Intentions of the General Headquarters regarding Future Operations
(Sketch-map no. 8)
- During the first period of war and after the containment of the Italian offensive and the favourable outcome of the operations conducted by the Greek Army, the General Headquarters began to examine the question of the line which would have to be occupied and secured before the advent of winter, whereupon serious resupply difficulties were bound to occur. Various solutions were considered to that effect. In the end, the decision taken was to move all Greek forces west of the Pindos mountain bulk and to secure their resupply by using the carriage road of Koritsa-Erseka-Mertzani-Ioannina.
This solution was selected, because it would greatly facilitate the resupply of the forces allocated to the mountainous areas. Moreover, it presented an additional advantage, i.e. the capacity to transport troops from one part of the Theatre of Operations to the other rapidly, as compared to the long stretch of road, used up until then, that travelled through Koritsa-Kastoria-Grevena-Kalambaka-Metsovo-Ioannina-Elea.
- In order to implement the above intensions of the High Command, by November 13, 1940, the Greek forces successfully accomblished the advancement and the strategic concentration so as to take on, as of November 14, large scale offensive operations. The objective of these operations was to repulse the intruder beyond the borders and to occupy the mountain bulk of Morova and the road junction of Koritsa.
The general deployment of the Greek forces in the Albanian Theatre of Operations on November 13, the eve of the Greek counter-attack, was the following :
In the area of Epirus: The A’ Army Corps, with the VIII Division and the Cavalry Division, in contact with the enemy and the II Division, moving towards the zone of operations, via Metsovo.
In the area of Pindos: The B’ Army Corps with the I Division, the V Infantry Brigade and the Cavalry Brigade.
In North-western Macedonia: The C’ Army Corps, with the IX, X and XV Infantry Divisions.
The forces of Pindos and North-western Macedonia were under the command of the Western Macedonia Field Army Section (WMFAS). In addition, the latter had, as reserves, close to the area of the front, the XI Infantry Division, which, as of November l4, had been placed under the command of Major General of the Reserve Nikolaos Tsipouras, and the XIII Infantry Division which, as of November 3, had began to move from Alexandroupolis towards the Albanian Theatre of Operations.
The General Reserves of the Commander in Chief: The III Division which, as of November 7, had been placed under the command of Major General Georgios Bakos and was moving towards the area of Arta-Philippiada, the IV Division and the XVI Infantry Brigade, that were concentrating their forces in the area Trikala-Kalambaka-Koutsoufliani, the XVII Division, that was concentrating its forces in the area of Kozani and the V Division in the area of Thessaloniki.
- The above manoeuvre and the general disposition of the Greek forces in the Albanian Theatre of Operations provided the basis for the final orders of the Commander in chief. The orders were issued to the A’ Army Corps and the WMFAS, on November 12, 1940. They defined the objective of the operations that were to follow, which was to secure the free use of the road artery Koritsa-Erseka-Mertzani or at least to prevent the free passage of the enemy forces. The abovementioned two strategic formations were assigned the following missions:
-The A’ Army Corps was assigned to act in the general direction Ioannina-Tepeleni and to provide wide coverage to the area of Mertzani. If unable to accomplish the above, it was to confine its activity to the task of consolidating the free use of the Hani Bourazani- Konitsa road.
-The WMFAS (B’ and C’ Army Corps), after the occupation of the mountain bulk of Morova and if according to its estimate, the conditions were favourable, then following orders by the General Headquarters to advance further, as deep as possible, in order to block off, the northern and western routes towards the plain of Koritsa, at least as far as lake Maliki. Further to the south, the WMFAS had been assigned to reach the carriage road that led towards Erseka or at least to place that road under its control by power of fire. Further advance of the forces to the west would be ordered once conditions were assessed as favourable.
-The left flank of the B’ Army Corps, would assist the A’ Army Corps from the right, by operating in the direction of Leskoviki.
A’ Army Corps Operations in Epirus
(14 to 23 November 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 9)
- On the evening of November l3, the A’ Army Corps comprised the VIII and II Infantry Divisions as well as the Cavalry Division. As mentioned previously, the VIII Division and the Cavalry Division were in contact with the enemy, while the II Division was moving towards the zone of operations and it was estimated that its units would be able to enter into action within 3 to 4 days.
In order to accomplish its mission, the A’ Army Corps ordered:
-Offensive action by the VIII Division, which would direct the bulk of its forces towards Kakavia and concurrently secure the occupied area. In parallel, the advance of the division’s left flank towards the coastal sector, was also ordered so as to restore the integrity of the national territory.
-Converging action by the Cavalry Division in conjunction with the right flank of the VIII Division towards the road junction of Mertzani, in anticipation that the II Division would take over the action of the VIII Division within a short period of time.
- The VIII Division which, until November l2, had been operating as an independent large unit, was reinforced with the 39th Evzones Regiment of the II Division, and the 40th Evzones Regiment of the III Division and had formed three teams : the Team of Thesprotia, (7 Infantry battalions, 3 Cavalry companies and 4 batteries), under the command of Major General Nikolaos Liubas, the Team of Kalamas, (6 Infantry battalions, l Machine-gun battalion and 3 and 1/2 batteries), under the command of Colonel Dimitrios Yiatzis and the Team of Negrades, (8 Infantry battalions and 10 batteries) under the command of Colonel Georgios Dres.
The Italian forces deployed opposite the Divisional front, were the following:
-Opposite the team of Thesprotia, in the area between the sea and Keramitsa (not included) were the ‘Siena’ Division (except for one regiment and an artillery battalion), the 3rd Grenadieri Regiment, the 6th Cavalry Regiment and 2 Albanian irregulars corps (approximately 600 men).
-Opposite the rest of the Divisional front were the ‘Ferrara’ Division, that was additionally reinforced with the 2nd Bersaglieri Regiment, the ‘Centaurs’ Armoured Division and one regiment from the ‘Siena’ Division.
The VIII Division commenced the assault in the morning of November l4. By the evening of November l6, following a hard three-day fight, it managed, using the teams of Kalamas and Negrades, to seize the line that lay beside the villages of Ano Lavdani -Doliana-Mavrovouni and to take a large number of prisoners. An enemy counter-attack with tanks, in the area of Mavrovouni, was contained by the accurate fire of the Greek artillery.
In the coastal sector there was no significant progress to be recorded. An attempt on the part of the Thesprotia Team to break through the area at the lower flow of Kalamas river failed, mainly due to the severe bombardment by the enemy airforce.
- On November 13, the Cavalry Division that had been reinforced with the 4th Infantry Regiment of the I Division, was in contact with the enemy at Prophitis Elias of Konitsa-Itia-Lithari, which was occupied by the 9th Alpine Regiment and the 139th Regiment of the ‘Bari’ Division. On November 14 and l5, reconnaissance operations of the area were conducted and an exchange of heavy artillery and mortar fire took place with heavy casualties on the Greek side. In the night of November 15 /16, a regiment of the Cavalry Division operated in the direction of Itia, so as to reinforce the effort of the I Division of the B’ Army Corps which was operating on the right flank of the Cavalry Division.
On November l6, reconnaissance operations of the Cavalry Division revealed that the town of Konitsa had been deserted and that most of it had been set on fire. Division sections (3rd Cavalry Regiment and 4th Infantry Regiment) entered the town without delay and advanced westwards for about 3 kilometres. At that point they interrupted their advance, because of the continuous and vigorous bombardment by the enemy artillery and airforce.
- In the meantime, on November l5, the General Headquarters ordered the A’ Army Corps to accelerate the pace of the attack and to secure, as soon as possible, the passage of Kakavia and the junction of Mertzani. On the following day, with another order, the General Headquarters once again stressed that the Corps ought to increase its activitiy and ordered the advance of the III Division from the area of Arta to the south of Ioannina.
Then, as of the night of November 16/l7, the A’ Army Corps placed the 39th Regiment of the Negrades Team under the II Division and it ordered the Division to begin operations in the morning of November l7, in order to continue the offensive, that had been commenced by the VIII Division towards the junction of Merdzani. At the same time, it placed the Team of Thesprotia (hereon referred to as the Liuba Detachment) under its command and ordered it to cross the river Kalamas and continue its offensive action, with the bulk of its forces towards Kotsika-Aghii Saranda and, with a group of two battalions and the necessary artillery, in the direction of Menina-Keramitsa-Tsamandas, so as to secure the liaison with the VIII Division.
The VIII Division was to continue its offensive effort, with the Team of Kalamas, in the direction of Kakavia-Bourato and, with the remaining forces of the Negrades Team, in the direction of Doliana-Vissani-Drymades.
On the basis of the above missions, as of November 17, the offensive operations of the A’ Army Corps continued throughout the entire front.
- In the sector of Thesprotia, in the evening of November l8, the Liuba Detachment, with courage and determination, forced the enemy to withdraw to the north of Kalamas river. During their withdrawal, the Italians set fire to the town of Igoumenitsa and killed three notables.
On November l9, Detachment troops constructed an improvised bridge across the river Kalamas in the area of Menina and in the following morning began to move towards the height of Megali Rahi (height 861) which they seized on November 23, in the evening.
At the lower flow of Kalamas (north of Igoumenitsa), there was a delay in the advancement of bridge construction equipment, because of the lack of wheeled vehicles and the adverse weather conditions. Consequently, the bridging of the river Kalamas, in the area, was carried out on the night of November 22 to 23. As of the next day, the Detachment troops resumed their offensive effort in the area north of the river and, by that evening, had managed to occupy the line fixed by the villages of Smerto and Paravryso, forcing the Italians to withdraw to the frontierline.
- In the sector of the VIII Division, on the outbreak of the offensive of the Greek troops in the morning of November l7, the enemy reacted with a severe bombardment of long duration, against the entire area of the Divisional front. The enemy resisted with vigour and thus, the attack of the VIII Division recorded but little success during that day.
On the following day, the offensive was resumed with greater intensity. Despite the resistance of the enemy and incessant and fierce counter-attacks, with infantry troops and tanks, on November 20 after close combat, the VIII Division managed to occupy the town of Vissani and its westerly heights. During the struggle, the Commander of the Delvinaki Battalion, Major Tzanis Alevizatos, was killed on the battlefield, while fighting at the front line.
On November 2l, the height 597 south-west of the Hani Delvinaki defile was seized and many Italians were taken prisoners. Successive Italian counter-attacks to recover the height 597, during that day as well as on the next, were destined to fail with many losses for the Italians.
After these events, the Italians withdrew from the Hani Delvinaki defile on the night of November 21 to 22, moving towards Kakavia so as to occupy and organise a new line near the borders. The VIII Division troops continued their offensive efforts during the next two days and, in the evening of November 23, managed to fully occupy the western exit of Hani Bourazani defile. During this struggle, the Commander of the ‘Ferrara’ Division came close to being captured and was forced to abandon his vehicle and retreat on foot.
- In the evening of November l6, the II Division concentrated its forces in the area of the villages Kipoi-Elati, east of Kalpaki. The Division troops along with the pack animals arrived there from the area of Kalambaka-Volos, after a continuous march under adverse weather and road conditions, all extremely worn out, to such an extent that the pack animals were no longer able to support their loads. Nevertheless, the morale of the troops remained high. Thus, on November l7, only the 39th Regiment of the Negrades Team, that had been placed under the II Division since that date, was operating whereas in the night of November 17 to l8, the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the above Division also entered into the action.
The Division, continuing its offensive, crossed the river Gormos, moved rapidly towards the Northwest and on November l9, after a severe fight, managed to seize the village of Agios Kosmas and the area around it. On the following day, despite the stubborn resistance of the enemy and the bombardment of its airforce, Division troops managed to break through the area and advance towards Aidonochori, forcing the Italians to retreat in disarray, abandoning a multitude of war supplies on site. At the same time, other sections of the Division seized the village of Drymades, without any resistance.
The Division exploited this success at once and by November 23, it had reached the frontier line and deployed its forces there.
- The Cavalry Division also continued its offensive. On November 20, it arrived at the bridge of Bourazani, and discovered that it had been destroyed by the Italians
On the next day, continuing its offensive, it seized the village of Melissopetra and the vicinity after engaging in close combat, and forwarded its troops towards the bridge of Mertzani, in order to cut off the Italian defenders.
In the night of November 21 to 22, Division troops forded the river Sarandaporos (the enemy had already destroyed the Mertzani bridge at Sarandaporos and the Mesogefyra at Aoos river) moved towards the Northwest and on 23 November seized the village Tsarsova and the area of Randachova west of Leskoviki. On the same day, the bridge of Bourazani was restored and thus the motor vehicle communication between Ioannina and Konitsa was restored.
