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Sacred Band

Page Created
April 29th, 2022
Last Updated
May 30th, 2022
Additional Information
Sacred Band
Order of Battle

τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς
Come back with it (your shield) or on it
August 1942
August 7th, 1945
Theater of operations
North Africa
* Egypt
* Palestine
* Libya
* Tunisia
Dodecanese islands
* Samos
* Leros
* Psara
* Lesvos
* Chios
* Symi
Organisational History

Amid the turmoil within the Hellenic Army, a critical realisation emerges: the political entanglements of its officers are leading to a perception of unreliability amongst the Allied Forces. This issue, compounded by the excessive number of officers and non-commissioned officers in the Middle East following the Greek defeat in 1941, necessitates a fresh approach. Many of these military personnel, having evacuated to the British-controlled Middle East, find themselves in a state of operational limbo, highlighting the need for restructuring.

Wing Commander G. Alexandris, cognisant of these challenges and the surplus of leadership without a command, conceives the idea of forming a specialised unit. This unit consists of volunteers, primarily from the officers’ ranks, who are willing to serve in a capacity beyond their traditional roles, effectively as regular soldiers. This proposal aims to harness the excess of experienced military personnel, channelling their skills and leadership into a cohesive fighting force capable of operating effectively, irrespective of the political affiliations that had previously undermined the Hellenic Army’s reliability.

In August 1942, Alexandris presents this innovative concept to Panagiotis Kanellopoulos, the vice president of the Greek government in exile, based in Cairo. The proposal receives approval, leading to the formation of the Company of Chosen Immortals (Λόχος Επιλέκτων Αθανάτων) in Palestine. This unit represents a strategic pivot, aiming to rejuvenate the Greek military contribution to the Allied efforts by creating a highly motivated, apolitical, and elite fighting force. The formation of the Company of Chosen Immortals signifies a critical step towards addressing the challenges faced by the Hellenic Army, offering a path to reclaiming operational effectiveness and restoring trust with the Allies.

The unit makes its first appearance on September 6th, 1942, with Major Antonios Stefanakis serving as its provisional commander. Stefanakis is among the officers discharged following the 1935 coup. Later that month, the unit moves to Cairo, Egypt, where it is to receive a new commander, Colonel Christodoulos Tsigantes. Like Stefanakis, Tsigantes has been dismissed after the coup of March 1st, 1935. Sources suggest that Tsigantes engages in some fierce discussions about his upcoming leadership with the other officers of the unit in the days leading up to his appointment. Political differences still tend to obstruct progress. However, he manages to convince them that he is the right man for the job. It’s not only his words that sway them; his military career also plays a significant role. Tsigantes, having served in the French Foreign Legion, experienced in battle, wounded, and fluent in several languages, brings a wealth of experience to the table. On September 15th, 1942, he assumes command of the unit with the consent of the other officers within the unit.

Colonel Tsigantes with Pilot Officer Nikolaos Zervoudakis in the North African front.

Colonel Tsigantes with Pilot Officer Nikolaos Zervoudakis in the North African front.

In the months that follow, he renames the unit to the Sacred Band, drawing inspiration from the Sacred Band of Thebes. The Sacred Band of Thebes was a troop of specially selected soldiers in the fourth century Before Christ, consisting of 150 pairs of male lovers, which formed the elite force of the Theban army, ending Spartan domination. This renaming signifies his intention to transform the unit into a Special Forces Unit.

Two groups from the Sacred Squadron are soon given their first opportunity to engage in combat. The first group, comprising eight members led by Wing Commander Alexandris and equipped with three specially modified jeeps, is scheduled to join a commando unit in a harassment operation against the German Afrika Korps in the Agedabia region of southwest Cyrenaica. This operation, running from November 19th, 1942, to December 12th, 1942, ends up encountering no enemy action due to the swift retreat of German and Italian forces.

The next planned operation is an amphibious raid near El Agheila, at the southern edge of the Gulf of Sidra, again aimed at the rear of the Afrika Korps. This operation involves 60 members of the Sacred Band, under Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Fradellos. Scheduled for December 4th, 1942, to December 23rd, 1942, this operation is also aborted as the enemy quickly redeploys.

Special Air Service

On December 25th, 1942, Tsigantes meets Major David Stirling of L-Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade. Stirling is tasked with upgrading his L-Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade, to a Regiment. Stirling asks Tsigantes if it is possible to reorganise and train his unit as a mechanised commando unit, moving and fighting with jeeps and armoured vehicles. This unit is to undertake operations at great depth behind enemy lines, using the desert or the mountains separating Tripolitania from Sahara proper as bases. This transformation has to be completed within a month.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Archibald David StirlingMajor David Stirling of L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade.

Tsigantes happily accepts the proposal, under the conditions that the unit will be timely supplied with the equipment necessary for its reorganisation and training. The unit is also to receive help to fill its deficiencies in various critical specialties, and Tsigantes is to be given a free hand, with no interference during its training and preparation.

