The End of the Greek Army in Turkey, Aug, 29, 1922
Battle of Allioren
In the final days of the three year Greek-Turkish war, the death throes fell upon the Greek Army just as it did to the Germans at Falaise in 1944. What had started with the help of Britain, France and Italy to recover Asia MinorTurkey (which Greece claimed was theirs) had now turned into a total mess. Greece had been left alone, allied support had vanished a year earlier.
The unraveling had begun on August 26th when the Turkish armies conducted a crushing blow upon the Greek units near Afion-Karahissar. By the end of the 27th, the Greeks were reeling back no differently than the Germans did in France, August 1944. Command control was lost, units were piecemeal and ad hoc groups roamed about. Greek commanders in vain tried to make decisions but the Turkish cavalry rapidly moved in and began to surround creating chaos and more chaos. By the 28th, the Turks had nearly surrounded most of the Greek 1st and 2nd Corps, 400 miles east of Izmir, the main Greek base. By the 29th, General Trikoupis’ group now consisted of five divisions (the 13th, 9th, 4th, 5th and 12th) in the area of Allioren, south of Kutahya. On August 25th, these numbered over 50,000 men, however, at this time, no more than 25,000. Many had no weapons, most hungry and thirsty.
The vanguard of the Trikoupis Group, which was moving towards Salkioi (Calkoy)from Hamurkioi, arrived at Salkioi on August 29th. The Chief of Staff of the 2nd Army Corps ordered a battalion of the 12th Division to occupy the northwest hills near Aslihanlar, from where Turkish infantry units were assaulting Salkioi. The battalion failed to carry out the orders. Units of the Trikoupis Group had arrived at Salkioi in disorder and panic. The long advance and the battles fought along the way had exhausted the soldiers and shattered their morale. They needed to rest and regroup. The 14th Regiment of the 12th Division, the 26th Regiment of the 9th Division and the 13th Division were the exception. Their artillery was also extremely coherent and disciplined. Generals Trikoupis and Digenis arrived at Salkioi by 0600. At 0700, Turkish artillery fired from the southern hills towards the Greeks southeast of Salkioi, which implied that the mounts south of Kiutsuk Aslihanlar were occupied by the Turks.
General Trikoupis’ main objective was still to advance towards Tumlu Bunar in order to join the Fragou Group (this group had withdrawn in good order along the railway leading to Izmir. It consisted of the 2nd, 1st and 7th Greek Divisions) and to cover the Smyrna (Izmir) area. General Digenis ordered the 12th Division to occupy the hills south of Kiutsuk Aslihanlar, while Trikoupis supported them with several batteries of field guns.
The Commander of the 12th Division suggested to Trikoupis that the advance towards Banaz ( along the railway) should be continued due west. But this was rejected by the General as he wanted to sort out the situation at Tumlu Bunar and ordered the divisions to continue advancing towards Tumlu Bunar. The 9th and 12th Divisions would occupy the Aslihanlar hills, with the 9th holding southern flank of hills and the 12th holding the northern flank of hills. Meanwhile, the 1st and 2nd Army Corps stragglers continued arriving at Salkioi. The 5th Division had finally arrived with only 1700 men (out of 10,000). At 0800, the 13th Division arrived and General Trikoupis ordered its commander to occupy the 1000 meter crest northwest of Kiutsuk Aslihanlar. By 0900, Turkish troops and cavalry ( 11th , 5th, 23rd Divisions) were seen advancing from the east and southeast towards Salkioi, but the General’s opinion to advance to Tumlu Bunar remained unchanged. At 0930, the 9th and 13th Divisions were ordered to occupy the hills south and north of the Buyuk(large)Aslihanlar town (the area of the Turk 23rd Division). Additional Greek units also had arrived by 1100 (some 7000 men, 80 cavalry and 116 MGs). However, Trikoupis also received a report that between 10,000-15,000 Greek soldiers had gathered unarmed at Salkioi. Food and ammunition was scarce. Then, suddenly, many of these soldiers fled in disorder into the gorges west of Salkioi, against where the Turkish artillery was preparing to fire. These men smelled the impending danger of being surrounded, and chaos followed as many sought to save their own lives, before the Turks assaulted. For these men, enough was enough. Ironically, neither Trikoupis nor Digenis were aware of this sad event as they were busy observing the movements of the Greek Divisions, which wanted to fight. New Turkish troops were seen approaching from the north (the 61st and 16th Divisions) with the intent to surround the Greek forces. The clock was ticking for both sides.
