Κυριακή 29 Νοεμβρίου 2015

1941: The nazi invasion of Greece through the paintings of Hans Liska

Hans Liska (1907-1984) is one of the most well-known and prolific WWII Axis illustrators, who served with the German Armed Forces during the war. 

In 1942 and 1943 German publishing house Carl Werner in Reichenbach, sponsored by Junkers Flugzeug und Motorenwerke AG, published 2 albums with Hans Liska's sketches and color illustrations "to please the frontline soldiers and the workers of the weapon factories" in Germany. 

Definitely, Liska's art lived up to the expectations of his peers, and propaganda clichés left the well-recognizable footprints all over his painting and drawings. 

However, at the same time the artist was also able to create something more valuable than NSDAP-commissioned propaganda poster for the crumbling wall of the neighborhood bakery in bombed-up German provincial town. 

Liska convincingly demonstrates that he has an eye for the real war drama, with all its pain, suffering, desperation, hard work, endurance, sense of duty, and courage for yet one more push to the utmost, which all participants are likely to share, no matter under what colors they fought and died. 

Hans Liska's work, despite its affiliation with the dreaded and much loathed fuckinazi regime, is considered to be a timeless account of WW2 through an artist's work.

HMS Rover: The unknown story of the submarine in Souda Bay, Crete, 1941

In this rare and previously unpublished photo, dated April 1941, HMS Rover is seen in Souda Bay, Crete

Few are aware of the fact that Souda Bay in Crete, a large naval base used by the British in early WW2, is in a way similar to Pearl Harbor, Scapa Flow and Truk Lagoon. 

Used as an allied naval base, Souda was the target of both nazi German as well as fascist Italian raids in the early part of WW2, which resulted in a large number of shipwrecks, axis aircraft shot down and extensive damage in the facilities around Souda. 

Many ships remained sunk for the duration of the nazi occupation, such as HMS York and were only removed and sold as scrap after the end of WW2. Others were refloated and used by the nazis, while a handful of heavily destroyed ships that could not be removed post-war remain at the seabed to this day.

Unfortunately, as Souda is still a naval base, used by NATO and the Hellenic Navy, is a restricted area and scuba diving is not allowed to most parts of the Bay. 

In April 1941, amidst the Battle of Crete, Rover arrived at Souda Bay from Alexandria to assist in an attempt to salvage the disabled the heavy cruiser HMS York, which had been severely damaged by the Italians. 

HMS Rover in a stock photo

Rover was used to provide electrical power to operate anti-aircraft guns during the operation, but on 24 April 1941, the submarine was bombed and had to be towed to Alexandria to receive temporary repairs before being towed to Singapore for more permanent repairs in late 1941. 

In early 1942, as the Japanese advanced down the Malay Peninsula towards Singapore, Rover was moved to Bombay, in India, where repairs were completed.

HMS York in Souda bay, Crete, May 1941

At the conclusion of repairs, Rover operated out of Trincomalee, in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), escorting several convoys and sinking a total of ten Japanese ships. In 1945, Rover took part anti-submarine training, before being sold to Joubert of Durban.

Gunners at HMS York, in an early WW2 stock photo

Rover was the only submarine in her class to survive the war and had a total of six commanders throughout the war. She was scrapped on 30 July 1946.

R-Class Patrol submarine ordered on 28th February 1929 from Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow with HM Submarines REGENT and REGULUS. 

This submarine was laid down on 24th July 1929 and launched with HMS REGENT AND REGULUS on 11th June 1930. 

She was the 10th RN warship to bear use the name introduced in 1777 when given to a captured US Brig and last used in 1909 until renamed ROLLICKER in 1929 so it could be given to this submarine in June 1930. 

Build was completed on 29th January 1931 and she then commissioned for service in the 4th Submarine Flotilla for service on the China Station where she was deployed until 1940. 

After a WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign in December 1941 this submarine was adopted by the civil community of Winchester, Hampshire.

HMS Rover Submarine -  Log Book 1 9 4 1

Commanding Officer Lieut Cdr Marsham, RN

7th During patrol off Tobruk sustained damage from depth charges by Italian torpedo boats CLIO and CASTORE in defect of convoy being attacked.