Around January 25th, 1943, the unit is sent to Tripolis, Libya, for a joint sabotage operation. They plan to travel overland from Egypt to Tripoli, Libya, to collaborate with L Detachment, Special Air Service Brigade on a joint sabotage mission targeting Axis forces in Tunisia. However, upon their arrival, they are informed that Major Stirling has been captured. All operations of the Special Air Service are halted at that time. This situation leads Tsigantes to make a plea with Field Marshal Montgomery, to attach the unit to the brigade of Free French under General Leclerc.

Colonel Tsigantes and General Leclerc inspect men of the Sacred Squadron at Nalut,in Tunisia

Colonel Tsigantes and General Leclerc inspect men of the Sacred Squadron at Nalut, in Tunisia

On the February 7th, 1943, upon the recommendation of Colonel Tsigantes, General Bernard Montgomery, commanding the British 8th Army, assigns the Sacred Band to the oversight of General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, leading the Free French 2nd Armoured Division, with the responsibilities befitting Light Mechanised Cavalry. Subsequently, on the March 10th, 1943, near Ksar-Rillan in Tunisia, the Sacred Band conducts its inaugural engagement against a German mechanised detachment. The operation, conducted from February 23rd to March 10th, 1943, aids the X British Army Corps in its strategy to outflank the Mareth Line from the south, focusing on seizing Bir Soltan and Bir Razen. Successfully meeting their goals, they are the pioneers in entering Gabès on April 3rd, 1943, a location of vital importance for its port and oasis.

The unit is detached from the French and placed under the command of the 2nd New Zealand Division. On April 6th, 1943, a combined Greek-New Zealand detachment engages the Germans at Wadi Akarit. Subsequently, on April 12th, 1943, the Sacred Band makes its entry into Sousse, and partakes in the battle for Enfidaville from April 13th, 1943, to April 17th, 1943. That very same day, the Sacred Band is detached from the 2nd New Zealand Division and urgently ordered to return to Egypt, prompted by suspicions of rebellion within the ranks of two Greek Divisions.


From May 1943 to October 1943, the unit undergoes a period of reorganisation in camps located in Palestine. The Sacred Band, now numbering 314 men, commits to extensive training focused on conducting amphibious and aerial assaults in the Aegean islands. In July, the unit proceeds to Jenin for parachute training and undergoes reorganisation into Squadron with a Headquarters Section, a Base Section, and Commando Sections I, II, and III. Tsigantes decides to replace half of the troops he deems unsuitable for the unit’s new role with new recruits. In addition, he brings in more recruits to bolster the unit’s numbers to 327.

Following the Italian armistice on September 9th, 1943, British forces advance into the Italian-occupied, but Greek-inhabited Dodecanese islands. Section I of the Sacred Band is airdropped onto the Greek island of Samos on October 30th, 1943, while Sections II and III make their way there on fishing boats. However, following the unsuccessful campaign after the battle of Leros, Samos is evacuated, and the Sacred Band members withdraw to the Middle East.

In February 1944, the unit comes under the command of the British Raiding Forces. On the 7th of February, Section I departs for combat operations in the islands of the northern Aegean Sea (Samos, Psara, Lesvos, Chios), and Section II heads to the Dodecanese for the same purpose.

Members of the Sacred Band training in parachute drops most likely in Palestine.

Aegean Sea Campaign

During this Campaign, the Greek Sacred Squadron, is tasked with executing a series of high-impact, clandestine operations aimed at undermining Axis control and facilitating a broader strategic objective championed by Winston Churchill. Churchill’s vision involves a bold campaign to seize control of the airfields on Rhodes and across the Dodecanese, aiming not just to disrupt Axis operations but also to pivot Turkey from its stance of neutrality to actively join the Allies, potentially bringing forty divisions to the Allied side.

The formation of the Headquarters Raiding Forces in the Middle East in the beginning of 1943, under the marks a pivotal consolidation of the raiding forces, like the Greek Sacred Squadron (GSS) alongside other elite units such as the Special Boat Squadron (SBS), the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), and the Raiding Support Regiment (RSR). Emphasising an increased operational scope and strategic significance. All diverse units were amalgamated into H.Q. Raiding Forces, which consisted of a streamlined team of staff officers, essential personnel, Signals, Royal Engineers (R.E.), Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (R.E.M.E.), and Physical Training (P.T.) Staff. The entire operation was overseen by the Commander of the Raiding Forces, Colonel D.J.T. Turnbull, showcasing a unified command structure designed to enhance operational efficiency and strategic execution. This unification underscores a strategic shift towards intensifying pressure on Axis forces through coordinated raids and sabotage operations, emphasising the collaborative effort of these specialised units.

During the critical phase of the Dodecanese campaign in World War II, Churchill’s strategy involves deploying specialised units to secure a foothold in the region ahead of the Italian armistice, aiming to facilitate the surrender of key islands such as Kos and Rhodes to British forces. This approach highlights the strategic importance of the Dodecanese islands in the broader context of the Mediterranean theatre and the Allied efforts to undermine Axis control.