It was now at 1100, General Trikoupis changed his mind. He now thought that the infantry forces, amounting to less than a division, could not come up against the enemy effectively. He then ordered at 1130 the retreat to Banaz through the Salkioi- Ali Veran path. This path was rough and it was decided that all vehicles would join the advance. The 12th Division would be the vanguard. While the vanguard was close to the town of Allioren, Turkish cavalry units of the 61st Division arrived from the north seizing it. The Turks continued to attack. At 1330, the vanguard was ordered to repulse this attack.
General Trikoupis realized that there was a great danger since the Turkish forces were aiming at cutting off the only retreat path of the Greek army. The 12th Division managed to repulse the attacks at the beginning, but new Turkish units were constantly reinforcing the Turkish troops. The Trikoupis Group could not avoid the involvement in a battle with the enemy from the North, the East and the South.
On the night of August 29th, the 5th Division was concentrated two kilometers south of the Hamurkioi town. The remnants of the Greek 10th Division had arrived four or five kilometers north of Kurtkoy. The 5th Division remnants met many units from various other divisions that were in complete disorder. Thus, a large sea of chaotic troops made their way intermingling with the 5th Division. Whatever cohesion was remaining was now gone.
This vanguard of troops was totally disoriented and quickly lost their way trying to find Trikoupis’ Group. The 5th Division came up against the Turkish positions east of Kiutsuk (small) Aslihanlar at dawn on the 30th. The Turks had little problem forcing the division to flee to the northwest in disorder. It was everyman for themself. Turkish units south of the Aslihanlar opened fired against Greek troops . As bad as it was, somehow, the commanders of the division managed to regroup their men and send them to KapsaMountain near the Murat Tsai passage. If that was blocked, the last retreat path would disappear.
Luckily, the passage had been secured by the Greeks and many thousands of cavalrymen and soldiers on foot advanced towards the area. The commander of the 5th Division regrouped them again and dispatched them to the west hoping to join the Fragou Group. When the lead elements approached Banaz, it was found out it was occupied by the Turks. Now, the 5th Division and others advanced to the west through the Belova- Gediz line and arrived at Usak to join the Fragou group defending the railway line to Izmir. Some 20,000 men had escaped the clutches of the Turks. However, none of these belonged to Trikoupis’s group of divisions. Oddly, none of the other divisions (the 12th, 13th, 4th or 9th) belonging to Trikoupis knew anything about the escape ! Neither did General Trikoupis, who ordered the other defending divisions to create a defensive pocket.
The Allioren battle was called the decisive battle of the Turkish Army, as Mustafa Kemal was personally in charge of it from the observatory on the Zafer Hill south of Calkoy. The attack was launched by the 4th and 6th Turkish Corps and the 5th Cavalry Corps. The 4th Corps assaulted with four divisions from the southeast and the south, namely the 11th south of Calkoy, the 5th , northwest of Selki Serai, the 3rd , left of the 5th towards Buyuk Anta Tepe, and the 23rd at Askioi. The 3rd Division could not carry out its orders due to excessive casualties suffered, so the 23rd Division took over the mission, which attacked left of the 5th and the 3rd Divisions’ sector (at the left of the 23rd at Askioi ).
From the North, the 6th Turkish Corps (16th, 17th , 61st Divisions) and the 5th Cavalry Corps ( 1st, 2nd , 3rd ,14th Cavalary Divisions) began launching attacks. The 6th Corps launched its attack with the 16th Division north of Calkoy. The 17th Division remained in reserve. The 5th Cavalry Corps attacked with the 14th Cav. Division northeast of Keciler. Its 1st and 2nd Cav. Divisions remained as a reserve force.
