In November 1943, while the Greek mainland was already occupied for years, a special operation of the German army was completed successfully! It was the last victory of the Germans and the final defeat of the allies. It was the battle of Leros.
The battle begins with the bombing of the Greek destroyer ship “QUEEN OLGA”. This destroyer is sunk on September 26 of 1943 in the bay Lakki of Leros, after the first systematic air attack by German aircrafts JU-88. The captain, six officers, sixty five sailors and eight civilians are killed.
During the next days the airstrikes continue, aeronautical facilities are bombed, and the Italian destroyer «Euro» sinks. On the 3rd of October, the Germans occupy the island of Kos and all British hopes for an airport in the Aegean are gone.
On the 5th of October the Italian minesweeper "Legnano" perishes after an airstrike and at the 6th the refrigerator ship "Ivorea". The same day, the British withdraw their forces from the island of Kalymnos, which will be occupied by the Germans immediately the next day. On 8 October the Italian destroyer «Volta» withdraws, in an attempt to escape from the airstrikes in Leros, but by mistake it is bombarded by British gunboats and suffers great damage. Shortly afterwards the German bombers locate it and finish it off.
On the 3rd of October, the Germans occupy the island of Kos and all British hopes for an airport in the Aegean are gone.
On the 5th of October the Italian minesweeper "Legnano" perishes after an airstrike and at the 6th the refrigerator ship "Ivorea". The same day, the British withdraw their forces from the island of Kalymnos, which will be occupied by the Germans immediately the next day.
On October 9 populated areas in Leros are bombed by planes. Minesweeper «Azio» suffers several damages, the torpedo boat "MS 26" strands in Cape Pano Zymi and is abandoned. On 22 October the Germans occupy Astypalaia. At the 25th of the same month, the torpedo boat "MS 15" sinks at Lakki after an airstrike. From the 1st until the 6th of November the air raids cease.
On November 5th General Hull replaces commander Britorius and undertakes the command of the British armed forces in the Aegean. On November 7th air raids start again with great intensity. The 8th of the same month a third British battalion arrives - fierce airstrikes follow. With General Mueller as Commander of the German forces, the enemy landings start on the morning of 12 November. The Germans succeed despite the resistance they face. The situation is further complicated for the defenders by German paratroopers.
On November 13th the artillery battery on Pityki mountain is occupied and on the 15th the Venetian fortress of Leros. On the afternoon of November 16, an English officer transfers the orders to cease all military activity, because the British administration is surrounded, beaten and surrenders. The Germans execute some Italian officers and begin to capture English and Italian prisoners. The Battle of Leros is over ...
OVERALL PICTURE OF THE WAR
The battle lasted 52 days. On 15 November 1943 Leros had about 25.479 people on its territory! 8000 Italians, about 3800 British, 2500 Germans and the population of Leros was 10.979 people. The British had about 250 casualties, 3300 men were captured and 250 escaped. The Italians had about 400 men killed, 12 officers were executed, 5351 prisoners and some 2000 managed to escape. From the Lerians 15 were killed, 164 missing and the Greek Navy suffered 71 casualties. The Germans lost 520 men.
As you can see, due to the very important battle that took place on the island during the Second World War, the sea around the island and the island itself is full of remains and shipwrecks that make the island of Leros a unique museum.
Leros Active gives you the opportunity to travel to Leros and discover the countless monuments, bunkers, tunnels, shelters, artillery batteries and other military installations that are scattered throughout the island, and to dive organized to the numerous shipwrecks that are the main part of underwater wealth of the island.
SHORT STORIES OF LERIAN SOLDIERS
"THE “Olga” was not a random ship. Its martial parchments were unlike any other ship, it had taken part in the most dangerous missions, and had received numerous attacks from aircrafts. It had destroyed a submarine. It was the only Greek ship that had sunk an Italian destroyer in surface gunfight. The officers of the 'Olga' were smoked by gun smoke and did not hide it. They were proud of their ship, which is natural. " Ensign of "Olga", Dimitris Matalas
"The Olga has been hit, the sea is on fire… When the bombs from the planes were finished, the gusting began –the gusts passing from your side and you running to the far shelters. We were spared from death by a few inches that day.” Kourmadias John, a retired welder, a resident of Leros
“Then slowly I began to realize how a person's life can change in a few minutes.. Not one hour had passed from the moment that I had been listening secretly to a service from Metropolis Church. In that time span the legendary ship, the ship on which I was proud to serve, no longer existed. And with it went the governor and others seventy people. Until I got wounded, I saw the war as something necessary, as a source of glory and awards. Now I had seen its most horrible side. How my mind will erase the image of a mutilated sailor whose moan of despair still resounds in my ears? Within this horror picture, the unforgettable scene of the crew cheering "Viva Olga!” stood out as a bright parenthesis.” Ensign of "Olga", Dimitris Matalas
"The bombardment lasted 52 days. It began at 7 am and ended at 7 pm. The Germans were so accurate that we did not need to look at the watch anymore " Michael Boulafentis, retired from tourism businesses, resident Leros
"Paratroopers were dropped, another plane passed behind them and cut them off. Beneath them the Englishmen were beating them, it was very difficult for the Germans to reach the ground alive." Savvas Konstantinidis, resident Leros
"One paratrooper hung upside down for days, entangled in his own cables. Until he died he was shouting:'' Mama Maria, water, water.'' Nobody approached him out of fear for the Germans but also from the fear for the British. The battle was going on underneath." Michael Boulafentis, resident Leros
“So many lives lost, so many, what a waste ... To die so young, I was only twenty years old when he arrived in Leros in '43. You, who are young, keep peace as a treasure, not war. Live long and happy, forgive me that I cry now, sorry, sorry... " Reg Nipp, English soldier of the King's Own