Primairly, George Jellicoe, leading the Special Boat Squadron, plays a pivotal role in these operations. His mission to infiltrate behind enemy lines on Rhodes is part of a larger strategy to negotiate the surrender of the island in anticipation of the Italian armistice. This operation is a testament to the agility and effectiveness of Allied special forces in executing high-stakes missions under challenging circumstances.

Simultaneously, David Sutherland and his men of S Detachment make their way to Kastellorizo, the southeasternmost island of the Dodecanese, strategically located near the Turkish coast. The arrival of Special Boat Squadron, the Long Range Desert Group, and the Greek Sacred Squadron in the Dodecanese marks a significant escalation in Allied operations, aimed at disrupting Axis control and securing the islands.

The joint operations of Special Boat Squadron and Greek Sacred Squadron, conducting raids across the enemy-occupied Dodecanese and beyond, underscore the collaborative nature of these efforts. Jellicoe’s swift action in Leros, where he successfully persuades the Italian Governor to ally with the Allied forces, leads to the strategic takeover of the island by September 15th, 1943. This success is quickly followed by the occupation of Kastellorizo and Simi, further demonstrating the effectiveness of Allied strategy and the critical role of special forces in these operations.

The occupation of Samos by Captain Tsigantes of the Greek Sacred Squadron, who is parachuted onto the island, highlights the audacity and precision of Allied strategies in securing strategic locations across the Aegean. Tsigantes’ rapid success in taking control of Samos with the support of Greek Sacred Squadron members is a crucial step in establishing Allied presence in the Dodecanese.

German Counter Offensive Aegean Sea

However, the German response to these developments is swift and determined. The Germans, recognising the strategic significance of the Dodecanese islands, are not inclined to relinquish control without a fight. The ensuing battles for Kos and Leros underscore the intense contest between Britain and Germany over these critical Mediterranean assets. Both sides understand the strategic value of the Dodecanese, not only as a military prize but also as a potential factor in influencing Turkey’s stance in the conflict.

As the campaign progresses into late September 1943, the German forces begin organising counter-offensives against the recently Allied-occupied islands of Kos and Leros. This escalation marks a critical phase in the Dodecanese campaign, showcasing the determination of both Allied and Axis forces to assert control over this strategically vital region. The outcome of these confrontations will not only affect the balance of power in the Aegean but also impact the broader dynamics of the war in the Mediterranean.

During the Allied campaign, the Royal Navy has been leveraging the neutral territorial waters of Turkey for strategic movements, such as navigating ships during the night and conducting patrols. This practice, however, comes to a sudden halt when Luftwaffe aircraft bomb and sink two stationary Allied destroyers, the H.H.M.S. Queen Olga of the Royal Hellenic Navy and the H.M.S. Intrepid of the Royal Navy, inside Leros port on September 26th, 1943. Aware of the Kriegsmarine’s naval firepower being inferior to that of the Royal Navy and without access to the airfield on Kos, the Germans opt not to directly engage with the Allied naval forces. Instead, their focus shifts towards occupying the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. Utilising U-Boot-Jäger’s (submarine chasers), they discover and occupy islands previously held by Italy, including Syros, Tinos, Andros, Naxos, and Kea, all of which quickly fall under German control.

This strategic maneuvering makes it relatively easy for the Germans to invade Kos, which they successfully do by landing troops using Landing Ship, Tanks, and F-lighters (small naval vessels). With the occupation of Kos on October 2nd, 1943, the Allies lose their last airfield in the Aegean, granting the Germans a suitable airbase to launch their offensive against Leros. It becomes apparent that a British defeat is imminent. However, before advancing further, the Germans lay sea mines outside Kalymnos Island to block any potential passage for British destroyers and to capture Simi. Thanks to the efforts of Special Boat Squadron M Detachment led by Major Ian “Jock” Lapraik, the German attempt to invade Simi is thwarted. On October 10th, 1943, Simi undergoes heavy dive-bombing, after which Major Lapraik is ordered to establish a base for future raids.

The British face significant challenges in reinforcing and supplying Leros, leading to the establishment of two additional supply stations at Kastelorizo and Samos. With the S Squadron of the Special Boat Squadron under David Sutherland concentrated on Leros and lacking sufficient forces and air cover, the Allies ultimately lose Leros on November 16th, 1943, marking the end of the broader campaign in this theatre of war.

However, a German report compiled during the campaign acknowledged the pivotal role and achievements of British raiding forces, noting their establishment of outposts on Seriphos and Mykonos islands and their effectiveness in reporting German movements in the Aegean.

In Retreat

In the wake of the Dodecanese campaign, the Allied forces, acknowledging the strategic setbacks, regroup with an eye towards future operations. As the situation on the ground shifts, Churchill and the Allied command anticipate further German advances, particularly against the island of Samos where the Greek Sacred Squadron is stationed. This foresight leads to a strategic withdrawal from Samos and, broadly, the Aegean on November 18th, 1943, with the Greek Sacred Squadron departing for the Middle East the following day under General Headquarters orders.

The fall of Leros triggers a chain reaction, leading to the withdrawal from Samos and leaving only Kastelorizo under British control in the Dodecanese. This shift indicates a strategic turn towards targeting these now-hostile territories through Allied raids, marking a move towards unconventional warfare tactics.