9th Sank sailing vessel by surface gun action. 

Returned to Alexandria for repair to batteries.

On completion resumed operational service by patrol off Calabria

8th Carried out unsuccessful torpedo attacks on both a mercantile and a submarine.

14th Damaged tanker CESCO of 6,160 tons in a torpedo attack. (Note : This ship later sank.)

Deployed at Suda Bay for support of convoys taking troops to Greece.

30th Provided electric power supplies to HM Cruiser YORK which had been damaged at Suda Bay by an explosive motor boat launched from an Italian destroyer. 
(Note: This cruiser had been at anchor and later beached to prevent sinking. Later sustained damages in an air raid at Suda Bay and disabled.)

Taken in tow by HM Netlayer PROTECTOR and towed to Alexandria for repair.
Under temporary repair by at Alexandria and later in drydock at Port Said.

Passage to be made to Singapore for permanent repair .

Passage to Singapore with call at Aden.

Taken in hand for repair and refit by HM Dockyard, Singapore.

September to December
Under refit

Τετάρτη 25 Νοεμβρίου 2015

Found! An intact Ju 52 (Werk #6590) ditched in 1943 in the Aegean Sea, Greece

According to the Ju-52 located close to Kea island, Greece, is among the most well-preserved WW2 aircraft that have ever been found in the Greek seas. 

The Ju-52, with construction number Werk # 6590, was lost in 1943 after ditching northwest of Kea. The wreck of the aircraft is located at the depth of 65 meters.

Extract from site S/S Burdigala Project

This specific "Tante Ju" (the name comes from the German nickname for the Junkers 52) was discovered through a routine report of a Dornier 24 (Werknummer 3214), which from August 13, 1943 belonged to the German Maritime Rescue Squadron 7 (Seenotstaffel 7), based in Faliro, Athens, Greece. 

According to this entry, the Dornier 24 on September 6, 1943, took part in the search and rescue of a Junkers 52, with serial number (Werknummer) 6590, the I/TG ​​4, i.e. the First Group (I=Erste Gruppe) of Transport Wing 4 (TG 4 = Transportgeschwader 4). 

The aircraft was lost after ditching in the northwest of Kea, because of engine fuel problems. The crew and passengers were transferred to Athens, with the loss of one person and two injured.

"The aircraft, whose axis is pointing south and its deepest point is at about 68 meters, is intact. There is no break, no parts missing. The aircraft was carrying weapons, we spotted a machine gun, and at the upper part of the fuselage the lid is open. Probably, the the passengers exited through this hatch, after the Ju52 ditched at sea."

Aircraft Features

Wingspan: 29.49 meters
Wing area: 110.5 sq / m
Length: 18.9 meters
Height: 5.54 meters

Armament: 2 x MG 7,9 millimeters
Bombs: 500 kg

Speed ​​(See Level): 270 - 295 kph
Travel speed: 209 kph

Crew: 2-4
Number of passengers 18 or 12 stretchers

Τρίτη 24 Νοεμβρίου 2015

April 1941: When the Greeks stopped the nazis at the bunkers of "Metaxas Line"

On April 6th 1941, the nazi Germans started their offensive against Greece. 

The Germans, confident because of their rapid advance through western Europe and Yugoslavia, believed that the bunkers at the northern borders of Greece with Bulgaria would offer minimal resistance.

They were proved to be wrong.

The nazis were greeted with a storm of artillery and machine gun fire, sustaining many casualties.

The Battle of the Metaxas Line (Kampf um die Metaxas-Linie), also known in Greece as the Battle of the Forts  was the first battle during the German invasion of Greece in World War II. 

The Germans succeeded in breaching the fortified Metaxas Line on the western flank and forced the Greek forces east of the Axios river to surrender after four days of combat (6–9 April 1941).

The fortification of the area informally known as the Metaxas Line was conceived as a defensive measure against Bulgaria. Bulgaria had refused to sign the Balkan Pact signed by Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Romania in 1934 which aimed at maintaining the geopolitical status quo in the region following World War I

The Metaxas Line was a series of independent forts along the Greek-Bulgarian border, built on possible routes of invasion. Each fort's garrisons belonged to the division or brigade which controlled the respective border sector. The fortifications were built with the meagre resources that Greece could muster, and exploited at fullest the terrain. Construction had begun in 1936; however, by 1941 the line was still incomplete.