- Following the above successes of the Greek forces, the enemy withdrew about 10 kilometres to the east of Premeti, to a new line of defence that extended from the snow-covered northern slopes of Nemertska mountain, along the western bang of the river Legatitsa to Fraseri, just before it.
Thus, after a fierce ten-day struggle, the A’ Army Corps managed to repulse the invaders beyond the borders and succeeded in restoring the integrity of the national territory, due to the unequalled bravery and sacrifice on the part of its worthy combatants.
The losses were extremely numerous on both sides. On the Greek side, the casualties amounted to more than 600 dead and wounded. Most of them from the VIII Division. On the Italian side, the exact number of casualties, as regards the dead and wounded, is unknown, more than 950 officers and soldiers were taken prisoners.
The B’ Army Corps Operations in the area of Pindos
(14 to 23 November 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 9)
- The B’ Army Corps regarded the assumption of a general offensive by the Greek forces throughout the entire area of the front, as a sequel to its own counter-attack, which had been conducted in the area of Pindos, in order to repulse the Italian forces.
In the evening of November l3, the B’ Army Corps, comprised within its zone of operations, the I Infantry Division, the V Infantry Brigade, the Cavalry Brigade and the IX, X and B’ Reconnaissance Groups. The continuation of the counter-attack was assigned to the I Division which the B’ Army Corps had provided with the V Infantry Brigade, as well as the IX, X and B’ Reconnaissance Groups. The Cavalry Brigade retired from action and concentrated its forces in the area of Doutsiko-Samarina, as a reserve for the Army Corps.
- After their defeat in the valley of the river Aoos, the Italians presented a powerful front, on November l4, at the western ridges of the Peklari-Itia-Tzournsko-Lithari pass, that covered the direction towards Konitsa.
In order to break through the position of the front, the I Division had organised two combat teams which were the following:
-The Southern team, that was under the command of Colonel Panaghiotis Spiliotopoulos and was assigned to cover the right flank of the A’ Army Corps units, which had been instructed to act towards Mertzani. Furthermore, it was assigned to advance its Cavalry troops towards the Bourazani bridge, so as to cut off the carriage road of Ioannina-Konitsa.
-The Northern Team, that was under the command of Colonel Anastasios Kalis, Commander of the V Infantry Brigade, and was assigned to complete and secure the border line, and, furthermore, to block off, with fire, the transverse road Mertzani-Erseka-Koritsa.
- In the morning of November l4, the I Division commenced its attack and occupied the Batra pass on the Greek Albanian borderline and, further to the south, the frontier line as far as the Ptetsio height. In the southern sector, its troops recorded but little success, due to the vigorous resistance of the enemy.
On the following day, November l5, the Division continued its offensive and, after a fierce battle, seized the Tzournsko height in the southern sector as well as the eastern ridges of the Maria height. In the northern sector, it seized the heights Ptetsio-Batra-Rosdol, on the border line, thus placing the carriage road Mertzani-Erseka-Koritsa under the control of the Division’s artillery fire.
In the night of November 15 to l6, the Italians withdrew from the heights of Itia and Lithari and, on the following day, November l6, the Division seized the Kamenik height. There were no other essential changes within its sector.
After the turn of events until November l6, the Commander of the I Division proposed to the B’ Army Corps that the bulk of the Division forces be directed westwards, in order to occupy Leskoviki and provide cover to the right flank of the Cavalry Division. The latter had been operating within the zone of responsibility of the A’ Army Corps, in the direction of Mertzani. Initially, the B’ Army Corps approved the Division. With another order, however, the Corps informed the Division that the enemy appeared to be withdrawing from the entire area of the front and ordered it to advance its troops towards Leskoviki, Randani and Erseka, as soon as possible.
- Meanwhile, incoming intelligence reported that the enemy was reinforcing its troops in the defile of Tsagoni and in the southern passes of Morova, in the area of Kiafe Kiarit, hence, the WMFAS ordered the B’ Army Corps to secure, as of November l8, the area that was under its occupation. Furthermore, to orient all available Corps Forces towards the northern section of its zone of action and to keep them at a state of readiness to move north of Grammos. The blocking off of the road Leskoviki – Koritsa would be secured with fire.
Following the above mentioned, the B’ Army Corps suspended its operations towards Leskoviki and issued an order that the saddles and passes along the border line should only be held with light troops, in order to secure the largest possible number of troops towards the northern section of its zone. Thus, the I Division troops, that occupied Erseka on the evening of November 17 and the villages Kiouteza and Borova in the morning of November l8, also withdrew to the border line. However, on November l9, the General Headquarters decided to assign the B’ Army Corps with the mission of providing wide covering to the area of Leskoviki from the Northwest and instructed the Corps to co-ordinate its operations with those of the C’ Army Corps in the direction of Koritsa. Following that the B’ Army Corps notified the I Division that the reasons for the suspension of operations had ceased to exist and ordered the resumption of the Division westwards.
- The offensive of the I Division commenced in the morning of November 2l. By that evening, the Division had managed to regain control of the line Kiouteza-Borova-Erseka and, on November 22, it recaptured Leskoviki. Thus, the cross carriage road Leskoviki-Erseka-Koritsa was fully controlled by the Greek forces. During the following day the Division troops mainly dealt with the conduct of reconnaissance and the improvement of their positions.
The repulsion of the Italians beyond the borders into the zone of the B’ Army Corps, from Grammos to the junction of the rivers Aoos and Sarandaporos, constituted the epilogue to the battle of Pindos and raised the morale of the struggling Greek troops.
The losses of the enemy were relatively small. The verified casualties on the Greek side amounted to 1 officer killed in action and 3 wounded, and 24 soldiers killed in action and 118 wounded. About 100 Italians were taken prisoners.
- Meanwhile, after the favourable development of the A’ and B’ Army Corps operations, the General Headquarters issued a set of general guidelines on November 20, defining their future assignments. The A’ Army Corps, that had been additionally provided with the III Division, was assigned to occupy the harbour of Agii Saranda and to fully secure the cross road road Kakavia-Agii Saranda. The B’ Army Corps was assigned to fully secure the area of Leskoviki.
The accomplishment of the above objectives and the use of the harbour of Agii Saranda would serve to shorten the resupply route Preveza-Frontiers and would facilitate any further operations within the territory of Northern Epirus.
The Battle of Morova-Ivan and the Occupation of Koritsa by the C’ Army Corps (14-23 November 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 10)
- On the basis of the intentions of the General Headquarters, regarding the assumption of offensive operations for the occupation of the mountain bulk of Morova-Ivan and the junction of Koritsa, the C’ Army Corps conducted a series of offensive operations within its zone of responsibility. These were conducted from November 1 to 6, and aimed at securing a suitable base for further operations.
These offensive operations, conducted by the C’ Army Corps, were completely successful and enabled its units to improve their positions, by advancing their deployment into the northern-Epirus territory, as far as the eastern ridges of the upper valley of Devolis river.
Meanwhile, on November 5, the General Headquarters ordered the WMFAS to apply, together with the C’ Army Corps, as soon as possible, the strongest possible pressure, so as to attain the final objective, the occupation of Koritsa. Subsequently, on November 6, the WMFAS assigned the C’ Army Corps its new mission and pointed out the need to assume operations in haste, in order to complete the occupation of the Pyxos peninsula and Morova mountain. The precise moment whereupon the C’ Army Corps would commence its offensive was to be determined after the WMFAS had received the relevant proposal of the Corps.
- The naturally strong area of Morova-Ivan covered the road junction of Koritsa and, as of 1939, the entire area had been organised, with particular attention paid to the passes of Tsagoni and Darza. The C’ Army Corps, seeking to break through the above area, decided to attack it from the flanks, with the main effort on the left, in the direction of Nestori-Darza-Koritsa. It was seeking thus to avoid any serious involvement in the Tsagoni defile, which, owing to its flat terrain, was suitable for the passage of enemy tanks along the road Koritsa-Tsagoni-Biglista.
The offensive action of the Army Corps had been planned to commence on November 11, with the forces that were already on site, the IX, X and XV Divisions. The idea was, on the one hand, to afford the enemy with no time to reinforce its troops and, on the other, to hold the enemy troops in position within their zone, so as to prevent their employment against the fronts of the A’ and B’ Army Corps in Epirus and Pindos.
The Italian forces that were deployed opposite the C’ Army Corps during that period comprised the 49th ‘Parma’ Division, the l9th ‘Venezzia’ Division and the 29th ‘Piedmonte’ Division.
- The WMFAS did not agree with the proposal submitted by the C’ Army Corps, by which the date for the commencement of operations had been set on 11 November since it considered that the Army Corps did not have sufficient forces. Thus, it submitted its own proposal to the General Headquarters, requesting the suspension of operations and the timely advance of two additional divisions.
Finally, after a series of repeated contacts with the WMFAS and the C’ Army Corps, the General Headquarters fixed November 14 as the date of the attack. Furthermore, it placed the XIII Division, that was concentrating its forces in the area of Andartiko-Vatochori, at the disposal of the WMFAS.
The C’ Army Corps, in accordance with its own manoeuvre and in order to secure the surprise, ordered the attack, without any artillery preparation, in the following directions:
-Nestori-Darza-Koritsa, which was the main effort, with the X Division.
-Vratsa-height 1700 (Sveti Atanas)-Koritsa with the IX Division that was obliged to retain a constant liaison between its left flank and the X Division, so as to assist in the occupation of the height 1259 east of Sinitsa-Propa.
-Pyxos-Ivan-Koritsa, along with the XV Division.
- The attack was launched, as authorised, on November l4, at 0630hrs, in the entire area of the C’ Army Corps front, which extended from the height of Goubel up to the shores of lake Megali Prespa.
In the southern sector, the X Division sallied forth, as authorised, without artillery preparation and was engaged in action during the whole of that day. By that evening, despite the vigorous enemy resistance, the Division succeeded in penetrating to a depth ranging from 1 to 3 kilometres and seized Bataros height as well as the villages Nikolitse and Vozigrad.
The IX Division, in the middle of the offensive deployment, after a fierce struggle due to the stubborn enemy resistance, advanced to a depth ranging from 2 to 5 kilometres and occupied the west bank of Devolis river by the same evening. On the night of November 14 to l5, the Regiment of the X Division, that was assisting the left flank of the IX Division, was placed under the command of the latter.
In the northern sector, the XV Division also attacked without artillery preparation and, despite the fierce enemy resistance, managed to advance to a depth of approximately four kilometres and occupied the line Bitinska village-Tsernik height-height 1285. In many cases the battle was extremely ferocious and was conducted by bayonet and hand grenade. Many casualties were suffered by the XV Division, amounting to 42 dead and 161 wounded.
The results of the first day of action were regarded as satisfactory by the C’ Army Corps, taking into consideration the considerable breadth of the attack front, and the vigorous resistance of the enemy that had been supported by the artillery, mortars and airforce. The WMFAS reported that it had committed its entire strength to the action, and that it was lacking in reserves. Furthermore, it supported the view that in the course of the following day the enemy would be employing motorised vehicles. The WMFAS ordered its forces to continue the attack, by shock action along a narrow front and to support it with all available means of fire.
After the favourable outcome of that first day and upon receiving the WMFAS order, the C’ Army Corps, having no time to alter its plans, ordered the continuation of the attack, starting on the morning of November l5, in order to accomplish the set objectives.
- The X Division launched its attack at daybreak on November l5. Despite the fact that it encountered great resistance, it succeeded in completing the occupation of the Bataros height and in seizing the Stavroeides height (two and a half kilometres west of Nikolitse village), which constituted a strong foothold to the south of the Darza pass.
The IX Division, in the centre, began the attack at 0700 hrs and by that evening, after a difficult struggle, succeeded in its effort to seize the heights 1259 and 1271, despite the vigorous resistance and the counter-attacks of the enemy. Furthermore, 11 officers and 250 soldiers were taken prisoners and an abundance of enemy supplies were seized, including 18 guns, 40 machine-guns, 200 pack animals etc.
In the northern sector, the XV Division continued its offensive effort, in order to improve the occupied positions and it managed to repulse local enemy counterattacks.
On the following day, November l6, the C’ Army Corps had ordered Divisions X and XV, to increase their activity, in order to accomplish their objectives. The IX Division was ordered to act in the direction of Propa height-Darza pass-height 1878 (Nikolitse pass), so as to support the efforts of the X Division.
- The offensive continued and, the X Division completed on the left flank the occupation of Stavroeides height and occupied height 1827 and Arza village, along with its northern heights.
The IX Division managed to occupy the range of Hepets, after a fierce struggle, and advanced its troops towards the heights 1779 and 1700 (Sveti Atanas).