Within this framework, Major Ian Lapraik’s Special Boat Squadron, M Detachment, and the Allied Hellenic Schooner Flotilla’s caïques, based in Simi, show remarkable resilience and adaptability. On November 22nd, 1943, they launch a bold raid on Nisiros, targeting the wireless telegraph station, though their caïques are later captured by German forces. Nonetheless, they press on with another operation on Tilos the following day, successfully destroying the wireless station and disarming Italian garrisons, underscoring the Allied forces’ determination to challenge Axis dominance.

Simi remains a focal point for Lapraik’s M Detachment’s ongoing struggle against the Axis, with these efforts culminating in the final raid of 1943 in the Aegean, a year marked by significant and diverse military activities.

Despite these challenges in the Dodecanese, Churchill’s strategy for the region remains steadfast, with new plans for its recapture underway, indicating a long-term commitment. In the meantime, British and Greek raiding forces regroup and reorganize in the Middle East, gearing up for further clandestine operations. This period of reformation highlights the Allies’ resilience and their unwavering intent to persist in their campaign against Axis forces in the Mediterranean.

Into the Offensive again

Brigadier Turnbull devises a plan to divide the Aegean into two sectors. According to this plan, the Greek Sacred Squadron focuses on the northern islands, leaving the southern Aegean to the Special Boat Squadron. At this moment, the three Special Boat Squadron detachments, led by Sutherland, Patterson, and Lapraik, are active across the Aegean, frequently collaborating with the Greek Sacred Squadron. Jellicoe and Tsigantes direct joint raiding operations in the Dodecanese, making use of previously mentioned hideouts. The raiding float base of the Special Boat Squadron, Jellicoe’s Headquarters, the caique LS 31 or AHS 31, i.e., Tewfik, remains stationed on the Turkish side of the Kos channel. The Greek Sacred Squadron also has a floating base, the caique LS 33 or AHS 33, Thalia, while its commander, Colonel Tsigantes, employs the yacht Elliki as his Headquarters to supervise operations.

Meanwhile, the Greek Sacred Squadron continues its training by the Special Boat Squadron with a focus on seaborne raids, leading to its reorganisation into three raiding sections and one administration section. Andreas Kalinskis, Trifonas Triantafyllakos, and Pavlos Dimopoulos are appointed commanders of the first, second, and third raiding sections, respectively, bringing the squadron’s strength to four hundred twenty-three men. The Greek Sacred Squadron marks its return to action in the Aegean theatre with a raid on Samos on March 7th, 1944.

A fifteen-men unit under Sophoulis conducts an experimental raid on Samos on the night of March 13th, 1944, to March 14th, 1944, successfully destroying a German requisitioned caique and gathering intelligence for future operations on the island. On March 8th, 1944, Stathatos leads a raid on Chios and Oinousses, capturing a caique loaded with enemy ammunition. Among the significant raids is an operation against the Gestapo in Mytilini/Levos Island aiming to eliminate or capture German officers and liberate Prisoners of War. On April 3rd, 1944, a Greek Sacred Squadron ten-men unit led by Kalinskis uses the element of surprise to swiftly neutralise the German garrisons, leading to Kalinskis’s promotion to colonel. Earlier, on March 25th, 1944, Greek Sacred Squadron personnel capture the German auxiliary ship GL 58 and its crew under the cover of night.

Early April 1944, Brigadier Turnbull’s plan to separate the Aegean in two sectors is approved. On April 13th, 1944, David Sutherland, the S detachment commander of the Special Boat Squadron, requests from Kalinskis one English-literate officer and five men to conduct raids against Ios, Amorgos, and Santorini in the central Aegean Cyclades group. The Greek commander responds positively, offering officer Macris and soldiers Katsikas, Vardoulakis, Berdalis, Paliatsaras, and Korkas. These men are attached to the Special Boat Squadron and Force 133.

A joint unit, comprising members of the Greek Sacred Squadron and Special Boat Squadron as well as their transport, a Levant Schooner Flotilla or Allied Hellenic Schooner Flotilla caïque, is established. This team makes landfall on Ios on April 28th, 1944, successfully disarming the German garrison there. Following this, they proceed to destroy ammunition and explosives, scuttle a Greek caïque pressed into German service, and provide essential food and supplies to the island’s hungry inhabitants. Subsequently, on the night spanning April 30th, 1944, to May 1st, 1944, the unit executes a similar operation on Amorgos, targeting the naval wireless telegraph station, disarming the garrison, and again distributing aid to the local population. Tragically, during a similar operation in the town of Santorini, Greek Lieutenant Stefanos Kasulis and Sergeant Frank Kingston members of Lassen’s group, are fatally wounded by enemy fire.

On May 9th, 1944, Sutherland and Lassen plan an operation targeting Paros. A team of three Greek Sacred Squadron men, led by Sophoulis, is placed under Lassen’s command to raid the island just after midnight on May 12th, 1944 to May 13th, 1944. Adverse weather conditions cause a delay, diminishing the element of surprise against the enemy. Despite this, the team is able to gather valuable intelligence regarding the airfield under construction, fuel dumps, ammunition stocks, wireless telegraph station, and anti-aircraft positions across the island. Moreover, the Special Boat Squadron successfully uses explosives to destroy the German garrison installation, resulting in German casualties.