There is no known complete casualty list for the Germans.

XVIII Corps reported 555 killed, 2,134 wounded and ca.170 missing (without the officers). 

XXX Corps' total casualties are not known, but the 164th Infantry Division suffered 18 killed and 92 wounded and the 50th Infantry Division 26 killed, 22 missing and 177 wounded (plus 4 drowned on 14 April in an accident)

The Metaxas Line was named after Ioannis Metaxas, then appointed by the King of Greece Prime Minister and dictator, and chiefly consists of tunnels that led to observatories, emplacements and machine-gun nests. The constructions are so sturdy that they survive to this day, some of which are still in active service. Some of them are open to the public.

The Metaxas Line consists of 21 independent fortification complexes, the largest of which is Fort Roupel as it covers 6.1 out of the 155 km of the full line and had been constructed at a height of 322 m. Illumination was initially mostly provided by oil-lamps, although generators were also installed. (Currently, the fortifications are supplied with public electricity, but they are also equipped with generators). 
Ventilation was achieved both naturally and artificially. Water was supplied via water-mains. The fortification works lasted four years and their cost at the time reached 100,400,000 drachmas.

German General Wilhelm List, who led the attack against the Metaxas Line, admired the bravery and courage of these soldiers. He refrained from taking the Greek soldiers prisoner and declared that the army was free to leave with their war flags, on condition that they surrender their arms and supplies. 

He also ordered his soldiers and officers to salute the Greek soldiers (Beevor 2005, p. 20). The line was also poorly manned as most of the Greek Army was fighting against the Italians, at the Albanian front.

The story of the Greek battleship "Kilkis" sunk by Stuka bombers on April 23, 1941

A colour picture of Kilkis, as it appeared in the nazi propaganda magazine "SIGNAL"

Battleship Kilkis (Greek: Θ/Κ Κιλκίς) was a 13,000 ton Mississippi-class battleship originally built by the US Navy in 1904–1908. 

The Stuka dive bombers hit "Lemnos" in the background, with "Kilkis" visible in the middle of the photo

As Mississippi she was purchased by the Greek Navy in 1914, and renamed Kilkis, along with her sister Idaho, renamed Lemnos. 

Port facilities being bombed in Piraeus

Kilkis was named for the Battle of Kilkis-Lahanas, a crucial engagement of the Second Balkan War 1912-13. Armed with a main battery of four 12 in (305 mm) guns, Kilkis and her sister were the most powerful vessels of the Greek fleet.

The ship saw limited action during World War I. Greece's pro-German monarch, Constantine I opted to remain neutral until October 1916, when pressure from the Triple Entente forced him to abdicate in favor of a pro-Entente government. 

For the remainder of the war, Kilkis operated solely as a harbor defense ship. In the immediately ensuing Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, Kilkis supported Greek landings in Turkey and participated in the final Greek sea-borne withdrawal in 1922. 

She remained in service into the early 1930s. Thereafter she was used as a training ship, considered to be obsolete. 

During the German invasion of Greece in 1941, Kilkis and her sister ship Lemnos were sunk in Salamis by German Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers, on April 23. The two ships were ultimately raised in the early 1950s and broken up for scrap.

Δευτέρα 23 Νοεμβρίου 2015

The art of camo: A Bf109 in the African desert

In this photo, which appeared in the nazi propaganda magazine "SIGNAL", a Bf109 is flying somewhere over the African desert.

Possibly, one of the most successful camo patterns ever to be applied on any aircraft!

20 May 1941: When Hell broke loose over the skies of Crete

The Battle of Crete, the graveyard of the nazi fallschirmjäger (click to read the story on their losses), started in the morning of May 20, 1941.

In this photo, published in the propaganda magazine "SIGNAL", we see the first airborne troops deploying their chutes as they are getting closer to the ground in the very first hours of the nazi invasion. 

The Battle of Crete was the first battle where Fallschirmjäger (nazi paratroops) were used en masse, the first mainly airborne invasion in military history, the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from the decrypted German messages from the Enigma machine and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. 