The XV Division, despite its forceful assault, did not succeed in advancing significantly, because of the vigorous resistance of the enemy forces and the dense barrage of fire by their machine-guns, mortars and artillery.
Thus, on November l6, before nightfall, in the sector of the X and IX Divisions, significant heights situated at the principal defensive area of the enemy in the Darza pass had been taken and a serious break was achieved through the enemy’s area.
During the course of that same day, prisoner interrogations revealed that a new Italian division, the 53rd ‘Arezzo’ Infantry Division had entered into action. Thus, the enemy divisions increased in number within the zone of the C’ Army Corps, amounting to four.
- After the above mentioned successes and the break through of the hostile position, the WMFAS, on the evening of November l6, ordered the active and daring advance of its units, that would occur mainly from the left, so as to complete the occupation of mount Morova and it placed the XIII Division at the disposal of the C’ Army Corps.
The C’ Army Corps then, assigned the missions for the next day, as follows:
-The X Division to attack and seize the height 1878.
-The IX Division to conduct its attack in the direction of the Darza-Lotto pass and at the same time, to take action northwards along the ridgeline of mount Morova, in order to threaten the rear area of the enemy and immobilise the enemy forces in that area.
-The XV Division to attack and seize Ivan mountain.
- On the following day, November l7, after a hard fight, the X Division managed to occupy the southern feet of height 1878 and repulsed successive enemy counter-attacks against the heights of Stavroeides and 1827.
The IX Division completed the occupation of the ridgeline of Propa-Sveti Atanas (height 1700), in spite of the repeated counter-attacks of the enemy.
In the north, the XV Division seized villages Motsoritse and Goloberda, after a tough fight, without however managing to advance any further, owing to the natural strong terrain, the existing organised positions and the vigorous resistance of the enemy. There were grave casualties on both sides. The XV Division had 4 officers killed in action and 5 wounded during that day, as well as 79 soldiers killed in action and 280 wounded. The Italian prisoners, that were taken by the Division that same day, were 7 officers and 120 soldiers.
For the operations of the following day, November l8, the C’ Army Corps was reinforced by the WMFAS with an Infantry regiment of the IX Division. The C’ Army Corps assigned later this regiment to the X Division. In parallel, the Corps ordered the XIII Division to attack with an Infantry regiment detachment in the direction of Kapestitsa-Zeblac, between the IX and XV Divisions.
- On November l8, the IX Division assumed action with an Infantry regiment detachment (the Beyetti Detachment) in the direction of Darza, in order to facilitate the offensive efforts of the X Division, and advanced strong forces towards Drenovo village and further to the north. In parallel, it managed to place the road Erseka-Koritsa, as well as the barracks and the base camp of Koritsa under its artillery fire.
During the same day, in the sectors of Divisions X and XV, there was no significant progress to be recorded, due to the vigorous enemy resistance.
At 0200 hrs, during a torrential rainstorm, the XIII Division Detachment concentrated its forces at its jump off base, south of Kapestitsa village. At 0230 hrs, the Division received an Army Corps order that altered the direction in which the Detachment was to attack and dictated that the latter should move towards the Hotsiste height. This decision was taken by the C’ Army Corps, after the intelligence reported an impending retirement of the enemy forces from the line Hotsiste-Tsagoni.
This alteration imposed specific movements, that were conducted during the night under heavy rain, which, weakened the link between the various sections and created a state of disorder and confusion. Only two of the first echelon battalions that belonged to the Detachment were able to gain contact with the enemy. Eventually, however, these were held in position before Hotsiste height and lost all means of contact with the command of both the Detachment and Division. As for the second echelon of the Detachment, in spite of the fact that it was only forced to confront airborne bombing attacks, its troops were overcome with panic and withdrew in a state of total disarray.
Because of this unfortunate event, which, nevertheless, escaped the attention of the enemy, the commander of the XIII Division Detachment was replaced along with the Division commander. The command of the Division was entrusted to Major General Sotirios Moutousis, who had been Artillery Commander of the C’ Army Corps up to that point, while the command of the Detachment was assumed by its Deputy commander, Lieutenant Colonel Georgios Kyvelos. After co-ordinating their efforts, the new commands were quick to restore the order and managed to raise the combat effectiveness of the Division troops to a satisfactory level.
- The prolongation of the operations against the mountain range of Morova-Ivan and the gradual reinforcement of the enemy, forced the WMFAS to successively commit into action the XIII Division between IX and XV Divisions and the XI Division further to the south, between IX and X Divisions.
Meanwhile, since November 11, the General Headquarters had assigned the Commander of the D’ Army Corps, Lieutenant General Georgios Kosmas, to the WMFAS. He was provided with the staff required in order to assume command of the left flank of the C’ Army Crops, where X and XI Divisions were operating. This new command was named Division Group ‘K’ (DivGr‘K’). The C’ Army Corps would be confined to the north of the line Vozigrad-Darza-Bobostitsa (all to the C’ AC), with the IX, XIII, and XV Divisions under its command. The resupply of Division Group ‘K’ would be conducted care of the C’ Army Corps.
At the same time, the General Headquarters decided to organise a mobile reserve force for any case of exploitation. On November l4, as the Cavalry Division had been transferred to Epirus, the GH ordered four Reconnaissance groups to concentrate their forces in Plati and to advance in haste to the area of Florina. These comprised the VI, VII, XII and Division groups, that belonged to the Eastern Macedonia Field Army Section (EMFAS) and, as of November l8, were placed at the disposal of the WMFAS.
Finally, the GH gradually advanced part of its reserve forces towards the northern front of the Albanian Theatre of Operations. Thus, the EMFAS was ordered to provide an entire Infantry regiment for the area of Amyndaeo, while the XVII Division advanced to the area of Nestori-Argos Orestiko. On November 20, the division advanced to the area of Ieropigi-Komninades-Mesopotamia, where it was placed at the disposal of the WMFAS, under the binding condition that its use would be subject to GH approval. The V Division had concentrated its forces in the area of Philotas-Ptolemaida and the XVI Brigade was in the area of Grevena-Kivotos, so that it could be committed to action in the Pindos Sector.
- At 0700 hrs on November l7, Lieutenant General Georgios Kosmas arrived in Kozani, accompanied by a number of staff officers from the Headquarters of the D’ Army Corps and two Signal companies. There, he was briefed by the commander of the WMFAS in regard to the tactical situation and the mission of Division Group ‘K’. Directly afterwards, he advanced to Kastoria, where he assumed the command of Division Group ‘K’ (X-XI Divisions).
The Commander of WMFAS arrived in Kastoria almost simultaneously and issued his own orders to the Commanders of the C’ Army Corps and Division Group ‘K’. Both formations were instructed to continue operations within their respective zones of action, which had been redefined after the formation of Division Group ‘K’. Furthermore, he underlined that after the occupation of Morova, any further advance in the plain of Koritsa was conditional on the issue of a WMFAS order.
Division Group ‘K’ then, ordered the continuation of operations in the general direction Nikolitse-Kamenitsa with the XI Division on the left and the X Division on the right (the main effort), aiming at the occupation of the line Moutke village -1508 height- Sepotista height (1570). Furthermore, in an attempt to keep contact with the enemy, reconnaissance troops were ordered to advance, at least as far as the Erseka-Koritsa road.
Since November l9, Reserve Major General Georgios Dromazos assumed the command of the X Division.
- On November 19 and 20, the Division Group ‘K’ divisions mainly dealt with improving their positions and advancing some of their troops, in order to prepare for the attack that would be launched on the following day. Patrol units, sent by a detachment of the XI Division, advanced to the left flank of the disposition, as far as the road Erseka-Koritsa, without encountering any resistance on the part of the enemy. In the sector of the C’ Army Corps, during the two-day period of November 19 and 20, the IX Division continued its offensive effort under adverse weather conditions and snowfall, in the direction of Darza and the height 1805 (the summit of mount Morova). By evening of November l9, the height 1805 was taken, being indispensable in the effort to complete the occupation of mount Morova. The following day, November 20, because of the adverse weather conditions, the Division did not undertake any important offensive action. However, it succeeded in placing the Bobotista-Darza road under the control of its fire.
The XIII Division seized the Hotsiste height and applied its efforts to the task of reinforcing the antitank protection of the Devolis river valley.
The XV Division improved its occupied positions and kept close contact with the enemy.
- On November 2l, the divisions of Division Group ‘K’ continued their offensive. The XI Division occupied Moutke village and assisted in the occupation of the height 1878. The X Division seized the height 1878 after a hard and stubborn fight. Due to the strong resistance of superior enemy forces, the division failed to occupy the Loto height.
On the same day, the offensive effort of the C’ Army Corps continued mainly in the sector of the IX Division, where the western ridges of the heights 1805 and Hotsiste were seized. After being defeated, the enemy withdrew towards the plain of Koritsa. The left flank of the Division continued the pressing towards the Darza pass.
On November 2l, the WMFAS issued an order for the continuation of the offensive operations, instructing the C’ Army Corps and Division Group ‘K’ to continue their offensive, in order to complete the occupation of mount Morova and Tsagoni defile.
- After the abovementioned successes of the Greek troops at the front of Morova, the Italians began to withdraw towards the valley of Devolis river on the night of November 21 to 22, so as to avoid encirclement within the plain of Koritsa.
At daybreak on November 22, the divisions of the C’ Army Corps resumed their offensive action.
The IX Division occupied the remaining southern shoulders of Tsagoni pass and linked up with the XV Division at Zemlac. Further to the south, the Detachment of Colonel Beyetis, of the same Division, seized the village of Drenovo south-east of Koritsa. At 1745 hrs, detachment troops (the 1st Battalion of the 33rd Regiment and a company from the 1st Battalion of the 27th Regiment) entered the town of Koritsa without encountering any enemy resistance, and the native Greek population expressed to them their enthusiasm with displays of delirium.
By that evening, the Division advanced its outposts west of Koritsa and established its defence on the western feet of mount Morova, on the same level as the XV Division.
The XV Division occupied the pass of Tsagoni and the summit of mount Ivan, where it established its defence.
The XIII Division concentrated its forces in the area south-east of the Tsagoni pass.
Division Group ‘K’ continued its offensive action westwards on November 22. By nightfall on the same day, it succeeded in occupying the line Moutke village-Kiafe Kiarit height, with the XI Division and the line Kamenitsa-Bobostitsa, with the X Division.
The WMFAS suffered considerable losses in the course of the Morova-Ivan battle. The casualties have been estimated to 34 officers and 590 soldiers killed in action and 82 officers and 2,226 soldiers wounded, even though these numbers are thought to be far lower than the actual ones.
The New Objectives of the General Headquarters
(Sketch-map no. 8)
- Since it became evident that the offensive action of the Greek troops was developing favourably in Epirus as well as in the sector of Koritsa, the General Headquarters began to consider the issue of the further continuation of the operations. This consideration was directed towards the two general axes of Ioannina-Avlona and Florina-Koritsa-Elvasan. The development of the operations would be decisively affected by the transportation for their support and by the advent of winter, the mountainous terrain as well as by the adverse weather conditions prevailing in the northern and central sectors, that is to say in the high plateau of Koritsa and the mountain bulks surrounding the valley of Aoos river.
Until then, the A’ Army Corps had procured its supplies via the harbour of Preveza, while the B’ Army Corps had used the central railway terminals of Kalambaka-Kozani and the C’ Army Corps, the towns of Florina and Amyndaeo. From there on, the transportation of supplies to the front-line was conducted by motor vehicles and pack animals. The harbour of Agii Saranda and the cross road Agii Saranda-Kakavia-Merdjani-Leskoviki were critical locations for the support of any future operations due to the fact that the transportation route was bound to be shortened, if use was made of the above locations after managing to have them both secured. This fact assumed even greater importance, given that the motor vehicles of the Greek Army were numerically inadequate, of many different types, and in a bad state of repair. Most of these vehicles had been requisitioned and therefore could not be replaced with new ones from foreign sources and, what is more, there was no reserve stock of spare parts, so as to repair the damages. If used to their full capacity the vehicles were only expected to last as far as the area of the borders.
On the basis of the abovementioned facts, the General Headquarters decided to focus its main effort along the axis Ioannina-Avlonas, without ruling out the additional possibility of exploitation deep inside the northern sector of Koritsa. To that end, the A’ and B’ Army Corps were reinforced with the III and XI Divisions respectively.
- In general, the manoeuvre of the General Headquarters aimed at :
-Securing the free use of the carriage roads Leskoviki-Koritsa and Kakavia-Agii Saranda, with the mountain bulks of Mali Ger (west of Argyrokastro)-Korie (Northeast of Argyrokastro)-Mali Kokoika (north of Premeti) as the desired objectives.
