Liberation of Athens from German Occupation

As the last German soldiers take the swastika down from the Acropolis and begin to drive through the city towards the road north they pass through crowds of Athenians in a state of joy, waving the blue and white Greek flags, embracing, while bells ring all over the city. It is a happy time for those in Athens who have survived the occupation, but their joy is not destined to last. They are about to enter the most divisive period of modern Greek history. Over 400,000 Greeks die during the Second World War, the vast majority civilians.

The actual liberation of Greece by the Allies was not a military operation in the classic sense. No major battles were fought over strategic terrain; triumphant combat divisions of the Allies were not given laurels as they paraded through liberated cities. The fact was that there were no combat divisions and in some cases the British troops merely waited for the Germans to evacuate the area. No doubt this was prudent, for the forces were almost pitifully small. The British sent into Greece only two brigades of light infantry along with a few hundred commandos. Greek forces available for the liberation were the Mountain Brigade and the Sacred Squadron; both had seen combat in Italy. Of the resistance groups, indeed of any army, ELAS was clearly superior in numerical strength. In October 1944, ELAS had some 50,000 troops under arms and another 20,000 in unarmed reserve. EDES had approximately 10,000 men overall.