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How England and France Forced Greece to Enter in WW1

Updated on July 2, 2012


King Constantine was married to Germany’s Wilhelm Kaiser's sister and decided to remain neutral in WW1. In effect, the advantage was given to Germany and Turkey. The King’s Prime Minister Venizelos wanted to join the Triple Entente (Allies). It was his hope that Greece’s territory could be expanded in post-war territorial gains. Venizelos was eyeing Asia Minor (populated by a large number of Greeks but still part of the Turkish Empire).This difference was the knife that divided Greece into two segments, the royalists (pro-German) and the Venizelists (pro Allied).As Serbia collapsed under the attack of the Central Powers and the Allied Gallipolli campaign ended in disaster,  the Allies were very concerned in losing the Balkans.


On January 24, 1915, the British formally requested that the Greeks enter WW1 on the allied side, and in return, Grece would receive Asia Minor.


On Oct 5th, 1915, the British 10th and French 156th Divisions land at Salonica to open a new front. The King’s government ignored this “invasion”.


On Oct 23rd, 1915, additional French-British forces land at Salonika without permission from the government in power in an effort to force Greece to be part of the allied forces.

A combined French-British force of two large brigades was landed at Salonika at the request of the Greek Prime Minister Venizelos. The objective was to help the Serbs in their fight against Bulgarian aggression. However, the expedition arrived too late, the Serbs having been beaten before they landed. It was decided to keep the force in place for future operations, even against Greek opposition. The Greek Chief of the General Staff in Athens had told them “You will be driven into the sea, and you will not have time even to cry for mercy”. The outcome of the Gallipoli campaign was in the hanging.

The original two Brigades eventually were reinforced by larger units until the British 22nd, 26th, 27th and 28th Divisions were there.


On Jan 23, 1916, French and British forces seized Corfu in order to use it to assemble and reorganize the shattered Serbian army, once restored, it was planned to send them to Macedonia.


On May 27, 1916  Fort Rupel and three cities  were surrendered to German and Bulgarian forces. The fort's commander, Major Mauroudes and a German, Captain  Thiel, signed the agreement for the fort's surrender. The invasion by the Ger­mans and Bulgarians into Greece and the fort's surrender outraged all of the Greek people. The Allies were furious and demanded that the government be dissolved.


On Sept 25, 1916, exiled Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos  and Admiral Paulos  Kountouriotes, accompanied by approximately one hundred of their political and military supporters, boarded  the steamships Esperia and Atrometos in Phaleron and sailed to Chania. Their objective was to create a new government that would lead Greece into the war on the side of the Allies. Greece was on the brink of civil war. The British and French fully supported the new government with arms and money.  In Athens, King Constantine makes an agreement with the French envoy after the French fleet surrounds the Greek capital. He must withdraw his forces from central Greece and hand over to the Allies large quantities of naval and military material. .In return, he wants the Allies to guarantee the present borders and respect Greece's neutrality. The French refuse and demand the naval and military equipment without any conditions.



On Oct 9, 1916  A provisional government  was established  in  Thessalonica  by  Venizelos and  General Panagiotes Dangles and Admiral Paulos Kountouriotes. It includ­ed members of the National Defense Committee that had been formed in Thessalonica in December, 1915. The provisional gov­ernment devoted itself to reinforcing the Allies and to build up a powerful army. The core of this army came from mil­itary men that came over to the National Defense movement in Thessalonica between 20 August and 2 September 1916 , and by the recruitment of men from Macedonia and the islands. Its imme­diate objective was to wage war against the Bulgarians and the Central  Powers, that already occupied large parts of  Greek ter­ritory.  The longer term political objective was to participate in the peace con­ference at the end of the war, where it would pursue the liberation of trapped Greek populations still living in areas occupied by Turkey and Bulgaria (i.e., Thrace and Asia Minor).


November 16th, the Entente asked Greece to deliver the war materials asked. Negotiations about them continued for a couple of days.


November 23, 1916  Venizelos new Government of Thessalonica declared war against Bulgaria and Germany in order to legitimize the new movement.


November 30, 1916    The Battle of Athens (the November Incidents) occurs.

Measures were taken by the Entente troops to force the Greeks to surrender the armaments requested. The landing force consisted of about 3000 men ( French, British from HMS Exmouth and HMS Duncan and the Italians from the warship ' Livia ' ). Landing Force C.O. was the French Captain Pugliesi Conti.


All  Greek forces in Athens were about 20,000 ( all under the command of General Kallaris,  1st Army Corps commander ).