-Advancing the left flank of the A’ AC northwards using the right flank of the entire disposition (C’ AC-DivGr ‘K’) as a strong and secure pivot. The centre (B’ AC) was assigned to follow and assist this advance, and also to provide a stable link between the two flanks.
The missions assigned to the Large units of the front were as follows:
-The A’ Army Corps would operate in the general direction of Elea-Argyrokastro-Tepeleni-Avlonas, co-ordinating its move with the B’ Army Corps on the right.
-The B’ Army Corps would operate in the general direction Mertzani-Verati, through the valleys of river Aoos and Apsou (Ouzoun), co-ordinating its action on the right with the A’ Army Corps and linking up with the two other flanks of the front (A’ AC-WMFAS).
-The WMFAS (C’ AC-DivGr’K’) would secure the highland of Koritsa from the northern and western directions and apply strong pressure against the enemy forces, in order to engross their attention and detain them, to the advantage of the other Large Units of the front (A’-B’ AC). The carriage roads, west of Koritsa, towards Moschopolis – Devolis -Pogradetz sould be the starting points for the respective directions of attack, in order to achieve the deepest possible infiltration. The aim of the promotion north of Pogradetz was to block off that direction and hinder the enemy from moving westwards.
The forces, that remained as general reserves of the Commander in chief of the Army, were the V and XIII Division, the XVI Brigade in North-western Macedonia and the IV Divisions in Epirus.
In the letters of instruction of the Commander in chief, there was no final definition of the objectives so that the commands may display their initiative, in order to take advantage of their successes until the time limit imposed by the onset of winter, when operations would essentially come to a halt.
The Advance of the A’ Army Corps towards the valley of Drinos river
(November 24-30, 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 11)
- Since November 24, the A’ Army Corps resumed its pursuit of the enemy within the northern Epirus territory. In parallel, it began to orient its units in the general direction of Ioannina-Avlonas, so as to prepare for any further operations, in accordance with the General Headquarters instructions.
In the coastal sector, the Liubas Detachment continued its offensive inside the northern Epirus territory, after having occupied the boundary line north of the village Sayada, on November 25, at the end of a fierce fight. By the evening, on November 26, it had managed to gain contact with the enemy position south of the river Pavla, despite the vigorous counter-action of the Italian Airforce. The latter succeeded in destroying the bridges of Vrysela and Menina on Kalamas river, an action which created considerable difficulties in the resupply of the Detachment troops.
Meanwhile, in order to assist the offensive of the Liubas Detachment, the Military Command of Kerkira had organised, by order of the General Headquarters, a detachment comprising 5 officers and 190 elite troops. This was transported by motor boats and landed at the area of Kato Aetos on November 23, at 0630 hrs. Its mission was to move towards Vangalati, in order to attack the rear area of the enemy. However, instead of acting as instructed, it moved southwards and along the coastline during the day, arriving at Konispolis, where it spent the night. On the following day, it continued to move southwards, in order to link up with the Greek troops that were acting towards the north. However, the Italian troops became aware of its presence and attacked it. The detachment disbanded and the majority of its troops were taken prisoners. Eventually, only 2 officers and 45 soldiers were able to link up forces with the Liubas Detachment.
On November 27, the Liubas Detachment resumed its offensive, continuously pressing the enemy positions and forcing the Italians to withdraw towards the valley of Bistritsa river, in the night of November 27 to 28. The pursuit of the enemy commenced on the following day. By the evening on November 30, the Detachment troops had reached the east bank of Bistritsa river and had established their forces there, in contact with the Italians who were occupying the west bank of the river.
- In the sector of the VIII Division, the Greek troops continued their effort to occupy the defile of Kakavia, which had been organised by the enemy and was strongly occupied by the troops of the Alpine Division.
On November 24, the VIII Division launched an attack, in order to break through the abovementioned pass, but was contained, having encountered the vigorous resistance of the enemy. On November 27, after a fierce fight, in which the scales were constantly wavering between the two sides, the Division managed to occupy the mountain range of the heights 669 and Bourato. Nevertheless, it was not able to hold them, due to the strong resistance of the Italians in conjunction with the severe blizzard that had broken out in the meantime. By November 30, continuing its effort, the Division managed to occupy the line Kakavia village-Bouna forest-height 1672 (Makrykambos), where it consolidated its position.
- As of November 25, the II Division began to act in the direction Drymades-Politsani. On the following day, after occupying the village of Politsani, it proceeded towards a defile of great tactical significance, the Sucha defile, extending over a distance of eight kilometres with a breadth of 200-600 meters and steep slopes on both sides.
In the evening of November 29, the Division managed to occupy the south-western exit of the defile and to establish its forces on the northern heights of Soucha village.
On the night of November 29 to 30, the Italians launched a powerful counter-attack which, nevertheless, was successfully repulsed. The next day, the Italians continued their counter-attacks, supported by their airforce. The struggle was fierce and lasted until the evening hours, whereupon the combat troops of the Division that were on site withdrew towards the entrance of the defile.
The Italian Airforce, with the exception of the units engaged in action, bombed all populated areas of the region, causing the death of more than 30 civilians.
- As of November 2l, the III Division, which had been moving towards the zone of operations, was placed at the disposal of the A’ Army Corps. On November 23, it had reached the area south of Ioannina, having covered a distance of 350 kilometres with its troops marching under adverse weather conditions. On November 24, the Division was ordered to advance to the area of Doliana in order to commence operations by November 28 in the area south of the Delvinaki-Kakavia-Argyrokastro road.
During the two days November 26 and 27, the Division units continued their advance, in order to seize the positions from which their attack was to be launched, in the area of the villages Pepeli and Boularat. Nevertheless, the troops were not able to reach them in time and thus the attack was launched in the morning of November 30. By that evening, at the end of a fierce struggle, the Division managed to seize the eastern ridges of height 1297 (Kazania) and the southern outskirts of Boularat village.
The Advance of the B’ Army Corps towards Fraseri
(24-30 November 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 12)
- In parallel to the advance of the A’ Army Corps towards the valley of river Drinos, the B’ Army Corps conducted new efforts, aiming at repulsing the Italians even further inside the northern Epirus territory and to fully secure the road of Mertzani-Leskoviki-Erseka-Koritsa within its zone.
On November 23, the B’ Army Corps reinforced the Cavalry Brigade with Reconnaissance Groups B’, D’ and a pack battery and proceeded to order the speedy concentration of the Brigade in the area of Borova village. The Brigade was assigned to act in the direction of Premeti, in order to assist the operations conducted in the valley of the river Aoos.
The XI Infantry Division and the Cavalry Division, that by order of the General Headquarters had been placed at the disposal of the B’ Army Corps, were incorporated in the latter as of November 27 and 28 respectively.
- By November 27, after having seized the eastern ridges of the height 1500 (Mali Piscalit) on November 24 and having improved the positions it was occupying, the I Division resumed its action in the general direction of Mali Piscalit-Mali Kokoika. By the evening of the following day, the Division had completed the occupation of Mali Piscalit height, while some of its troops, that had advanced, entered the village of Gostivisti where they took 48 prisoners and seized 8 guns, 8 machine-guns, hundreds of rifles and other war supplies.
On November 29 and 30 the Division continued its offensive action, but was forced to slow down, owing to the vigorous enemy resistance. The occupation of a height range at the south-east of the Mali Kokoika height constituted its sole achievement during that time.
- The Cavalry Brigade began to move in the direction of Borova-Navosela-Fraseri since the morning of November 25, without waiting to complete the concentration of its forces. By the same evening, it was able to gain contact with the enemy at the south-eastern ridges of the height 1305. However, due to the lateness of the hour it did not take any further action.
On November 26, Brigade troops occupied the height 1305 and the village of Zavalani. During the following days and up until November 30, the Brigade efforted to advance towards Fraseri, but its effort was not successful due to the strong resistance and successive counter-attacks of the enemy against the vulnerable troops of the Cavalry Brigade.
- The V Infantry Brigade operated in parallel with the Cavalry Brigade, further to the north, in the direction of the heights Mali Kelkes-Mali Lires.
On November 27, after a close combat , it managed to occupy the height Mali Kelkes and advanced towards the south-west, as far as the height Kiafe Lires.
On the following day, November 28, it managed to mop up the area of the Mali Kelkes height and advanced as far as Apsos river. At the same time, it also directed its action towards the village of Fraseri, but the effort did not succeed due to the counter-action of the enemy forces that held their ground strongly at the occupied heights around the village.
The Brigade troops, that occupied the height of Kiafe Lires, remained at their positions awaiting their relief by the XI Division which, in the meantime, had been incorporated in the B’ army Corps and had been assigned to pass through the lines of the V Brigade and act in the direction of the Kiafe Lires height. However, due to the favourable development of the operations within the zone of the V Brigade, the B’ Army Corps issued a new order, by which the V Brigade was to continue to occupy its sector, while the XI Division was to remain as a reserve in the area of the Mali Randomit height. The Division was instructed to place a single Infantry regiment at the disposal of the Cavalry Brigade, in order to enable the latter to continue its action towards Fraseri.
- The Cavalry Division had remained under the command of the A’ Army Corps until November 27 and was operating in its right flank, closely liaising with the B’ Army Corps. During this period, it managed to advance as far as Legatitsa river, where it ascertained that the enemy was firmly holding its ground with strong forces in the area of the west bank. On the following day, it managed to cross the river and moved towards Premeti.
By November 30, at the end of a stubborn struggle, the Division troops reached the eastern bank of Aoos river. Their attempt to move towards the western bank failed, due to the strong counter-action of the enemy, but they were able to ascertain that the Italians had begun to abandon Premeti and were in the process of withdrawing towards Klissoura.
The WMFAS (C’AC-DivGr’K’) Operations,
for the complete securing of the Highplateau of Koritsa
(24-30 November, 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 12)
- By order no. l3342 of the General Headquarters, issued to the WMFAS on November 22, the following was decided :
‘Following my order No. 13174/1-11-40, continue your effort with intensity according to your judgement, aiming at blocking off the routes towards Koritsa highplateau and the carriage road Koritsa-Leskoviki, from the West and the North, and as far deeper as you can reach, in order to achieve safe and free use of the said road.’
The WMFAS, in order to relieve its troops that had been overcome with fatigue, decided to suspend its operations temporarily and raised objections to that effect against the order of the General Headquarters. Subsequently, the General Headquarters issued the following supplementary order :
‘The continuation of the operations for the accomplishment of the order 13342/22/11 is to be sought after in haste. We acknowledge the fatigue of our troops, however, the enemy’s condition is worse. It is not to our advantage to allow the enemy to reorganise and redeploy its forces. Each and every day that goes by actually serves to aggravate rather than facilitate your efforts. You must stress the above to the commanders of your units and demand positive results’.
- On November 23, the WMFAS issued its own operation instructions, which comprised the following main points :
- During the first phase : The C’ Army Corps was to secure the mountain bulk of Ivan, the defile of Tsagoni and the section of Morova that was included within its zone. Simultaneously, it would keep contact with the enemy towards the arterial roads that ran along the lakes Maliki and Prespa Major. Division Group ‘K’ was assigned to occupy Kiafe Kiarit defile, hold its ground firmly at that position and cover the left flank of the C’ Army Corps. Furthermore, it was to keep contact with the enemy in the directions of Moschopolis and Ostravitsa. The B’ Army Corps was assigned to cover Leskoviki from the northwest, in close cooperation with the Cavalry Division, and was to link up with Division Group ‘K’.
During the second phase : The C’ Army Corps was to advance its deployment between lakes Megali Prespa and Maliki, as far as the northern exits of the defiles, and was ordered to hold its ground firmly inside the defile of Devolis river, as far as Prespa (Tsagoni). Division Group ‘K’ and the B’ Army Corps were to continue and consolidate the efforts of the first phase.
During the third phase : The C’ Army Corps was to advance its disposition between lakes Achris and Maliki, as far as the defile of Devolis river as far as Tresova, with a strong bridgehead in the area of Pogradetz. Division Group ‘K’ was to cover the left flank of the C’ Army Corps, while the B’ Army Corps would provide full covering to the arterial road Melissopetra-Erseka-Koritsa within its zone.
- The C’ Army Corps assigned the IX and XIII Divisions with the offensive operations, in order to widely secure the highplateau of Koritsa from the Northwest. The XV Division was assigned to secure the Tsagoni defile and the mountain bulk of Ivan.
The IX Division commenced its action on November 24, in order to occupy the heights that lay to the Northwest of lake Maliki. By November 26 its troops had reached the line of the villages Tresova and Tseresniko without encountering any serious resistance of the enemy.