On May 11th, 1944, Brigadier Turnbull arrives at the advanced base of Port Deremen, where he and Kalinskis discuss future raids against Samos, Ikaria, Chios, Psara, and Lesvos. The upcoming expedition against Samos is assigned to Greek Sacred Squadron officer Siapkaras. The force comprises thirty Greek Sacred Squadron members, one British officer, one British wireless telegraph operator, and one American war correspondent, accompanied by a local guide. The entire unit lands on May 17th, 1944, in Marathocambos Bay, Samos, and then moves inland to hide. On the night of May 23rd, 1944, to May 24th, 1944, the men under Officer Karademos attacks the German garrison at Marathocambos, killing the governor and a soldier, and capturing two others. Following this, with support from Force 133 operating on Samos, they manage to return to the Deremen base, each arriving separately.

Towards the end of May 1944, the second section of the Greek Sacred Squadron, led by Triantafyllakos, departs from Haifa, taking over from Kalinskis’s first section. The plan for this second section involves dividing it into two smaller groups. The first group is tasked with reaching the base ship at Deremen, navigating via caiques and patrol boats with stops at Cyprus and Kastelorizo. The second group, armed with heavy machine guns and mortars, makes its way directly to Kastelorizo. During this time, the British special forces, including units from the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Squadron, and the Long Range Desert Group, withdraw from the northern Aegean, leaving the Greek Sacred Squadron solely in charge of the sector. However, members of the British raiding units who remain in the Aegean come together to form Force 142. By the end of May 1944, the Greek Sacred Squadron primarily focuses its activities in the northern Aegean Sea.

During the latter part of the northern Aegean campaign, specifically until September 1944, strategic raids target Chios and Lesvos. Initial reconnaissance missions provide detailed information on the targeted areas. Subsequently, a specialised team from the Greek Sacred Squadron, comprising forty-nine members and led by Commander Kalinskis, departs in three caïques for Chios. They arrive under the cover of night between May 30th, 1944, and May 31st, 1944, with objectives including the disruption of shipyard operations, the destruction of the caïques at the port, and the severance of an underwater communication cable. Team leaders Dimitriadis, Vafeiopoulos, and Stathatos successfully complete these objectives. There is an expectation for Royal Air Force support to target a local German base, but due to the base’s proximity to a hospital, the Royal Air Force mission is called off, and the team withdraws on the night of June 5th, 1944, and June 6th, 1944.

Further operations see Stathatos and a small contingent returning to Chios, where they engage and neutralise a German observation post. Later, on the night of June 20th, 1944, and June 21st, 1944, a combined operation with another Greek Sacred Squadron team attacks Geras Bay using two Landing Craft, Tanks, targeting, and destroying enemy caïques and infrastructure. They conclude their operations and return to base on the night of June 21st, 1944, and June 22nd, 1944.

Throughout the Samos and Chios raids, Special Boat Squadron member Harold Chevalier conducts patrol operations aboard a Levant Schooner Flotilla caïque, inspecting and intercepting vessels between the islands, leading to the capture of a German vessel and its crew.

This series of raids in 1944 significantly contributes to the operational experience of the Greek Sacred Squadron, laying a foundation for future large-scale operations.

Expansion to regiment

In early June 1944, the Greek Sacred Squadron expands its ranks within Palestine, transitioning into the Greek Sacred Regiment (GSR) under the continued leadership of Colonel Tsigantes. The Greek Sacred Regiment is structured into three sections, led by sub-commanders Ketseas and G. Roussos, with notable members including Papadopoulos and Manetas. This reorganisation results in a combined force of 1,084 Greek officers, soldiers, and volunteers, all of whom undergo rigorous training in preparation for subsequent operations.

During this period, the Greek Sacred Regiment collaborates with Force 133, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force in a series of raids. A notable operation on June 29th, 1944, involves twenty-two Greek Sacred Regiment members and fourteen British raiders from Force 133. They execute a landing on Kalymnos using two Landing Craft, Tanks under the guidance of Special Boat Squadron Captain Jimmy Lees. However, operational objectives are fully achieved by the British contingent. The forces withdraw on July 2nd, 1944, having also made a reconnaissance visit to Ai Stratis on June 22nd, 1944, at that time under the friendly control of the Greek National Liberation Movement or Εθνικό Απελευθερωτικό Μέτωπο (EAM).

Concurrently, Special Boat Squadron member Bob Bury conducts reconnaissance in the Sporades, searching for German activity. Finding none, he proceeds to Yioura and secures several captured caïques, towing them back to base. Subsequent strategic assessments lead to another planned attack on Kalymnos, this time under the command of a Greek officer from the Greek Sacred Regiment, Kasakopoulos, marking a first in Special Boat Squadron history. Despite the assembled team of Greek raiders and Special Boat Squadron personnel, the mission faces stiff German resistance and fails to achieve its intended impact.

