Choosing the right camouflage - Athens 1944

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by gmyles, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi everyone,

    The movie below from Pathe News is of the troops of ARKFORCE storming the communist EAM headquarters on Korai Street, in Athens on 6th December 1944 with a little help from 2 Shermans of 46th RTR. ARKFORCE consisted, at the time, of 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade and 23rd Armoured Brigade Group (40, 46 and 50 RTR). The 'tankies' were mostly dismounted and had been re-trained as infantry.


    Looking at the video, you should notice that one set of troops are easily identifiable by their highly visible webbing and puttees.

    Legend has it that the after this engagement the Paras quietly advised their less experienced counterparts that their light coloured webbing and puttees, whilst ideal for service in Egypt (their previous location) clashed with their battle dress and was making them easy pickings for ELAS snipers.

    The 'tankies' quickly changed their webbing for something darker.

    Can anyone elaborate upon the colours that 23rd Armd Bde troops probably changed their webbing from and to?

    And would they have a darker set of puttees readily available?


  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    From Hamilton's 50th Royal Tank Regiment: The Complete History:

    Ernest Willis recalls:
    At first we went into action with our lovely white webbing and it took some civilian to point out what lovely targets we made with our white cross straps on our backs, just right for a sniper to set his sights on. So we were told to blacken our webbing, by foul means if necessary, so with great joy black boot polish or some soot from a chimney was soon put on them.

    Assuming they were wearing gaiters rather than puttees, they could have been dealt with in the same way.
  3. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi Idler

    I have that book, so thanks for reminding me where I read it. And gaiters, of course, not puttees.

    When you watch the film it is amazing that it took a civilian to point this out.

    It is slightly confusing, in that the three tank regiments that make up the majority of 23rd Armoured Bde were fighting as two "infantry battalions" but were still formed up as armoured troops and Squadrons. But from the diaries, the attack on the EAM HQ consisted of the following forces:

    Three Troops (as infantry) from 50 RTR (1 from B Sqn, 1 from C Sqn HQ, 1 from C Sqn)

    Two Companies (A & C) from Coy 6 Para Btn.

    Gendarmerie attached to 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade Group.

    2 Sherman tanks of 11 troop 46 RTR in support.

    All forces above came under the command of Major General (former Brigadier) 'Harry' Arkwright (CO ARKFORCE) as the CO of 2nd Ind Para Bde, Brigadier Pritchard, was actually in Italy organising his Brigade's return from Greece. He would later fly back to assume command when his brigades move back to Italy was officially cancelled.

  4. arnhem44

    arnhem44 Member

    The prelude of the civil war occurred in December 1944, approximately three months after the mainland of the country had been liberated. A bloody battle (the "Dekemvrianá") erupted in Athens after government soldiers, backed by the British forces, opened fire on a massive peaceful demonstration organized by EAM against the disputed order for the disarmament of the left-wing guerrilla forces.

    Couple of weeks ago saw a (bit of) documentary about this moment. The Brits(Churchill) don't look good on this.
    Rather morally abject.

    And gmyles only pays attention to the white webbing ?

    As if nazi uniform affectionados discuss the disposition of the eyes of the Totenkopf emblems on the nazi deathcamp guards' jackets at the time of the liberation of the camps.

    tsssk, tssk.
  5. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    And gmyles only pays attention to the white webbing ?


    I can assure you this is not the case. Gus (gmyles) probably knows more about the situation in Greece in 1944-46 than anyone else on the forum.

    The whole situation in Greece polictically, strategically and tactically was unbelievably complex.

    The British had to contend with the Greek Government in Exile, who nominally had control of Greek brigades fighting for the Allies.

    The British had been supplying both the left & right wing Greek guerillas via the SOE, so they could take action against the Germans.
    ELAS (the military side of EAM) spent most of these supplies and time fighting the right wing guerillas for control, rather than the Germans.

    Meanwhile the Germans had actively supported the right wing in Greece, with the sole objective of causing a civil war on their withdrawal from Greece. The thinking behind this was if the left & right wings were fighting each other then the German's withdrawal would be so much easier, and it would also remove potential Allied Forces (the Greeks), if the civil war continued.

    Also EAM's and ELAS were basically anti-government but nominally Communists. The British had to factor in the post-war situation as well, because if EAM's had took control then Russia's influence in the Country would have increased to the detriment of the British and Americans.

    The British were dealt a pretty bad hand regarding Greece, but imho, played it as best they could. Things could have turned out a lot worse, especially the post-war situation with Russia.

    But if you think 'The Brits(Churchill) don't look good on this', based on watching a '(bit of) documentary', then go ahead.
  6. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi Arnhem44

    My father was one of 23rd Armoured Brigade besieged in the centre of Athens for 37 days as a result of the "The December Events". He was sniped at, bombed and mortared by ELAS communist militiamen. He was sent there as a peacekeeper.

    Some historians suggest that during the banned 'peaceful demonstration', it was the EP (ELAS Security Police) who let off a couple of rounds (or grenades) at nervous Greek policemen knowing full well they would return fire and giving them the justification they needed to try and sieze control of Athens. The EP were just thugs who ethnically cleansed the Greek Mountains of anyone who either were royalist or did not want to become a communist. Whist ELAS and the British/Greek Army of liberation fought, the EP continued its murderous activities in Athens.

    Andreas likes this.
  7. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    As if nazi uniform affectionados discuss the disposition of the eyes of the Totenkopf emblems on the nazi deathcamp guards' jackets at the time of the liberation of the camps.

    Do you really think that's an appropriate comparison?

    I sincerely think not.

    All the best

  8. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    I can assure you this is not the case. Gus (gmyles) probably knows more about the situation in Greece in 1944-46 than anyone else on the forum.


    Thanks for the kind comments.

  9. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Perhaps if we'd been as morally abject in the Dutch East Indies you might have got them back?
  10. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi everyone

    The reason I was interested in this relatively insignificant detail (in the eyes of one) was it shows that despite 23rd Armoured Brigade's vast experience, fighting in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, these guys were tankies through and through and despite all of the infantry training they undertook in Palestine and Egypt, prior to going to Greece it was still nowhere nearly enough to prepare them for the 37 days after 3rd Dec 44.


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