- British Military Occupation, under a British Military Governor, but without a British Military Administration: The Case of Samos, 8 September to 18 November 1943
- Journal of Modern Greek Studies
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 7, Number 2, October 1989
- pp. 287-320
- View Citation
British Military Occupation, under a British Military Governor, but without a British Military Administration: The Case of Samos, 8 September to 18 November 1943 Philip John Carabott This article deals with the brief allied occupation and administration of the island of Samos from the time of the Italian armistice, on 8 September 1943, until the evacuation of the island between 18 and 22 November of that year, when it was occupied by the Germans. The events that took place in Samos during this period merit close inspection, not only because the island was the first part of Greek territory to be liberated from the Axis, but also because they show how the various participantsÂ—the British, the Greek Government in exile, and the E.A.M.Â—came to formulate their policies and pursue their objectives. Conflicting as these might have been, a modus vivendi had been established between these "benevolent" allies by the time of the island's evacuation. Thus, in retrospect, Samos can be viewed as the first and only testing ground for what would happen in the eventual liberation of the rest of Greece. Needless to say, the conditions prevailing in Samos were quite different from those existing in mainland Greece a year later. However, bearing in mind that the "ingredients " were practically the same, one would expect that the example of Samos would have been looked upon with seriousness and given due consideration by all concerned. Indeed, the British were quick to realize that "the experience gained on this corner of Greek territory should provide a useful precedent for what can be done when the British and Greek authorities again collaborate in the final liberation of Greece" (PRO: FO 371/43675 R545). In the event, this realization proved to be only wishful thinking and the Greek people were plunged into a savage civil war. But this is another story. Journal of Modem Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 287 288 Philip John Carabott Under the occupational division which followed the collapse and surrender of the Greek Army in the spring of 1941, Samos came within the Italian orbit. It seems probable that the close proximity of the island to the Italian-held Dodecanese was strong enough an argument to convince the Germans to leave Samos to their subordinate allies, despite the fact that the rest of the North Aegean Islands were, primarily for military and security reasons, occupied by the forces of the Third Reich. Thus, the island of Samos might have been spared the undoubted harshness of a German occupation, but experienced instead a steady process of Italianization, a process which the Italians put into operation from the very first moment of their arrival on the island, on 8 May 1941, with the object of subsequently incorporating Samos and the smaller neighbouring islands of Ikaria and Fur ni into their possessions in the South-East Aegean, i.e. the Dodecanese. The measures the Italians took in Samos had the object of completely demoralizing the national spirit of the Samiots and preparing their consciousness to accept the annexation of the island to the Dodecanese (Irineos 1948: 26). Accordingly all the island's products were confiscated for the needs of the "glorious" Italian armed forces. Thus, the island faced a serious problem of starvation during the winter of 1941-42, and it was only through relief from the Red Cross that the problem was somehow alleviated in later years.1 At the same time a number of prominent Samiots were ordered to leave the island, or otherwise were thrown into jail, thus depriving the populace of its spiritual and intellectual leaders, while many natives opted for selfimposed exile and found their way across to the Turkish coast and then to the Middle East. As a result the population of the island was brought down from 83,000 in 1939, to less than 60,000 in 1943 (PRO: WO 201/1720). Alongside the physical devastation of the Samiots, came the threat to their moral and psychological well-being. A continuous and, in some cases, forceful wave of Italian propaganda was inflicted upon them. The instruction of the Italian language and history became compulsory in schools. An Italian cultural institution, the...