Due to the heavy casualties suffered by the paratroopers, the nazi german paranoid dictator Hitler forbade further large airborne operations. 

In contrast, the Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to form both airborne assault and airfield defence regiments.

April 1941, the end of an adventure... An Allied PoW at the foothills of Mount Olympus

The Allied campaign in Greece, March to April 1941, ended up in a mess, that could have turned into a disaster of tragic proportions. 

The rapid advance of the nazis from northern Greece towards Athens, passed through some of the most iconic landscapes of the country, including Mount Olympus, the home of the 12 gods of ancient Greece, Thermopylae, the historic spot where Leonidas and his 300 Spartans fought against the barbaric hordes of the Persians and other world-known landmarks.

In an operation that closely resembled Dunkirk, the Royal navy managed to evacuate the majority of the 70,000 troops of the BEF, with some being disembarked in Crete, while the rest continued their trip to Egypt.

On this propaganda shot, used in the nazi magazine "SIGNAL", an Allied PoW sits visibly exhausted and disheartened, while German armour continues its advance towards Athens.

Despite the fact that the BEF's presence in Greece was mostly a disaster, Allied troops fought valiantly during their retreat and gave the confident nazis a bloody nose on many instances.

Για πόσο διάστημα συνυπήρξε η σημαία των ναζί με την ελληνική στην Ακρόπολη;

Έχω στη συλλογή μου αρκετές φωτογραφίες της Ακρόπολης από την περίοδο των πρώτων ημερών της ναζιστικής κατοχής τον Απρίλιο του 1941, μεταξύ των οποίων και την παραπάνω από τεύχος του προπαγανδιστικού περιοδικού SIGNAL (κυκλοφορούσε και στα ελληνικά ως "ΣΥΝΘΗΜΑ"), στην οποία φαίνεται καθαρά ότι εκτός από το ναζιστικό πανί κυμάτιζε στυον Ιερό Βράχο και η ελληνική σημαία.

Τα ερωτήματα είναι, για πόσο καιρό βρίσκονταν και οι δύο σημαίες στην Ακρόπολη και πότε υπεστάλη η ελληνική, δίνοντας τη θέση της στην ιταλική;

Οι φιλίστορες ας μας διαφωτίσουν!

Κυριακή 22 Νοεμβρίου 2015

The "whispering death": A Beaufighter shot down in 1943 found near Naxos, Greece!


At a depth of 34 meters off the coast of Naxos, approximately half a nautical mile from the coast, divers found a RAF Bristol Beaufighter in 2007. Based on testimonies of fishermen, but also the inhabitants who had seen the events, this specific Beaufighter was shot down in 1943.

The "whispering death", as it was called by the Japanese because of the sound of its engines, the Beaufighter was a multi-role aircraft, which played an important role during WWII, in almost all theaters of fighting.

"As we get closer we see that the aircraft is in almost undamaged condition. 

It looks like it landed there with care and skill, but of course this belongs only to the realm of our imagination since no airplane will not "choose" to land 34 meters below the sea surface" says acclaimed photographer and scuba diver Giorgos Rigoutsos. 

A piece of the rudder over the tail fins is missing, and some bullet holes in the side of the aircraft suffered by anti-aircraft fire vividly demonstrate what caused the twin engined aircraft to ditch at sea.

The cone at the airplane's nose, made of thin metal, has eroded and is now close to the aircraft.

According to WW2 researcher Manolis Bardanis the crew managed to survive and was saved by Naxos island inhabitants who rushed to their rescue.

It consisted of  New Zealander W. E. Hayter (RAF 47th squadron) and T. J. Harper (603 RAF squadron). 

Manufacturer: Bristol Aeroplane
Type: Bristol Beaufighter TF Mk X
Crew: two
Length: 12.70m.
Wingspan: 17.63m.
Maximum speed: 512 km/h
Radius: 2913 km. Maximum.
Reinforcement: four machine guns Hispano 20 th.
4 303 guns of 7.7 mm. On the right wing,
2 outdoor 303 guns of 7.7 mm. On the left,
4 rockets RP-3, 41 kg per wing bomb or 1 113 kg per wing,
1 Torpedo 457mm

Τετάρτη 18 Νοεμβρίου 2015

May 1941: The nazis thought the invasion of Crete would be easy. The 4,000 German graves in Crete proved they were wrong

The nazis ultimately prevailed on Crete but at a great and unbearable cost.