On the following day the Division resumed its offensive effort. After having successively seized the heights 1434 and 1652, it launched an attack against the height 1548 and managed to seize the latter on November 29, despite the stubborn resistance of the enemy. The enemy abandoned on the battlefield 55 killed in action and 120 wounded, including 10 officers.
On November 30, the Division had planned to operate towards the height 1532, but due to heavy snowfalls, this operation was not carried out.
The XIII Division commenced its offensive action on November 25. By that evening, the saddle of Grambotitsa was occupied. On the following day Division troops shifted their action to the west of the saddle, in order to link up with the IX Division and seized the height 1210. On November 27 and 28, the Division focused its activity on the effort to improve its positions and prepare its troops for the attack against the height 1292 which towered over the area as far as Pogradetz and had been powerfully organised.
The attack against the height 1292 commenced in the morning of November 29, without the required coordination between the artillery fire and the movement of the attacking infantry, mainly due to the inactivity of the latter. This had as a result the slow down of the entire operation and the seizure of the height in the morning of the following day. The fall of the height 1292 had a decisive effect on the Italians defending at Pogradetz who began to evacuate their defensive area as far as lake Achris and were in the process of withdrawing towards Elvasan. Reconnaissance troops of the C’ Army Corps entered Pogradetz at 1000 hrs and occupied the town.
- The advance of Division Group ‘K’ westwards, began in parallel with the advance of the C’ Army Corps to the area Northwest of Koritsa.
On November 24, the X Division occupied Moschopolis and, in the course of the following day, it proceeded to advance towards the North-western heights, where it established its defence by order of Division Group ‘K’ . On November 26 and 27, the necessary rearrangements were conducted on the left flank of the Division, in order to facilitate the extension of its zone of action towards the left, that would occur after the assignment of the IX Division to the B’ Army Corps. As of November 28, the offensive was resumed, and, by November 30, the line Maskoulori height-Pounemira village- Krousiva height had been occupied.
By November 25, while operating on the left flank of the X Division, the XI Division had managed to occupy the line Treska village-height 1843-Kourora height, having encountered no resistance on the part of the enemy, where it established its defence, having been assigned to cover the directions from Ostravitsa and Apsos valley to Belavonda and Koritsa. As of November 27, it was placed under the command of the B’ Army Corps.
- The operations conducted by the C’ Army Corps and Division Group ‘K’ up until November 30, were entirely successful and as a result the Greek forces advanced as far as the eastern slopes of mount Kamia. Thus, the area of Koritsa was fully secured.
Following a request of the C’ Army Corps, the XVII Division was assigned to it as of November 27. The XVII Division, which had just arrived at the area of Mesopotamia, was ordered by the C’ Army Corps to gradually relieve the XIII Division, that after been relieved would act as a reserve of the General Headquarters.
The relief of the XIII Division was considered necessary, in order to allow its units sufficient time to rest and re-group, due to the weaknesses they had displayed during the most recent operations. These weaknesses being mainly the result of lack of professionlly competent senior and regular junior officers, did not fail to affect the cohesion of the Division, despite the active and continuous presence of its Commander on the field of action and notwithstanding the success of the Division during the battle of height 1292-Pogradetz.
The Occupation of Agii Saranda and Argyrokastro
(1-12 December 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 11)
- At the end of November 1940 and after a series of fierce battles, the A’ Army Corps, that had been advancing in the direction of the Ioannina-Avlonas axis, deployed its forces along an almost 65 Km width front. This front extended from the shores of the Adriatic sea right up to the river Aoos.
In the coastal sector, the Lioubas Detachment operated in two directions. The left flank (Team of Colonel Konstantinos Papadopoulos) was able to reach Bistritsas river right before the town of Agii Saranda, while the right flank (Team of Colonel Panaghiotis Raftopoulos) managed to occupy the inaccessible bulk of the Tsamandas mountains.
The III Division, that had been committed to the action as of November 28, took over the sector that lay south of the carriage road Delvinaki-Kakavia and as far as the mountains of Tsamandas.
The VIII Division conducted a series of fierce battles, which lasted ten days, against the enemy forces occupying the area of Kakavia pass-Bourato, but eventually failed to break down their resistance.
The II Division operated on the right flank of the Army Corps and on either side of the rocky, steep and inaccessible mountain range of Nemertska, having placed the bulk of its forces on the north-eastern side of the Soucha defile.
- As of December l, the A’ Army Corps resumed its advance within the territory of Northern Epirus, according to the instructions of the General Headquarters.
From December 1 to 4, the left flank (Papadopoulos Team) of the Liubas Detachment dealt with the reinforcement of its occupied positions located south-east of river Bistritsas. Furthermore, it directed its efforts towards the re-organisation of its troops. As of December l, the right flank (Raftopoulos Team) was placed under the command of the III Division, which acted on the east of the Detachment. By the morning of December 4, the latter Team had managed to cross the upper valley of Bistritsas river and had succeeded in enveloping the enemy area facing the Detachment. Subsequently, the Italians withdrew to the Northwest on the night of December 4 to 5, after having destroyed the bridge in that area. The withdrawal was perceived on the morning of December 5, whereupon a new improvised bridge was constructed with the abandoned inflatable boat materiel and with the additional assistance of the local inhabitants. After the completion of the bridge, light troops belonging to the Liubas Detachment used it to cross the Bistritsas river. Further to the south, they forded the river at Mesopotamia village and proceeded to seize the heights which secured the control of the cross road Agii Saranda-Delvino.
By the morning of December 6, the rest of the Detachment troops had crossed over to the other side of the river, having had to endure the severe cold and facing grave hazards due to the dark and the high level of the frozen waters of the river. The troops continued their forward movement and, at 0900 hrs, entered and occupied the town of Agii Saranda, without encountering any serious enemy resistance. The Italians withdrew, setting fire to stores and warehouses and abandoning large quantities of war supplies, especially engineers equipment and fuel supplies.
The occupation of Agii Saranda created a great impression internationally. The repercussions were detrimental to the prestige of Mussolini, since the Italians had changed the name of Agii Saranda to Porto Enda, to honour Enda, the daughter of Mussolini and wife of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, count Ciano.
However, the advance of the Detachment troops beyond Bistritsas river served to increase the difficulties of their already problematic resupply even further. For this reason and due to the general requirements of troop re-organisation and rest, instructions were issued ordering the hasty transportation of supplies from Sayada to Agii Saranda by motor boats. Furthermore, the sector of the Liubas Detachment was assigned to the II Division.
Nevertheless, the Detachment continued its advance and by December 8 it had occupied Pikerasi village and Tatezati pass where the Detachment linked up with the III Division which was acting on the east of Kalasas river. By December 11, the Detachment troops arrived before the village of Borsi and at the height of Koniak, where they awaited their replacement by the III Division.
- During the third ten-day period of November, the III Division advanced from the area of Ioannina to the area of Kastaniani. Thereafter, in the end of November, it took over the left section of the VIII Division zone, where it deployed two regiments, in order to conduct offensive action in the direction of Mouzina village.
On December l, under extremely adverse weather conditions, it launched the attack and managed to seize the eastern ridges of Platyvouni height as well as the village of Boularat. On the following day, an assault launched by Division troops seeking to occupy the main core of the Platyvouni height ended in failure. The height, which covered the areas of Delvino-Argyrokastro and had been strongly fortified, was protected by a barrage of fire, by guns of various calibres.
On December 3, the above height was taken after a fierce fight and the enemy withdrew towards Mouzina village. Further to the left, the Raftopoulos Team, assigned to the Division from the Liubas Detachment managed to occupy the southern bank of Bistritsas river on the same day, after a fierce battle. On the following day, it forded the river and deployed its forces on the opposite bank.
On December 5, continuing its movement it proceeded to occupy the village of Peza as well as the surrounding heights. Thus, the road of Mouzina-Agii Saranda was placed under the control of the Division. On the same day, the Reconnaissance Group of the Division crossed Bistritsas river and entered Delvino which had already been evacuated by the Italians who had left large quantities of food and other supplies behind.
On the following day, December 6, the Team Commander Colonel Raftopoulos entered Delvino, where the inhabitants welcomed him enthusiastically and their Mayor, in a symbolic gesture, offered him the keys to the town.
Meanwhile, the A’ Army Corps ordered the successive relief of the III Division units by IV Division units. By order of the General Headquarters the latter Division was placed at the disposal of the A’ Army Corps on the night of December 6 to 7. The III Division was to move further to the west and had been assigned to relieve the Liubas Detachment and to continue the offensive in the direction of Tatezati village-Koniak height-Mali Dzoret height.
However, the commencement of the relief was postponed for the night of December 7 to 8, because the IV Division troops did not arrive in time at their designated positions, due to the adverse terrain and weather conditions. Thus, the III Division continued its offensive action and, by December 7, had reached the line Makrykambos height (1537 height)-Souvliani village.
After its relief by the IV Division, the III Division concentrated its forces in the area of Delvino-Mouzina. The necessary administrative movements followed and by December l2 its units had replaced the Liubas Detachment troops and had gained contact with the enemy. The relief of the troops on the mountain bulk Koniak-Galitsi was conducted under a severe blizzard and encountered many adversities.
- By the end of November, the VIII Division was in close contact with the strongly occupied position of the enemy on the heights of 669-Bourato. On December 1 and 2, under extremely bad weather, the Division failed in its successive efforts to seize the heights 669 and Bourato, suffering extremely heavy losses in the process.
On December 3, Division troops managed to occupy the Bourato height after another arduous offensive effort. Thereafter, they continued southwards, in order to envelop height 669, since a frontal attack against it had already been repulsed. The action south of Bourato also continued on December 4 but failed to seize the height 669.
In the evening of December 4, the Commander in chief arrived at the Headquarters of the A’ Army Corps, in Kalpaki, accompanied by the Crown Prince where they had a briefing by the Commander of the VIII Division about the accomplishments up to that point. After congratulating the Division Commander on his work, the Commander in chief proceeded to demand the seizure of the height 669 by the following day, whereupon the Division would retire to become reserve of the Army Corps.
However, on the night of December 4 to 5, the Italians managed to withdraw from height 669 without being noticed by the Greek troops. The evacuation of the fought for height 669, was discovered in the morning of December 5. The enemy abandoned there about 100 unburied dead and more than 150 graves that attested the fierceness of the struggle and the perseverance of both parties for the control of the above height. During their withdrawal through the pass of Kakavia, the Italians abandoned large quantities of ammunitions, a fact which also revealed their hasty withdrawal.
The occupation of heights 669 and Bourato opened the way towards the valley of Drinos river. On December 6, a Combut Team of the VIII Division operated towards the village Libhova and seized it. Thereafter, it linked up with the II Division in the area east of Soucha. On the following day, the greatest part of the Division was relieved by the III Division and it remained as a reserve at the area north of Kakavia, for re-grouping.
Thus the forty-day continuous and uninterrupted struggle of the VIII Division ended on 7 December. During the operations it captured 46 officers and l,490 soldiers of the enemy and seized approximately 30 tanks, of which 15 were in a good state, an entire 65mm battery, 3 Skoda guns, a large number of automatic weapons, rifles, radios etc. Most of these tanks were repaired and employed thereafter by the Greek troops.
The casualties suffered by the Division were heavy and amounted to 34 officers and 280 soldiers killed in action, 48 officers and 1,360 soldiers wounded and 84 soldiers missing in action.
- On December lst, the II Division troops of which held the north-eastern side of the Soucha defile repelled an attack by the enemy forces, while organising two combat teams, both of regimental strength, for the further continuation of operations, one to be employed south and the other north of the Loudzeritse mountain range. On December 2, the southern team launched an attack to seize the defile of Soucha. Despite the ferocious enemy counter-action in conjunction with the barrage of lethal machine-gun and artillery fire, the Team succeeded in reaching as far as the village of Seltska by the same evening. After a fierce and continuous struggle on 3 and 4 December it managed to force its way into the defile and to occupy the south-western exit.
This success surprised the enemy forces deployed at the area of Soucha village who were overcome with panic and fled, abandoning large quantities of weapons and supplies. The evacuation of the town of Argyrokastro commenced simultaneously, according to reports of the Italian prisoners.
On December l, the team that acted in the northerly direction, between the mountain bulks of Loudzeritse and Nemertska-Debelit, managed to seize height 2145 of mount Nemertska. Nevertheless, because of the arctic cold and the resupply difficulties, the team retired to the western side of the height on December 3.
Since December 4, according to the order of the A’ Army Corps, the Division resumed its offensive towards the saddle of Tsayioupi, in order to block the canalization of forces from the valey of Aoos river to and from the valey of Drinos river.