General Trikoupis and his forces were being assaulted by infantry divisions and a cavalry division. The Greek divisions were ordered to repulse the attacks, and by nightfall the retreat towards Banaz would be attempted. The Greek 13th Division was ordered to repulse the attacks from the east together with the 12th Division. The Greek 9th and the 4th Divisions were deployed to the right of the 13th Division in order to repulse the attacks from the south. The straggling units of the 5th Division covered the left of the 13th Division and remained as a reserve force. In total, Trikoupis had 20,000 men. Many without rifles, most had no food, all were reaching the panic mode. These men were attempting to retreat to the West. The Greek mountain artillery batteries had been deployed on whatever hills the Greeks controlled, while the field artillery and the Skoda batteries had lined-up in a row on the cultivated land without any cover. Turkish artillery fire left no chance to the Greek troops to take cover. The Turks began a systematic steady barrage into the Greek pocket. Carpet bombing with artillery. Vehicles were burning, the casualties soared. In total, 14 Greek field and Skoda batteries were being devastated. Many soldiers broke and and ran. Only three batteries of the 1st Field Artillery Regiment were able to counter-battery the Turks in support of the 13th Division from Kiutsuk Ada Tepe Hill. On top of that, the the 6th Turkish Corps began launching powerful attacks against the right of the 13th Division.
At 1600, two Turkish phalanxes were advancing to Calkoy. It was the 17th Turkish Division of the 6th Corps. Its other two divisions were already engaged in battles. The 16th Division was attacking the Greek 13th Division, and the Turk 61st Division attacked the Greek 12th and the 5th Divisions. General Trikoupis ordered his Divisions to remain in their positions until nightfall.
In the meantime, the Turkish pressure was intensified. At 1700, Second Lieutenant Karamanos of the Plastiras Detachment (from Fragou’s Group) arrived to inform General Trikoupis that the Fragou Group now occupied Tumlu Bunar and its detachment was at the Hasan Dede Tepe Hill. He also said that there was a path leading to these positions occupied by the Plastiras Detachment, and offered to show him the way. Oddly, this was rejected by General Trikoupis because of scarce food and ammunition and his troops could not do anything unless they received the above! Thus, at 1800, Trikoupis ordered his units to retreat to Banaz in the following manner: the 12th Division (in the lead), the 9th Division and the 13th Division.
By this time, the battle had reached a critical point for the Greeks. The 13th Division was fighting heroically against the Turkish troops attacking from the east. Successive Turkish attempts to occupy the Buyuk and Kiutsuk Ada Tepe Hills had failed. The Turkish batteries intensified their attacks turning the battlefield in a slaughter-house. Even the Turkish Generals observing the debacle were saddened by the massacre. Turkish troops started pressurizing the 12th and 5th Divisions as well. The situation had exacerbated. Then, defense line of the 12th Division collapsed at 1900. Its left flank units simply fled to the Keciler, while its right withdrew to the hills south of Ourkmes. Most of the divisional officers were killed, among whom were the commanders of the 2nd Regiment (Colonel Tsakalos) and of the 26th Regiment (Major Papayianidis). Amazingly, the 12th Division launched a small counterattack, which was repulsed by the Turks. After this, the soldiers fled in complete disorder. The 12th Division ceased to exist. This chaos and panic now affected the Greek soldiers of the field artillery batteries, and the supply columns, which began fleeing to the west. Everyone was trying to get away from the Turkish artillery fire that rained down upon them. By this time, Trikoupis’ only divisions still fighting were the 13th and 9th Divisions. These units, as well as other small groups, continued to be a cohesive unit fighting in vain, in a war that was all but over. Honor does silly things.
The Trikoupis group collapsed from hunger and exhaustion. This group broke and fled into the nearby hills and became totally lost. They later were rounded up like cattle by the Turks by Sept 2. The collapse of the Trikoupis group and part of the Fragou group led to the evacuation of Asia Minor from the Greek army. The Trikoupis group had deployed almost all its troops from the start of this final battle. This amounted to 16 infantry regiments, 10 mountain batteries and 3 field batteries. The Turkish troops used 60 battalions and 16 companies, supported by 23 artillery batteries.