To protect public buildings General Kallaris had the following forces :


- part of  a Sappers Regiment

- three companies (1st Battalion) / 1st Infantry Regiment

- one battalion / 7th Infantry Regiment

- part of 29th Infantry Regiment

- one mountain gun

- other small forces

- volunteers ( not included in the 20000 above are about 8000 mobilised troops not in the army – of which about 300 officers -, these were a kind of pro-King paramilitary militia ).


The Allied landing forces were 3000 men (of which about 500 British ), equipped with 96 cartridges per rifle, 3600 per machine-gun, food for two days, bicycles for messengers etc. They were organised in 1st Landing Battalion, 2nd French Battalion, 3rd French Battalion .


Two destroyers and two gunboats reinforced the Entente fleet: French battleships  Provence ,  Mirabeau ; French destroyers  Lestin ,  Dehorter ,  Railleuse ; British HMS Exmouth, HMS Duncan ; Italian warship  Livia  Half a battalion from the French 34th Colonial Regiment arrived in Piraeus and was to be used in the operations and also as a general reserve.


The Allied force would land in Phaleron and in Piraeus (Port of Athens). Its objective was to occupy strategic points in Athens in order to force King Constantine's gov­ernment to withdraw troops from Thessaly, and to seize the quantities of the military materiel that was demanded of it  (fast forward to 2003, when President Bush sends Saddam Huissein an ultimatum to step down as the leader of Iraq. When he doesn’t, America invades. History repeats). By the afternoon, the two sides compromised and the Allies withdrew. The withdrawal of the French became an occasion for mob violence on the next day against Venizelos's supporters, who were deemed as responsible for the military action as the Allies.



 Entente forces landed between 0300 and 0500. When they reached the assigned objectives  they were met by the Greek Sappers Regiment,  1st Battalion / 1st Infantry Regiment, one battalion / 7th Infantry Regiment, part of 29th Infantry Regiment, one mountain gun, other small forces and volunteers. These units stop the advance cold.

Entente forces captured all of the volunteers and their equipment/supplies. The Greek 1/1 Company captured a supply column.

At about 0900, the 2nd French Battalion (reinforced by half of the 1st Battalion , about 1000 men, moved in two columns into the center of Athens to join the 3rd Battalion. Meanwhile various Greek units were being asked to withdraw from their positions, but all refused.


At 1130, the first shots were fired. Various skirmishes lit up all over central Athens. The Italian company withdrew and didn’t take part in any skirmish, many dead and wounded were suffered on both sides and prisoners taken. A French Admiral was trapped  inside Zappeion Palace until rescued by Greek soldiers faithful to the King!  French warships opened fire sending salvoes against the palace (today, the Parliament building in Athens) killing many.


At 1200, there was a ceasefire. At about 1630 shots were fired by civilians against Greek units. A Greek mountain gun then fired against the ‘ civilians ‘ attacking Greek forces and the French ordered their warships to open fire at Athens at 1645. The warships were the French destroyers ' Lestin ', ' Dehorter ', ' Railleuse ' and the French battleship ' Mirabeau '. At 1900 there was a ceasfire in Athens and the French warships stopped firing. A total of 60 shells were fired by the destroyers and four by the battleship.

By 2200 orders were send to the Entente (Allied) forces in Athens to withdraw. This was done from 0230 to 0530.

During all that time there were riots and skirmishes between pro-Venizelos and pro-King civilian supporters.


Losses were :

-          Allied : 60 dead ( 6 officers ) and 134 wounded ( 2 officers )

-          Greek Army : 30 dead ( 4 officers ) and 52 wounded ( 3 officers )

-          Civilian casualties are not included.



Dec 7-21 1916  The Allies established a blockade of southern  Greece.   The  royalist  government  was  compelled  to accept their ultimatum to withdraw its military forces from the Peloponnese and to establish control check points in Patras and at the isthmus of Corinth. All weapons would be turned over. Near-famine conditions developed in some areas.


June 10, 1917  King Constantine steps down, Alexander, his son, is the new pro-Allied King. The Allies landed forces in Piraeus and the isthmus of Corinth under the command of Senator Jonnart, of the French Parliament, who had been appointed by the Allies as their High Commissioner in Greece. This event cleared the way for Greece's reunification under Eleutherios Venizelos.


On June 15, 1917  The royal family boarded the royal yacht Sphakteria in Oropos and sailed to Italy escorted by two French destroyers. From Italy it proceeded to Switzerland, where it remained through the dura­tion of the war.


On June 26, 1917 Venizelos formed a government on the basis of the parliament elected as a result of the elections held on 31 May 1915.