In the southern direction, the Division seized the village of Lambova Major, at the south of the Tsayoupi saddle as well as the heights to the east of Hormova village, both by December 10. In the northern direction, Topova village and its area had been seized by December 7, while the saddle of Tsayoupi was seized -without a combat- on the following day. The effort conducted by the Division in the direction of the Mouskes saddle was unsuccessful until December l2, mainly due to the adverse weather conditions and the numerous losses suffered by the Division in manpower and pack animals during the operations.
- By November l9, the IV Division, which was mobilised in Nafplio and advanced to Kalambaka, had concentrated its forces in the area of Koutsoufliani. As of November 24 it began to move by night marches to the west of Ioannina, where it arrived on December 2. Thereafter, according to the order of the General Headquarters, it became subordinate to the A’ Army Corps. By December 6, it had advanced to the area of the villages Kastaniani-Kerasovo-Baltsista, near the Greek -Albanian borders.
On the night of December 7 to 8, by order of the A’ Army Corps, it replaced the III Division troops at the line Peza-Mouzina-Souvliani and on December 8 it began to advance to the Northwest of Argyrokastro. In the same evening, it managed to occupy the town of Dervitsani and the surrounding heights, despite the adverse weather conditions. At the entrance of Dervitsani, the troops were welcomed by about 700 young men and women, who were waving the Greek Flag and sang the National Anthem and the Easter hymn ‘Christ is Risen’.
By the following day, the Division continued its advance and, on December 11, seized by a surprise attack the southern ridges of Mali Spat height as well as the Bouzae Sefer Agait saddle, continuing southwards towards the Skivovik height.
On December l2, following orders of the A’ Army Corps, the IV Division directed its forces westwards, so as to occupy the saddle on the east of Skivovik height and from there to have under its artillery fire the Koutsi village, as well as the saddle east of Mali Djoret height. The IV Division troops situated at the area of Bouzae Sefer Agait, were releived by troops of the II Division.
- Meanwhile, as of December 5, the A’ Army Corps had organised a Combat Team in the area of Kakavia, comprising one Infantry battalion, two Field batteries and an Antitank Artillery battery. The Combat Team was principally assigned to provide antitank covering of the flanks of both divisions that were operating north and south of the Kakavia-Argyrokastro road.
On December 7, the above Combat Team advanced to Dervitsani, where on the following day, it was informed that the enemy had already evacuated Argyrokastro since the night of December 5 to 6, due to the advance of the Greek divisions. Following these reports, the Team proceeded in haste and occupied the town, establishing its forces on the heights situated approximately 4 kms north and Northeast of Argyrokastro. During their withdrawal, the Italians left the town intact and abandoned a multitude of war supplies. The entrance of the Greek troops into the town caused a storm of enthusiasm amongst the inhabitants, who welcomed them with flags and festivities. The same enthusiasm also prevailed throughout the Greek mainland.
The Occupation of Premeti and Fraseri
(1-12 December 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 12)
- Towards the end of November, the B’ Army Corps that was also advancing within the territory of Northern Epirus, had arrived in the area east of Premeti and Fraseri, while further to the north it had managed to occupy the Randomit heights.
As of November 30, the Army Corps ceased to be subordinate to the WMFAS and was placed under the direct command of the General Headquarters. Meanwhile, on November 29, it had issued orders to its units by which they were instructed to continue operations and occupy the area of Premeti-Mali Kokoika-Fraseri, assigning them the following missions:
-The Cavalry Division were to attack in the direction of Delvina-Hotova, covering the left flank of the I Division.
-The I Division was to attack in the direction of Royanni-Selenitsa.
-The Cavalry Brigade, that had an additional XI Division Regiment under its command, was to operate in the direction of heights Mali Kelkes-Kiafe Lopouses and envelop the enemy position of Fraseri from the north.
-The V Brigade was to secure heights Mali Kelkes and 1305.
-The XI Division was to secure further north the area of Kiafe Lires and to cover the right flank of the Cavalry Brigade.
- On December 2, the Cavalry Division, which was operating on the left of the B’ Army Corps zone, had managed to place Premeti under its fire, and the bridge by Aoos river. That bridge was blown up by the Italians the following morning. On December 3, the Division resumed its offensive and, at around 1000 hrs, its troops (the Detachment of Lieutenant Colonel Dimokostoulas) occupied the town and took about 250 prisoners. The withdrawal of the Italians from Premeti was conducted under the covering of their tanks and a large number of aircraft. Further to the north, another section of the Division occupied the village of Gostivisti and the surrounding heights in the same day.
On December 4, the Division continued its offensive towards the north-west. Encountering no serious resistance during the occupation of the Mali Bodarid mountain range and Hotova village, it proceeded to advance beyond Loumnitsa river and by December 8, had taken possession of height 1150, on the Northwest of the village of Ali Postivani.
Since the following day, the Cavalry Division suspended the conduct of any further offensive operations. Following a B’ Army Corps order, that was issued on December 3, the I Division was to gradually take over the zone of the Cavalry Division. The latter, after its replacement, was to concentrate its forces Northwest of Premeti, placing them at the disposal of the General Headquarters.
- On December 3 and at the end of a fierce fight, the I Division had managed to occupy the southern ridges of Kokoika height, while acting on the right of the Cavalry Division. On the following day, it continued its offensive effort and, by the evening hours of December 6, its troops had reached the eastern ridges of height 1292, in close contact with the enemy.
From December 6 to l2, the Division mainly focused its efforts on the task of improving its occupied positions and relieving gradually the Cavalry Division, a task that was completed by the evening of December 10.
- On December lst, the Cavalry Brigade occupied the Kiafe Kortses height and on December 2, the village of Seropouli west of Fraseri. This bold offensive action of the Cavalry Brigade was the decisive factor of the battle of Fraseri and forced the enemy to withdraw to a new position east of Klissoura.
On the following day, the Brigade continued its offensive and by December 5, it had arrived at the area of Malidi village, east of the Garonin mountain bulk. This action concluded the mission of the Cavalry Division, which remained, thereafter, as a reserve in the area of Fraseri. According to the orders of the B’ Army Corps, further operations within the Brigade zone were assigned to the XI Division. The regiment of this Division, which had been temporarily assigned to the Cavalry Brigade since November 29, returned to its parent unit.
- In December 3, after the required reconnaissance and preparation, the XI Division launched a strong attack against the entire front of its zone of responsibility and by the same evening, it had managed to seize the Mali Potomit height.
In December 5 the Division continued towards the height 1200 and seized it in the following day, after a fierce and wavering battle. Despite the adverse weather conditions and the ferocious counter-action of the enemy, the Division continued its offensive effort. Thus, by December l0, it had managed to take possession of the Galina height. The Italian troops withdrew westwards, abandoning 15 machine-guns, about 50 light machine-guns and over 200 rifles on the battlefield.
The Division casualties during the offensive against the Galina height were considerable, amounting to 9 officers and 24 soldiers killed in action, 8 officers and 122 soldiers wounded and 20 soldiers missing in action.
- The incessant struggle of the B’ Army Corps units as of November 14 and the adverse weather conditions wore out the men and created serious deficiencies. Thus, the Command of the Army Corps addressed the General Headquarters, requesting a rest period of 8 to 10 days for its troops after the occupation of Fraseri or, at the very least, the reinforcement of the Corps with an additional division before resuming operations.
In December 5, the Commander in chief and the Crown Prince arrived at the Headquarters of the B’ Army Corps. After a briefing about the situation, the General Headquarters acknowledged the request of the B’ Army Corps, regarding the urgency of its reinforcement, and decided to provide it with the XV Division in the place of the V Brigade and the Cavalry Brigade. These Brigades had already endured many hardships and were deficient in resupply equipment, a fact which further aggravated their efforts. After their relief they were to remain as reserves, at the disposal of the Commander in Chief.
The XV Division was relieved by the XIII Division , that was once again at the disposal of the WMFAS. The V Division was summoned to fill in for the XIII Division, as a reserve of the Commander in chief and had concentrated its forces at the area of villages Philotas-Perdika and was ordered to move to the area of Kastoria-Argos Orestiko.
On the night of December 5 to 6, the XV Division moved away from the area of Koritsa and by December 8, its forces had been placed at the disposal of the B’ Army Corps. On December l2, in the course of the afternoon, the Division arrived at the area of Fraseri in full strength.
On December l2, the V Brigade was situated in the area of Seropouli, been under the command of Infantry Colonel Panaghiotis Kritikos since December ll. On the same day, the Cavalry Brigade was in the area of Fraseri.
During the evening of December l2, the I Division occupied the line Grambove village-1150 height, having been assigned to occupy the height.
Thus, after the occupation of Premeti and Fraseri, the B’ Army Corps had completed the required administrative movements of its troops and held its ground firmly along the line Grambove village-height 1150-Tserevonda village.
The Operations of the WMFAS in the Northern Sector of the Front (Koritsa)
(December 1-12, 1940)
(Sketch-map no. 12)
- The WMFAS continued its operations in the northern sector of the front (Koritsa), while the A’ and B’ Army Corps were conducting their operations from December 1 to 12.
In the zone of the C’ Army Corps the IX Division while holding its ground firmly at the heights 1652 and 1548, by the eastern feet of mount Kamia, continued on December 1 the frontal attack in order to occupy the height 1532 which towered over the area of Pogradetz and was of particular tactical importance. The progress recorded by that evening was minimal, because of the vigorous enemy resistance and the adverse weather conditions.
Meanwhile, as of December l, the XVII Division took over the sector of the XIII Division and was ordered by the C’ Army Corps to attack in the direction of Prenista village-height 1532-Tservenaka village. Subsequently, the action of the IX Division towards height 1532 was suspended, since the height was thereby included in the zone of the XVII Division.
On December 4, the IX Division attacked and seized the heights 1687 and 1642, without encountering any serious resistance by the enemy. With the occupation of the above heights the Division completed the occupation of the ridgeline of Kamia mountain. On December 6, it seized the height 1538, in an attempt to create a diversion in order to assist the XVII Division. However, it was unable to proceed towards the height of Koritsa, due to the enemy counter-action and a severe blizzard. On December l0, the Division repeated the offensive action against the Koritsa height, but once more the effort was not successful. Subsequently, the Division suspended its offensive operations and began the defensive organisation of its occupied positions.
- On December 1 and 2 and under extremely difficult terrain and adverse weather conditions, the XVII Division took attack formations and advanced its units to the departure areas.
On December 3 the Division launched its attack, notwithstanding the prevailing weather conditions that had remained unchanged. After a hard and uncertain struggle, the Greek troops managed to occupy the height 1532. The contribution of Deputy Commander of the 3lst Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel of the regular reserve Sotirios Basiakos, to this success was instrumental, for his action was one of unequalled courage and audacity. This officer, despite his age, took the initiative and placed himself in command of a force which surprised the enemy at its rear area, by virtue of a daring manoeuvre that was conducted from a precipitous slope using climbing ropes. Bayonnet fighting ensued, at the end of which the height was finally occupied and 13 officers and 400 soldiers were taken prisoners. Furthermore, the casualties of the XVII Division were quite considerable, amounting to 6 officers and 50 soldiers killed in action, l7 officers and 350 soldiers wounded and 36 soldiers missing in action.
The bad weather and the limited visibility due to the fog and the heavy snowfalls, prevented the further exploitation of the above success. On December 6, the Division resumed the offensive and managed to occupy the northern ridges of the heights 1532 and 1211, despite the stubborn resistance of the enemy. On the following day, Division troops entered Pogradetz and proceeded to replace the reconnaissance troops of the XIII Division, that had already occuppied the town since November 30 and had remained there.
The offensive effort of the Division continued during the following days as well. However, nothing significant was accomplished, because of the vigorous enemy resistance, the inaccessible terrain and the extremely adverse weather conditions that caused numerous cases of frostbite and deaths due to the extremely low temperatures.
Hence, the C’ Army Corps temporarily suspended the offensive operations of the Division, ordering it to retain the areas it had occupied, that is, the line of height 1532-height 1211- Northwestern outskirts of Pogradetz.
The casualties suffered by the Division during the above operations were over 100 killed in action, 650 wounded and 80 missing in action. Furthermore, a large numbers of weapons were lost. The Italian losses were quite considerable, even though they were not confirmed. More than 500 Italians were taken prisoners.
- The Division Group ‘K’ assigned its XI Division as a reserve to the B’ Army Corps, after an order of the General Headquarters, and then advanced southwards along with the X Division, as far as Ostravitsa mountain.