The operations culminate in a significant joint operation targeting the enemy-occupied island of Simi, codenamed Tenement. This operation, expectedly focused on Simi given Lapraik’s involvement, signifies the conclusion of Special Boat Squadron’s active engagement in the Aegean campaign. The meticulous planning and execution of this raid, including up to ten days of concealment in Turkish waters, underscore the strategic importance of stealth and the complex dynamics of Allied operations in the region.

A significant challenge facing the joint forces is the presence of German destroyers stationed in Portolago or Laki at Leros harbour. These ships pose a threat to landing operations on Simi in the Dodecanese, capable of intervening both at long range and at short notice. From the start of the year, there are four destroyers operational in the Eastern Mediterranean, with one suffering damage from a British submarine in March 1944 and another sustaining bomb damage from a Beaufighter. Two destroyers remain active in Leros. In response to this threat, Brigadier Turnbull requests a Detachment of the Royal Marine Boom Patrol from London, recognising the strategic necessity of such a move given the Special Boat Squadron’s expertise in folboating.

On May 13th, 1944, sixty Greek raiders from the Greek Sacred Regiment are recalled from Kalymnos by British Headquarters despite Cololonel Tsigantes’s personal intervention. The order is non-negotiable.

By the summer of 1944, the situation in the Aegean necessitates a larger-scale raid, anticipating that German reinforcements to the targeted island would provide the Allied Naval and Air Forces with a significant target. A detachment of the Royal Marine Boom Patrol arrives in Portolago harbour in mid-June 1944, managing to infiltrate using canoes and placing limpet bombs on the sides of the Kriegsmarine ships. While the destroyers are not sunk, they sustain severe damage, rendering them unfit for operations. The Royal Marine raiders then extract via a British submarine, clearing the way for the planned raid on Simi Island.

The objective is to land on Simi, neutralise the garrison, destroy all enemy installations, capture or destroy enemy shipping, and evacuate within twenty-four hours, mimicking the German occupation tactics. The hope is that German retaliation will provide the Allied forces with an opportunity to strike at the reinforcements. The main assault, involving 220 Special Boat Squadron members and 154 Greek Sacred Regiment members, takes place on the night of July 13th, 1944, to July 14th, 1944, following reconnaissance by advance parties. By midday, the garrison surrenders, and the raiders spend the day demolishing enemy infrastructure on the island before the main force evacuates under the cover of night, leaving behind a small contingent.

The following day, the island comes under heavy bombardment from enemy ships and aircraft. A Greek contingent, remaining on the island under Papadopoulos’s command, engages the German garrison at Panormitis Bay, located within a monastery seized by the enemy. Despite strong resistance, the Greek Sacred Regiment achieves victory, destroying caïques, fortifications, ammunition stores, and the underwater communication cable between Simi and Rhodes. The operation results in nine German and Italian soldiers killed, seventeen wounded, and one hundred twenty-five taken prisoner. However, the Greek Sacred Regiment suffers losses, including two officers, Eustratios Tsopelas and G. Menekides, with seven wounded, while the Special Boat Squadron incur four wounded.

After July 1944, the responsibility for conducting raids against the Aegean islands shifts to the Greek Sacred Regiment.

In August 1944, the Greek Sacred Regiment executes a strategic operation on Tilos, part of the Dodecanese archipelago. On the Agust 17th, 1944, a unit from the Greek Sacred Regiment’s second section, led by Krekoukias, conducts a successful landing on the island, employing tactics similar to those typically used by the Special Boat Service. Their mission focuses on sabotaging the underwater communication cable and destroying a nearby communication facility.

Later in the same month, a reconnaissance mission is undertaken by a five-person team from the Greek Sacred Regiment’s third section, under the leadership of Kostoletos. Departing from a base along the Turkish coast, their journey includes a temporary halt on the islet of Sirina before proceeding to Karpathos (also known as Scarpanto). During their exploration of Karpathos, the team inadvertently triggers a minefield, resulting in the immediate death of team member Konstantinos Psillis and serious injuries to the others. Subsequently, the survivors are apprehended by a German patrol on the same day. Among the captured, one of the wounded, Manolas, succumbs to his injuries on September 8th, 1944, while the remaining members are transported to a prisoner of war camp in Germany. In a daring escape, Kostoletos manages to flee from the transport train during its passage near the Greek-Yugoslavian border.

By September 1944, the Special Boat Service ceases its operations in the region, entrusting the Dodecanese to the hands of the Greek Sacred Regiment.

On their own

In September 1944, the Greek Sacred Regiment targets Chios for their next operation. Led by Dimopoulos, the third section, consisting of fourteen raiders, aims to destroy a German patrol station on the island. However, while en route, they discover that the Germans have already evacuated Chios. On the night of September 10th, 1944, the Greek Sacred Regiment is the first to arrive on Chios following its liberation. The subsequent day, John Campbell (COMARO I), alongside local political figures from the Greek National Liberation Movement, EAM, celebrates the island’s liberation. This event heralds the liberation of other Northern Aegean islands such as Samos, Mytilene, and Kos.