The island of Crete, considered to be the graveyard of the Fallschirmjäger, put an end to any large-scale airborne operations, following the scores of dead nazi paratroopers that found their eternal resting place in the military cemetery of Maleme, Crete, while thousands more were injured and remained out of action for an extended period of time.
Estimates of the exact losses vary greatly – there were around 4,000 German graves on Crete. 

But British naval commanders believed they had accounted for thousands more when they sunk troop transports bringing men across by sea at the height of the battle. 

Only a few hundred bodies were washed up. 

Churchill estimated total losses at around 15,000, some put it even higher.

The paranoid nazi dictator Hitler lost all enthusiasm -to put it mildly- for large scale parachute operations after the battle of Crete.

In the future parachute troops would be used as elite infantry. Possible future operations against Malta and Cyprus were discarded.

The cost of the battle of Crete
More than 1700 British, Commonwealth and Greek soldiers were killed and 15,000 captured during the Battle for Crete. There were 671 New Zealanders among the dead, and 2180 prisoners of war. 
More than 6000 Germans were killed or wounded. The Luftwaffe lost more than 350 aircraft.

Τρίτη 17 Νοεμβρίου 2015

Found, salvaged and preserved! A Blenheim shot down in Crete by friendly fire on April 28, 1941

The evacuation of  the BEF from mainland Greece towards Crete and Egypt is in full swing, during the last chaotic days of April 1941. A repetition of the Dunkirk operation on a smaller scale sees thousands of  allied soldiers fleeing the nazi advance in mainland Greece, following the capitulation of the Greek Army.

Boats of every size are struggling to get the troops from the shores of the Peloponnese and Attica, while the nazi Luftwaffe controls the skies over Greece and is constantly harassing the allies, sinking many ships.

The salvage operation in its final stages, the Blenheim is lifted out of the sea

One largely forgotten episode of this epic struggle is the story of a Bristol Blenheim Mk IV F (203 squadron, L9044), which covers the withdrawal of a convoy to Crete. A British destroyer with trigger-happy and quite nervous anti aircraft personnel believes the twin engine light bomber is a German one. They promptly set their sights on the Blenheim and shoot at it.

The evacuation route of BEF from Attica to Crete and Egypt. The dotted line depicts the flight path of the stricken Blenheim

Pilot Gordon Hall sees the starboard engine in flames and decides to try to reach the shores of Crete.

Minutes seem like ages and the crippled Blenheim is struggling to get to Crete. Losing altitude and flying with just one engine, it is obvious that there is not much life left in the aircraft.

Just 1.5 kilometres from the shore of Rethymno, Crete, Hall decided to ditch the aircraft, as smoothly as possible. Indeed, the Blenheim sits on the surface, giving enough time to its three crew members to safely evacuate the sinking aircraft.

A man from Crete, Markos Koumiotakis, sees the sinking aircraft and the three men trying not to drown, he ties a rope on his waist and plunges into the sea. A keen swimmer, Koumiotakis finally reaches the crew and manages to save them, after over two hours at sea.

The Blenheim rests on the seabed, protected by a reef right next to it, largely forgotten for almost 50 years, until a diver finds it again by pure chance. 

 The instrument panel of the Ju52 salvaged in Leros, with the Blenheim in the background, at the Hellenic Air Force Museum, Tatoi Airport, Athens, Greece

The Hellenic Air Force decides to salvage it and following a technically complex opearation, they manage to bring it to the surface 55 years after its last flight. Bullet-ridden, with personal effects of its crew still inside, the Blenheim awaits its preservation.

After a painstaking work by experts at the Museum, the Blenheim now sits in the hangar, telling its story to everyone who is interested to listen.

Pilot Hall, who survived WW2, had the privilege to sit once again at his seat and received part of the stricken aircraft as a gift from the Hellenic Air Force.

Blenheim pilot Gordon Hall at the Hellenic Air Force Museum, with the aircraft in the background