On December l, it was designated the ‘K’ Team, having as subordinate only the X Division and assigned to defend the occupied line, to cover the left flank of the C’ Army Corps and to keep conduct with the B’ Army Corps on the left.
On December 2, the ‘K’ Team repeated its offensive effort and by December 4, it had occupied the Marta saddle of Ostravitsa mountain, at the left of its zone, and the southern ridges of the Moglitsa height at the right of the zone, a venture that was carried out during a severe snowstorm.
On December 5 and 6 there was no significant activity to be recorded. On December 7, despite the continuing bad weather and the severe cold, the Division continued its offensive activity. Thus, by December 12 it had managed to occupy mount Ostravitsa and proceeded to advance as far as the heights Mnima Liamit and Skembi Bard with its left flank, while the right seized the Moglitsa height.
Crisis within the Ranks of the Italian High Command
- The repeated successes of the Greek Army alarmed the Italian High Command and created a crisis within its ranks.
On November 26, the Chief of the Army General Staff Marshal Badoglio submitted his resignation. On the same day, General Pricolo, Chief of the Airforce Staff, returned to Rome from Albania, where he had been sent by order of Mussolini, and depicted the bleak situation at the front.
On November 30, Mussolini convoked a meeting, in order to brief his Cabinet Ministers, who were unaware of the situation. Furthermore, his move was an attempt to rid himself of the liabilities attributed to him by the whisper campaign of certain military circles and Badoglio’s friends.
By December 3, this state of affairs that was both serious and dangerous for the Italians, turned into a panic. The occupation of the heights 1292 and 1532 by the Greek forces inflicted an additional blow to the already shaken morale of the Italian Commander in Chief in Albania. In his report to Mussolini, written on the night of December 3, he stressed the tragic situation of the two Italian Armies on the Albanian front. Flatly and without hesitation he expressed his opinion that ‘any military action to reverse the situation that has been created, is no longer possible, and this can only be settled by political intervention’. In other words, he was aiming at concluding a truce.
On the following day General Kavallero was dispatched over to Albania to examine the situation and on December 6 he was assigned as Chief of the Army General Staff. In his report to Mussolini, dated December 5, he characterized the situation of the XI Italian Army, as very bad.
‘The ‘Bari’ Division has lost everything. The 8th Alpine has lost 80% of its strength. The 9th Alpine suffered fewer losses. The ‘Vincenza’ and ‘Aquila’ battalions conducted themselves heroically. It is worth honouring the land upon which they fought. The ‘Giulia’ Division has been weakened but continues to fight. Three field battalions have not been completely damaged, however they have no pack transportation. The 4lst and 42nd Infantry Regiments have suffered badly, especially the 4lst, which was ill-treated by Colonel Manai, who was court-marshalled for unjustified withdrawal. The 139th Infantry withdrew due to lack of ammunition. The Army is provided with a day’s supply of ammunition for rifles or automatic weapons, no hand-grenades and half a day’s supply of artillery ammunition. Under these circumstances, the Army will be able to resist for eight days’.
Greece, isolated, according to Mussolini, and forced to fight alone, had crushed its powerful adversary to such an extent, that the enemy’s leaders were calling this disastrous defeat ‘the greatest military crisis of the entire Italian history, which could cover Italy with shame for centuries on end’, and were seriously considering to be subjected to the indescribable humiliation of requesting a cease-fire from the Greek forces.
- In order to avoid such humiliation and to deal with this critical situation, the Italian Leadership finally decided to turn to its great ally, Germany, for help.
Consequently, Ciano summoned Alfieri, the Italian Ambassador to Berlin, who was recuperating in Rome, and ordered him to depart for his post and to plead the Germans to hasten to Italy’s aid, to make every effort possible in order to convince Hitler.
Alfieri indeed arrived in Berlin on December 7 and immediately had a meeting with the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Von Ribbentrop. However, Ribbentrop was evasive in his reply to the urgent Italian plea for immediate help through the Romanian territory. He stressed the meteorological impediments and the military difficulties of such an intervention and cited the political and military situation in Europe as a major obstacle that did not allow such actions.
On the following day, the Italian Ambassador, who had naturally become totally pessimistic, was accepted by the ‘Fuehrer’. In plain terms, laying aside the usual diplomatic conventions, Alfieri explained the situation in Albania. Hitler was shaken by this unvarnished presentation and, enraged by Mussolini’s continuous inability to come up with solutions, made a few brief remarks concerning the Italian campaign and the fighting abilities of the Italian Army. After giving vent to his rage, he discussed the possible solutions.
Eventually, he promised to offer air transportation assistance to Italy. A few days later, the 3rd Team of the no.1 Airforce Squadron (49 ‘Younger 52’ aircraft) would begin the operation of transporting Italian soldiers and supplies from Foggia in Italy to the airfields of the zone of operations, near Avlonas and Dyrrachio.
The New Intentions of the General Headquarters
regarding the Further Development of the Operations
- The Commander in chief, seeking to be briefed on site and to form his own conclusions with regard to the situation, visited the zone of operations from December 2 to l0, accompanied by the Crown Prince Paul. During his trip, the Commander in chief conducted the following meetings with the commanders of the Large Units:
In Zitsa, with the Commander of the A’ Army Corps. In Elea, with the Commander of the VIII Division, in the presence of the Commander of the A’ Army Corps. In Konitsa with the Commander of the B’ Army Corps and in Koritsa with the Commanders of the WMFAS, the C’ Army Corps and ‘K’ Team.
During these meetings, the Commander in chief presented his new intentions and gave instructions with regard to the conduct of further operations. The instructions of the Commander in chief were formulated in a directive of the General Headquarters, on December 12, and assigned the following missions:
-The A’ Army Corps was to operate, in order to seize and secure the junction of Tepeleni, seeking, furthermore, to break through the valley of the river Siousitsa.
-The B’ Army Corps was to operate, in order to seize the junction of Klissoura-Tepeleni as well as the mountain bulks north of Klissoura-Tepeleni.
-The WMFAS was to operate on the basis of the above instructions. Furthermore, it was to consolidate the liaison with the B’ Army Corps and to cover the left flank of the latter from the directions of the valleys of Devolis and Tomoritsa rivers.
- For the most effective co-ordination of the future operations, an advanced General Headquarters echelon was organised and became operational on December l7, under the direct command of the Commander in chief, who held the overall command of operations along with his other duties.
On the basis of the above mentioned future operations and for the improvement of the organisation of the Command, Lieutenant Generals Kosmas and Demestihas were mutually transferred to the A’ Army Corps and to the ‘K’ Team respectively. As of December l5, this particular Team was redesignated as the E’ Army Corps and was additionally reinforced with certain non divisional units.
The Operations of the A’ Army Corps towards Tepeleni
and the Valley of the River Siousitsa
(December 13, 1940 – January 6, 1941)
(Sketch-map no. 11)
- On December l2, the A’ Army Corps occupied the general line of Borsi village-Galisti height-south-eastern ridges of the heights Skivovik and Mali Spat-saddle of Bouzae Sefer Agait-Malesova village, with the III, IV and II Divisions deployed in contact with the enemy. The VIII Division and the Liubas Detachment remained inside its zone, in the areas of Delvinaki and Delvino respectively, as a reserve of the Commander in chief.
On December 13 and l4, the Corps units dealt with the preparation of further offensive operations and with the additional task of improving their positions. Because of the continuing bad weather, the rough terrain and the vigorous resistance of the enemy forces, the II and III Divisions recorded but little progress. The IV Division, in spite of the above adversities, was able to occupy Pousi defile on south-east of Mali Spat, by employing a successful manoeuvre, and managed to gain contact with the strongly occupied line Gusmari-Progonati. More than 50 dead were found later on the battlefield, including the Commander of the 42nd Italian Regiment and his adjutant. Furthermore, l92 prisoners were taken, including a battalion commander.
- On December l5, the A’ Army Corps drew up its own plan of action, along the following guidelines :
-In order to seize the junction of Tepeleni :
Immediate attack with the IV Division, to seize the saddles of Verniko (4kms west of Kendersitsa height) and Salaria (3kms west of the Tersnitsa height). Thereafter, the same Division was to conduct offensive action towards Salaria-Aoos river, in order to cut off the carriage road of Tepeleni-Avlonas, with the main effort towards Nivitsa-Salaria. In the valleys of rivers Drinos and Zagoria, an attack with the II Division would be conducted in the general direction of the respective river flows. The objective of this attack was to engage and fix the enemy forces and in the event of a favourable outcome of operations, to conduct mopping up operations of the above valleys as far as Aoos river.
-In order to break through the valley of Siousitsa river :
Drastic offensive with the III Division, in order to seize the saddle of Koutsi, near the homonymous village and advance of the covering detachments towards the villages of Kalarati and Boliena, with a simultaneous action by the same Division in the coastal sector, so as to foothold the enemy forces that were present there.
On the same day, the A’ Army Corps issued an operations order to its divisions, by which it assigned the conduct of the above missions and it stressed the fact that despite the efforts that had already been made and which had surpassed even the most optimistic expectations, the offensive operations would have to continue without any delay, in order to accomplish in full the objectives that had been set.
- The IV Division, which had the main effort, launched its attack finally on December l7, because of the repeated counter-attacks it had suffered on December 15 and of the severe frost. Despite the severe blizzard and the arctic cold, which caused a great number of frostbite cases among the men and numerous deaths of pack animals, the Division managed to take possession of the Mali Spat height, to capture an enemy battery and two field surgeries and was able to advance to the south of Progonati village.
The attack continued during the following days and by the evening of December 22, the line of eastern ridges of Kputs height-Gusmari village-Progonati village-Bouzae Sefer Agait had been seized.
From December 23 to 28, the units improved and consolidated their positions under dramatic weather conditions. On December 28, the village of Nivitsa was taken and the entire Italian battalion, of approximately 580 men, defending that area, was captured.
According to its mission and following the occupation of Nivitsa, the Division would conduct a offensive towards the village of Salaria. However, this operation was not carried out, due to the numerous frostbite cases that took a daily toll of approximately 200 men.
The total number of casualties suffered by the IV Division, since its entrance in the war on December 8, was 15 officers and 252 soldiers killed in action, 38 officers and 843 soldiers wounded and 9 soldiers missing in action. Furthermore, 51 officers and 2,650 soldiers were evacuated due to frostbite and approximately 2,800 pack animals perished. However, the Italian losses in manpower and pack animals were also numerous. Italian prisoners of war exceeded 1,300 , including many officers.
- The II Division launched its attack on December 15 and seized the western side of the Mouskes saddle on mount Debelit on the same day.
During the following days, the arctic cold, the depth of the snow that had reached 75 centimetres, and the resupply difficulties, did not permit the conduct of any serious offensive actions.
On December l7, the Division troops operating in the centre of its zone of action seized the village of Hormova, where they captured 150 Italians and captured an abundance of war supplies belonging to the ‘Ferrara’ Division. Enemy counter-attacks conducted on December 19 and 20, in order to reoccupy the above village, were repulsed.
On December 19, a movement by the left flank of the Division towards the village of Leskoviki encountered a strong counter-action and was eventually blocked by the enemy. Due to the raging snowstorm and the extremely severe cold, this effort was repeated on December 26 and 28, but it was again unsuccessful. Subsequently, the Division temporarily suspended the offensive operations and kept busy with the defensive organisation of the terrain and, furthermore, with the living conditions of the Division troops, and pack animals.
- The III Division launched the attack on December l5. Despite the substantial support of the artillery, the attacking troops advanced very slowly, due to the enemy counter-action, the depth of the snow and the activity of the Italian Airforce, particularly in the coastal sector.
On December l9, the Division troops operating in the coastal zone seized the Giami height, after a hard fight that resulted in grave casualties on both sides. During the same day, other Division troops operating further to the north launched a surprise attack at daybreak, with no artillery preparation, against the powerfully organised Mali e Joret height. The surprise was successful and the enemy troops in the first pill boxes were caught off their guard. A fierce struggle ensued within the defensive area which lasted for three days and resulted in the occupation of the Mali e Joret height and the Koutsi saddle by the Greek troops. The successful outcome of this battle was of particular importance, since the occupation of the Koutsi saddle opened the road through the Siousitsa valley. On the Italian side, the casualties of this battle were approximately 400 killed in action and more than 950 prisoners.
Furthermore, they lost six guns, a mortar company and a multitude of war supplies. The Greek losses did not exceed 100 killed in action and wounded.
On December 2l, the height of Tsipista, Northwest of Himara, was occupied by the Greeks. After that, the Italians abandoned Himara, into which the Greek troops entered, in the morning of December 22. The liberation of Himara from the Albanian occupation, for the third time, gave rise to intense emotions all over Greece and great enthusiasm.
