphes, ELAS (London: 1910), pp. 498 and 502.
26. Ιbid., p. 502.
27. Ιbid., p. 504.
28. Kotsakis, Eisphora (Athens: 1986), p. 244.
29. During this meeting, 17-18 November, Aris Velouchiotis, in particular, advocated an immediate attempt by ELAS to take over Athens and install a communist government. The primary concern of the ELAS commanders was that the government, along with the British, was determined to disband ELAS forces and establish a new army in order to impose the prewar political and military status quo. As a result, Markos Vaphiades (according to his version of the events) agreed to go to Athens and convince the political leadership that ELAS could easily brush aside the British and Greek government forces and occupy the capital. Despite his entreaties and suggestion that such an action could be undertaken without involving the KKE, the recommendation of the ELAS commanders was overruled by Georgios Siantos, the acting head of the Greek Communist Party (for an account of this meeting, see Markos Vaphiades, Apomnimonevmata, 4 Vols. (Athens: 1984-1992), Vol. 3, pp. 11-16; Georgios Boutsinis, To Andartiko stin Attiki, 1941-1945 (Athens: 1979), pp. 463-464; Periklis Rodakis, Dekemvrios 1944 (Athens: 1984), pp. 126-127; also the account of Themis Moschatos, I Syskepsy ton Kapetaneon sti Lamia (Athens: 1985), which is devoted to rendering a detailed analysis of the meeting at Lamia but is marred by conspiracy theories concerning both the left and right). Vasilis Bartziotas, Ethniki Antistasi kai Dekemvris 1944 (Athens: 1983), pp. 326-333, denies the significance of the Lamia meeting and, according to his account, the kapetanios who assembled between 17-18 November did not all agree with the proposals of Velouchiotis. Bartziotas adds that Markos Vaphiades went to Athens not to bring any recommendations from the kapetanios but to denounce Velouchiotis for organizing the meeting as a provocation. Bartziotas's version is to some degree supported by Ioannis Ioannides, Anamniseis (Athens: 1979), pp. 326- 328, who although not present at the meeting between Bartziotas and Vaphiades states that the latter came to Athens to inform the leadership of the KKE on what had taken place at the meeting in Lamia. Ioannides also defines the assembly of the kapetanios as a provocation. Thanases Hadzes (I Nikiphora Epanastasi you Chathike, Vol. 4, pp. 138- 142) does not characterize the meeting as a provocation nor as an illegal gathering. His interpretation of this event is based on the accounts of Kapetanios Kissivos and Kitsikas as well as on Vaphiades's report in the archives of the KKE.
30. Bartziotas, Ethniki Antistasi kai Dekemvris, p. 331; Ioannides, Anamniseis, pp. 327-328.
31. Woodhouse, The Struggle for Greece (London: 1976), p. 123.
32. Vasilis Bartziotas, Exinda Chronia Kommounistis (Athens: 1986), p. 213, considers the absence of a military plan to counter the British and the notion that the latter would not fight against ELAS as one of the primary mistakes in the battle for Athens.
33. Woodhouse, The Struggle for Greece, p. 125.
34. George Papandreou's dependency on the British reached its lowest point when he offered to resign as prime minister after the outbreak of hostilities on 4 December, but the British would not allow him to tender his resignation. Churchill, furthermore, telegraphed the British ambassador to Athens, Leeper, on 5 December 1944, leaving no doubt as to who was in charge of Greek affairs. In this missive Churchill states that "I have put the whole question of the defence of Athens and the maintenance of law and order in the hands of General Scobie, and have assured him that he will be supported in the use of whatever force is necessary. Henceforth you and Papandreou will conform to his directions in all matters affecting public order and security." Churchill, History of the Second World war (London: 1954), Vol. 6, p. 290.)
35. On 1 December General Scobie ordered the demobilization of all guerrilla forces by 10 December. Scobie undertook this action as the Commander-in-Chief of all Allied forces in Greece. W. H. McNeill (The Greek Dilemma: War and Aftermath (New York), pp. 158- 159) comments that Scobie "... was certainly stretching the powers he had been accorded by the Caserta Agreement when he thus ordered the disbandment of a part of the forces that had been put under his command." McNeill adds that it is far from certain whether the Greek government had in fact ever ordered the disbandment of the guerrilla forces. Under Greek law a government decision becomes official when it is published in the government Gazette, and no such order for the demobilization of the guerrilla bands had been published.
36. The appearance of legitimacy became evident during the December crisis when the United States refused to support the British actions in Greece or even to carry supplies to Scobie's forces with American ships and planes. Another consideration is that if the British did not respect the legitimate government of Greece, they could hardly expect the Soviets not follow a similar policy in Eastern Europe.
37. Woodhouse, The Struggle for Greece, p. 127.
38. W. S. Churchill, History of the Second World War, Vol. 6, p. 289. This part of Churchill's instructions to Scobie found its way to the Washington Post on 12 December, giving EAM-ELAS a propaganda coup.
39. On 4 December, all ELAS units were ordered to leave Athens and Piraeus by 6 December; otherwise, they would be treated as enemy forces (O'Ballance, The Greek Civil War (New York: 1966), pp. 97-98). In his report on the December crisis, Siantos expresses his disappointment that the British, who until 6 December had remained neutral, after this date began to participate in the battle. Included in this report is a message of Scobie (dated 6 December 1944) from the ELAS Central Committee, protesting British involvement in what is described as an internal Greek matter (I Ekthesy Stantoy yia to Dekemvriana, ed. Periklis Rodakis and Babis Gramenos (Athens: 1986), pp. 23-25).
40. Lars Baerentzen and David Close, "The British Deafeat of EAM, 1944-45," The Greek Civil War, 1943-1950, ed. David H. Close (London and New York: 1993), p. 87.
41. Woodhouse, The Struggle for Greece, p. 130.
42. Churchill, History of the Second World War, Vol. 6, pp. 251-253.
43. Lars Baerentzen and David Close, "The British Defeat of EAM, 1944-45," p. 86.
44. O'Ballance, The Greek Civil War, pp. 98-99.
ANDRE GEROLYMATOS holds Hellenic Canadian Congress of B.C. Chair in Hellenic Studies in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University.