Following Colonel Tsigantes’s recommendation to Headquarters Middle East, the operational base for the third section of the Greek Sacred Regiment moves from the Turkish coast to Chios, thus enhancing the efficacy and control over operations. Despite the relocation, British officers continue their participation in patrols on the German-evacuated islands, albeit they are expressly forbidden from interfering in local domestic affairs. Tensions are noted on some islands between the local representatives of the Greek resistance movements EAM-ELAS and Greek Sacred Regiment staff.

By the end of September 1944, the Germans still occupies several Aegean islands, including Lemnos, Samos, Skopelos, Syros, Tinos, Paros, Naxos, Melos, and Santorini. However, a significant number of the Aegean islands have been liberated, either through joint military efforts or because of the general German withdrawal from Greece. Athens is freed from German occupation on October 12th, 1944.

The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy play crucial roles in harassing German forces during their withdrawal, in line with Operation Manna initiated by Churchill to fully liberate Greece. This facilitates the establishment of advanced bases for the Greek raiders, covering both the northern and southern Aegean, despite German troops still defending Rhodes and others stranded across the islands.

In mid-October 1944, the Greek Sacred Regiment, in collaboration with a British liaison officer and aboard two Landing Craft, Tanks, sets out to liberate Naxos, where German forces are concentrated in the village of Aperanthos. Intelligence provided by Korkas, a Greek Sacred Regiment member attached to the Special Operations Executive Unit Force 133 and collaborator with the Greek National Liberation Movement, EAM, indicates the German presence at the port, awaiting evacuation.

Nonetheless, the captain of the Greek Land Craft, Tanks, for reasons that remain undisclosed, opts to navigate and moor within the harbour. The Germans, under the impression that the military vessel is intended for them, observe their commander promptly boarding one of the crafts. This action leads to his apprehension by the Greek Sacred Regiment, sparking an engagement as the German garrison, equipped with mortars, forces the Greek craft to retreat. The endeavour to seize the island emerges as a formidable challenge, with multiple attempts failing to breach the German defences. The Germans fortify themselves within a medieval stronghold, securing a tactical upper hand. However, a member of the squadron, Tsitsilonis, succeeds in penetrating the fortress through a concealed entrance and, threatening to detonate the ammunition cache, compels the entire garrison to capitulate. According to Tsitsilonis’s account, sixty-nine Germans capitulate, and one is slain. The Greek Sacred Regiment contingent incurs one casualty and two injuries. Consequently, Naxos is liberated.

The subsequent objective is Lemnos in the Northern Aegean. Throughout the conflict, the island hosts a garrison of four thousand Germans and Italians. Yet, by October 1944, a mere two hundred and fifty Germans and sixty Italians remain at Moudros port, with an additional contingent of one hundred and fifty Germans preparing to depart aboard a Kriegsmarine vessel. A Greek detachment, commanded by Themistocles Ketseas and George Roussos, embarks with two Landing Craft, Tanks, the yacht Elliki, and the LS Sevasti, arriving on the October 16th, 1944, accompanied by Lapraik of FORCE 142. Upon their landing and progression to the town and port, they are abruptly engaged by artillery from two German vessels. Hindered by their inability to counter, the detachment withdraws. Miraculously, by the ensuing morning, the German vessels have disappeared. After interventions by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Hellenic Navy destroyer Themistocles, both the Germans and Italians concede defeat and surrender the island. However, during this period, Greek guerrillas from ELAS, originating from Mytilene, launch an offensive on the island with the intention of forcibly seizing control and imposing communist governance. As the struggle for Athens and the civil conflict between royalists and communists intensify in December 1944, so too does the tension throughout the Greek isles in the Aegean Sea.

During 1945, the war in the islands continues. Famine and destitution severely afflict the island populations, to such an extent that numerous reports by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) highlight the dire situation in Greece, especially in the islands. In February 1945, the Greek Sacred Regiment conducts two raids against the German-occupied Dodecanese islands of Nisyros and Tilos. For the operation against Nisyros, the Greek Sacred Regiment allocates one hundred and ten raiders along with four British Special Boat Squadron members, led by Triantafyllakos. Despite achieving total surprise and neutralizing the enemy, Chatzievangelou falls to enemy fire during the action.

Subsequently, a large-scale operation targets the German-occupied Tilos. This operation, codenamed Operation Cave, sees the Royal Navy playing a pivotal role. The assault force, comprising five hundred and thirteen personnel from the Indian force Bhopal, the Greek Sacred Regiment, and British command, is to engage the German forces at Kastello/Livadia. In the afternoon, the Royal Navy intensively bombards German positions, and the joint forces attack the enemy line at Livadia. By evening, the allied forces have neutralised the entire German garrison, killing twenty and capturing one hundred and forty-two prisoners of war. The operation concludes on March 2nd, 1945, resulting in the liberation of Tilos.