On June 30.  Greece officially entered World War I with the recall of the Greek  diplomatic  representatives.   The  Greek  government of Venizelos declared that it considered the country to be in a state of war on the side of the Allies as of November 1916 (when the original such declaration had been made by the revolutionary gov­ernment in Thessalonica). The 60,000 soldiers recruited by Venizelos in Crete, provided the core of the new army. Eventually 250,000 Greek soldiers saw action in the war, including the highly successful Vardar Offensive. During the war, the Greek Army had around 15,000 men killed and another 85,000 wounded.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 20 months ago

      British English and American English is often different, which reflects how America rebelled and parted as a colony from England back before we were the USA. I think it was just rebellion totally, much like how teens often rebelled against their parents in culture. Anyway, my comments about harbour was a joke, regardless how its spelled, means the same thing. SO, what do you wanna chat about Bronek?

    • profile image

      bronek 20 months ago

      Hello Mr. Perrya,

      Allow me to introduce myself and then endeavor to see if we can engage in communique. Be aware that my plate is full. Thus, any answers might require a day and/or week. In all probability, nothing will be immediately.

      First of all, a background on why there's an interest. I grew up in a Greek-American environment. My best friends were Greeks. My family supported Mike Dukakis for president. Although I have both American and European educations, and before my bypass (x6) and subsequent MIs and CVAs, a doctorate was obtained in Warsaw. Poland had a huge Greek population. In fact, a few years back her most famous singer was a Greek-Polonian.

      After seeing the above it's easy to comprehend why I am an aficionado of Greek kultura. Knowing about how noble Greek heritage and the people are, often I have defended Greeks.

      Mr. Perrya, allow me to take my hat off to your noble effort here. Before we commence about any utilization via Linqua Franca, be aware that the use of the verba "Harbour" is quite correct amongst the intelligentsia. Monsieur Perra, "habour" is en vogue, as as the eastern Europeans engaging in the socjo technika of hx. would reiterate. If we can agree on terms of within a polite atmosfera, perhaps we could journey further. Whata say?

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 3 years ago

      England is just another word for Britain. Besides, what illiterate misspelled "harbour", every American knows it is spelled "harbor". There is no U in it. Yes, England did force Greece to enter WW1.

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      john macdonald 3 years ago

      What historical illiterate wrote the heading to this article ?

      " How ENGLAND and France forced Greece to enter WW1 "

      England never forced anyone to do anything mainly because England is not a soveriegn state , merely part of one. To millions of British people this headline sounds ridiculous. Try this out for a similar statement .....After the action at pearl harbour Florida declared war on the Empire of Japan.

    • profile image

      ελ 5 years ago

      ????? ? ?????

    • profile image

      max 5 years ago

      Can someone tell me how is turkey right now or a website?

    • profile image

      RICE 6 years ago

      "Had the Greeks taken its capital, Ankara, Turkey would look far different today." Well, it was not in the cards. The allies never wanted a strong Greece with their "divide and rule policy" taking the best of them.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 6 years ago

      Yea, I found it very interesting. I had no clue about this event.

    • profile image

      shafqat verdeeerda 6 years ago

      I agree with Laura is very informative, I have bookmarked it for future use. Thanks a lot. Cheers.

    • daryl2007 profile image

      daryl2007 7 years ago

      this is very awesome story about the first world war I, I did some good research on it, and have learned a bit but its a big different from your claims here... keep it up! Good stories like this would last forever..

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 7 years ago

      Thanks. What I find interesting is how this hub is being so read now. The Greek-Turkish war, 1919-1922, is almost unheard in the West. It was a war that made Turkey what it is today and really did come down to the Battle of the Sarkarya River in 1921 for both sides, both on the verge of collapse for differing reasons. Had the Greeks taken its capital, Ankara, Turkey would look far different today. It was also the battle that caused the British and French to abandon the Greeks with numerous loans which allowed Greece to conduct a war.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      The wars and when the countries entered are fascinating. We must learn from history. Thank you for a wonderful detailed Hub of history. Great layout.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 7 years ago

      Let me know what grade you get!

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      Wolfgirl 7 years ago

      WOW. I was looking for things for my social studies project, and this is what I found. Thanks dude! this is awesome.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      Carving up was big both before the Great War and after - with all the grand drawing of lines on maps.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 8 years ago

      Indeed. I had no clue about this event until I thoroughly researched it and I am sure it has been lost to generations since that time. The whole Paris Accord of 1919 amounted to a carving up of Turkey (fought with the Germans)between Italy, France, UK and Greece. However, the Allies would only provide financial support to the Greek Army, which actually invaded Turkey and started its own conquest. The climax arrived in August 1921 at the Sarkarya River, miles from Ankara. It was the last stand by the Turks.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      that's all pretty new to me - and very interesting indeed.