The occupation of Koutsi saddle and Himara alarmed the Italian leadership to such a degree that on December 24th Mussolini addressed the following telegram to Cavallero :
‘Whatever may befall you, I order you to resist to the very end in the sector of Progonati-Tepeleni-Klissoura, even if tomorrow should find yourself completely surrounded. I hereby appoint you personally responsible to carry out my order with full awareness as to its nature.’
By December 23, the Division troops continued their movement towards the villages Kalarati and Boliena and seized both on December 27. An action conducted by a Division tactical group on January 4, against the height of Skoutara in the coastal sector, was unsuccessful, because of the vigorous counter-action of the enemy.
- In the meantime, the pace of the operations of the Army Corps kept decreasing on the entire front, due to the arctic cold and the extreme severity of winter. The difficulties of resupply became almost unsurpassable and the bread ration was often reduced to an eighth of the original portion. The frostbite casualties kept increasing and the pack animals that perished due to exhaustion and low temperatures reached alarming proportions. In the Koutsi area alone, more than 1,200 pack animals perished.
Moreover, due to the discernible serious threat created by the opening of the valley of Sioustitsa, the enemy hastened to transport by sea and air substantial reinforcements and deployed them against the zone of the A’ Army Corps. These reinforcements comprised two divisions and a number of independent battalions.
Meanwhile, the Army General Staff, which was constantly being kept informed of the losses and the terrible hardships endured due to the lack of supplies, placed the Liubas Detachment and the VIII Division, both of which had been reserves of the Commander in chief until then, at the disposal of the A’ Army Corps. From January 1 to 6, the VIII Division gradually replaced the IV Division. After its relief, the IV Division concentrated its forces south of Argyrokastro as a reserve of the Commander in chief.
The Operations of the B’ Army Corps towards Klissoura
(December 13, 1940 – January 6, 1941)
(Sketch-map no. 12)
- On December l2, the B’ Army Corps occupied the line Grambove-height 1150-Tserevonda, with the I Division on the left along Aoos river, the V Infantry Brigade in the centre, the XI Division on the right to the north of river Apsos and the XV Division as a reserve in the area Fraseri-mount Randomit.
After completing the required reconnaissance and co-ordination, the Army Corps issued its operation order on December l8, which determined the following:
The Army Corps would attempt to break through the enemy position, by seizing the height 1292 at the Northeast of Fratari. Thereafter, the Army Corps would apply its main effort along the ridgeline of mount Garonin (heights 1292-1237-1248) and at the same time would operate in the direction Ali Postivani-Toliari-carriage road towards Bouzi.
The final objective would be the line of Sendeli mountain-Voskopolia village-Dobrousia village, in order to secure the junctions of Klissoura and Tepeleni.
The I Division would operate on the left, in the direction of the carriage road Klissoura-Bouzi, having been assigned to occupy the area of Artza-Bouzi.
The XV Division would operate in the centre, in the direction of height 1292-height 1248, assigned to break through the enemy position and then to pursue to cut off the road to the north of Klissoura, in the area of Souka village.
The XI Division would operate on the right, in the direction of Tsepan-Dobrousia, assigned to occupy the area of Dobrousia village.
The operations were scheduled to commence on December 23.
- In the meantime, according to various fragmentary orders of the Corps, the divisions conducted the following operations from December 12 to 22.
The I Division, continuing its offensive activity in the southern bank of Aoos river, advanced as far as the village of Brezdani. Further to the north, an effort of the Division, to seize the height 1292, did not record any progress and a further attempt was halted by an order of the B’ Army Corps, which had planned to assign the seizure of the above height to the XV Division.
The XV Division, which had arrived at the area of Fraseri on December l2, was reinforced with the V Infantry Brigade as of December 13.
On December l5, the B’ Army Corps notified the XV Division that it had been assigned to break through the enemy position at Garonin mountain, and ordered it to propose the appropriate time of attack after conducting the required reconnaissance. On December 19, the Division submitted a report by which it presented its situation as this had developed after the ten-day march under a severe and continuous snowstorm through nearly impassable paths and requested to postpone the attack.
The Army Corps, deeming that the launching of the attack was a matter of urgency, did not approve of the proposal of the Division and ordered that the attack should be carried out on December 23. In parallel, attributing irresolution to the Division Commander, the Corps initiated his replacement by the Chief of Infantry of the I Division, Colonel Panaghiotis Spiliotopoulos, who assumed command of the XV Division on December 22.
On December l3, the XI Division seized the height of Kresta (858) north of Apsos river, but failed to seize the bridge of Siarova. The continuation of its efforts became increasingly difficult because of the heavy snowfalls, the resupply difficulties and the constantly diminishing number of pack animals, which were eventually reduced by well over 60%.
On December 22, the command of the Division was assigned to Colonel Sokratis Dimaratos, who had been Commander of the Cavalry Brigade until that point. Major General Nikolaos Tsipouras was placed at the disposal of the General Headquarters.
- On December 23, the attack that had been ordered by the B’ Army Corps was launched by all three abovementioned Divisions.
The I Division, despite its efforts, managed to accomplish only a slight improvement of its occupied positions. On December 24, an action conducted by this division towards Koukiari, on the northern bank of Aoos river, came to no avail.
The XV Division having also under its command the V Brigade as well as a regiment of the XI Division, launched an attack under adverse weather conditions and dense cloudiness, directing its main effort towards the height 1292. However, its troops advanced at a slow pace due to the depth of the snow and the drastic fire of the enemy. Nevertheless, the fighting continued and, by a superhuman effort, the Division troops approached the summit. However, they were forced to withdraw to their departure base due to the combined effect of the severe enemy shelling and the extremely heavy casualties that amounted to 28 officers and 631 soldiers. On the following day, the Division did not have the chance to repeat the offensive due to the continuing adverse weather conditions and the inability to forward ammunition, especially of the artillery.
The XI Division, despite the snowfall, was also able to launch its attack westwards. After heroic efforts and close combat, its troops seized the saddle of Molasi and advanced westwards as far as the village of Dobrousia. On December 24 no significant operations took place in the Division zone, but efforts were made to improve the disposition and forward its artillery, a fact that was accomplished after many difficulties, due to the terrain, the weather and the significant reduction of its pack animals.
- Meanwhile, the units began to face serious problems due to the continuous bad weather, the exhaustion of supplies and food and the great losses in pack animals. For, the ice and the slippery paths often caused the animals to fall down the ravines along with their load of supplies, without any hope of recovery. This situation of the units forced the B’ Army Corps to temporarily suspend offensive operations, awaiting the improvement of weather conditions.
The suspension of the offensive operations lasted until December 29, whereupon the weather improved and the Army Corps ordered the renewal of operations, focusing its main effort on the task of seizing and securing the height 1292.
- The XV Division troops (which had been assigned the main effort), launched their attack at 0645 hrs, on December 30, without any artillery preparation and under severe cold, managing to seize height 1292 and 1237 by surprise. The surprise was complete and the enemy abandoned many killed in action on the battlefield, about 600 prisoners and important war supplies, including 18 pack artillery pieces, 12 mortars and a number of automatic weapons and mortars of smaller caliber. Further to the south, the heights of Fratari saddle were seized.
On the following day, December 3l, the offensive continued, yet the troops operating to the west of the height 1237 were contained before the organised position of Mali Topoyanit. Facing this situation, the Division requested the permission of the Army Corps to halt the offensive, in order to advance its artillery, supplies and ammunitions, which had lagged behind due to the snow depth, the rough terrain and the muddy surface of the mule paths because of the frequency of their use. On January 1 and 2, 1941, the Division troops retained their positions and repulsed enemy counterattacks.
The I Division, also continuing its offensive effort, seized the village of Koukiari on December 31 and proceeded to advance as far as the village of Riba, approximately 2 kms to the Northeast of Klissoura.
The XI Division seized Sirakoui saddle, west of Zalosgnia mountain, on December 30. Successive Italian counter-attacks to repossess the saddle came to no avail.
- The conclusion of the two day fight, conducted by the B’ Army Corps in order to break through the enemy position at the centre of its zone, was that the enemy, though surprised and utterly crushed at height 1292, was still holding its ground strongly at that highly organised position. Italian prisoners reported that the enemy divisions ‘Aqui’, ‘Giulia’ and ‘Bari’ were those units acting against the B’ Army Corps, assisted by an Alpine regiment and a number of Blackshirts battalions.
Subsequently, the B’ Army Corps issued an order, on January 3, for the continuation of the operations, from January 5, in order to break through the Mali Topoyanit area. The break through would conducted by the I and XV Divisions, which thereafter would move their forces towards the south-west, in order to envelop the enemy forces, in the area of Klissoura.
The XI Division would operate in parallel with the central XV Division. However, by a new order of the B’ Army Corps, the attack was postponed for January 8. The postponement was deemed necessary because of the problems that the units faced, regarding their resupply, due to the continuation of the adverse weather and to the bad condition of the roads.
The Development of the Operations in the Northern Sector of the Front
(December 13, 1940 – January 6, 1941)
(Sketch-map no. 12)
- According to the General Headquarters instructions and after securing widely the high plateau of Koritsa, the WMFAS would become the powerful pivot around which the A’ and B’ Army Corps would conduct their manoeuvres in order to seize Avlonas. Thus, due to the extreme severity of that winter, as of December l3, the operations of the WMFAS were gradually limited to actions of local significance, which mainly sought to improve the occupied positions and to foothold the enemy forces.
In the zone of the C’ Army Corps, the most noteworthy operations, after the above date, were the following :
The IX Division, which was in the area of mount Kamia, dealt with the organisation of the terrain and the problematic living conditions of its troops, and pack animals.
The XIII Division relieved the XVII Division from December 26 and undertook to block off the enemy routes from the valley of river Skoubi towards the highland of Koritsa.
The XVII Division, deployed at the Northeast of the Kamia mountain as far as Pogradetz, dealt with the problematic living conditions and the terrain organisation until December 26. On December 27 it was relieved by the XIII Division and concentrated its forces as a reserve in the area north of the Maliki lake.
- In the zone of the ‘K’ Team, on December 14, the X Division crossed Tomoritsa river and seized the villages of Miliova and Rechova on the western bank. On the same day, the command of the Division was assumed by Major General Panaghiotis Gazis. Major General Dromazos, who had been the Commander of the X Division up to that point, was transferred due to health reasons.
On December l5, the ‘K’ Team was renamed to E’ Army Corps and it received an order by phone to actively advance the X Division towards the valley of Tomoritsa river.
On December l7, the Division troops reached the village of Kovatsiani. Aiming to establish an additional liaison with the XI Division of the B’ Army Corps, the E’ Army Corps ordered the X Division to operate towards Devris saddle. However, due to the severe weather the operation was not carried out. On the following day, the height of Gouri Prer at the centre, between mountains Tomoros and Moglitsa, was seized.
In the afternoon of December 22, the troops of the right flank of the Division seized the height 1453. However, after successive enemy counter-attacks, which caused them extremely heavy casualties they were forced to withdraw to their base of departure.
From December 23 to 28 the situation remained unchanged. On December 29, the height 1732 was taken along with the village of Douska in the valley of Tomoritsa river, to the east of the Tomoros mountain. Any further action was not possible due to the continuing bad weather, the resupply difficulties and the hardships endured by the Division troops and its pack animals. Thus, the only Division of the E’ Army Corps fell into a state of inactivity and was assigned thereafter to hold its ground and provide a liaison between the B’ and C’ Army Corps.
Suspension of the Large Scale Offensive Operations
- The Italian Leadership, facing the danger of an impending occupation of Avlonas, made every possible effort to halt the Greek advance. In parallel, it reinforced the Albanian front with new forces and abundant war supplies. From mid-December and until the beginning of January, five additional divisions arrived in Albania. These were the ‘Aqui’, ‘Kouneense’, ‘Kouneo’, ‘Brennero’ and the ‘Wolves of Tuscany’.
Since December 29, the general command of the Italian forces in Albania was assumed by General Cavallero, who replaced General Soddu.
- The Greek General Headquarters was facing very serious problems during the same period. The extremely severe winter together with the transportation problems that had arisen, had in many cases created unsurpassable difficulties in the resupply and evacuations. Furthermore, there was great need to supplement the shortages that had been created after the two-month expedition, in personnel, pack animals, armament and other war supplies.
Under those circumstances, the General Headquarters decided, at the end of December, to suspend the large scale offensive operations. However, it did not abandon the local offensive actions, in particular those of the B’ Army Corps, in order to create favourable conditions for the future operations towards Avlonas.
The above decision of the General Headquarters was disseminated to the Large Units along with the instructions, issued on January 6, 1941.