The final major operation before the liberation of the Dodecanese, codenamed Operation Tent, plans to raid the fortified islet of Alimia and, foremost, Rhodes. Despite the strong German defense in Rhodes, including eighty-eight millimetres gun emplacements, machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, and on the adjacent Alimia, two seventy-five millimetres guns blocking the passage to Rhodes, the allied forces prepare for the assault. The joint force consists of one hundred and eighty-nine Greek Sacred Regiment members and twenty-eight Special Boat Squadron soldiers from Symi, under the command of Messinopoulos, supported by Manetas and Diamantis, with Lapraik leading the British forces. The Allied force, designated Force 281, is set to depart from Tilos and Symi, respectively, arriving by night.

On May 1st, 1945, the force departs from Symi and Tilos to strike Alimia. The group targeting Alimia and Rhodes lands silently, setting up their mortars and machine guns in combat positions, while others in the group proceed stealthily, advancing step by step towards the enemy threshold.

Prior to the commencement of Operation Tent, the invasion of Rhodes, the Royal Navy undertakes a feint bombardment. Following this, the Greek Sacred Regiment launches an assault on the island’s garrisons, catching them by surprise. A state of confusion ensues, leading to absolute chaos. The Germans and Italians, those not fallen in the initial attack, promptly surrender. This is followed by a systematic destruction of all military installations, including ammunition depots, fuel storage sites, and armoured vehicles. The Special Boat Squadron, with their expertise in explosives, extensively rigs the island with a considerable quantity of explosives. As the detachment makes its way back to Symi, the explosives are detonated, causing widespread destruction from afar. By the May 2nd, 1945, the detachment triumphantly returns to Symi, effectively closing the chapter of maritime raids in the area. This sentiment is exacerbated by two incidents on the Dodecanese islands.

On May 11th,1945, 240 GSR members on Leros are instructed by the British command to return to Simi. Despite objections from Kasakopoulos, the order is non-negotiable.

Subsequently, on the May 8th, 1945, General Wagner of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) in Rhodes surrenders the island unconditionally to Brigadier D. Moffatt, representing the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean (SACMED), a coalition of British, Greek, and French forces. The surrender agreement is signed on Symi, thereby concluding the German occupation of the Dodecanese.

End of the war

In the period immediately following the German surrender, the Dodecanese archipelago is considered disputed territory, with expectations that Greek forces will withdraw and leave the area under British control. However, it is agreed that no decisions regarding the islands’ future will be made without first consulting the United States. Despite being cleared of enemy forces, the region is overshadowed by post-war political ambitions and biases.

Suspicions arise within Greek leftist factions that the British, once established in the Dodecanese, might opt to retain control, envisioning the islands—alongside Crete—as potential post-war British bases, akin to Cyprus. These suspicions become entangled in broader factional and ideological disputes. In defense of British actions, Churchill declares that the UK seeks no territorial gains, including airfields or naval bases.

Yet, as British forces secure the Dodecanese, questions emerge regarding Greece’s capability to effectively administer the Aegean islands. This consideration is more a military assessment than an in-depth examination of Anglo-Greek relations. Concurrently, the British face the challenge of recognizing Greek sovereignty over the islands without committing irrevocably.

A solution emerges through permitting Greek military participation in the occupation, notably the Greek Sacred Regiment (GSR), led by Colonel Christodoulos Tsigantes, operating under the British Commander-in-Chief, Middle East Forces, alongside British units. However, this arrangement leads to misinterpretations, particularly reports in Allied media suggesting an imminent Greek annexation of the islands. Churchill urgently intervenes to halt such speculation, emphasizing that no decision on the islands’ future has been made without Allied consensus.

Subsequently, the Greek Sacred Regiment is recalled to Egypt for disbandment. A move that provokes disappointment and resentment within the unit for the abrupt end to their distinguished service in the Aegean. On July 5th, 1945, it marches on the grounds of the El Alamein Club in Cairo, in front of Commander in Chief, Middle East Forces, General Sir Bernard Paget. On July 12th, the Sacred Regiment begins returning its armament to British military authorities in Alexandria, retaining only the rifles needed for those men returning to Greece. All other troops residing abroad, in Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, etc., are decommissioned in Cairo. On July 18th, 1945, these men board a steamship, arriving in Piraeus on July 20th, 1945.

On July 5th, 1945, General Bernard Padget, Commander in Chief of the Middle East, inpects the Sacred Band in Cairo, Egypt.

On July 5th, 1945, General Bernard Padget, Commander in Chief of the Middle East, inspects the Sacred Band in Cairo, Egypt.

On 7 August 1945, the Squadron’s flag was decorated by the Greek regent, archbishop Damaskinos with the highest military medal of Greece, the Golden Cross of Bravery and the Greek War Cross, First Class. During this ceremony, a commemorative plaque on the monument in Pedion tou Areos, Athens, honouring the Sacred Band, was revealed. At this very ceremony, the Sacred Band was disbanded.

On August 7th, 1945, Archbishop and Regent Damaskinos decorates the flag of the Sacred Squadron, held for the occasion by kneeling Colonel Tsigantes.

On August 7th, 1945, Archbishop and Regent Damaskinos decorates the flag of the Sacred Squadron, held for the occasion by kneeling Colonel Tsigantes.