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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : British Expedition to Greece

September 1944 to January 1945

Theatre: Mediterranean
Location: Greece
Players: Allies: Force 140 under Lieutenant General Ronald Scobie, including 2nd Brigade, Parachute Regiment and 23rd Armoured Brigade (later reinforced by 4th Indian Division and 4th British Division); Force 120 (Royal Navy). Communist EAM/ELAS forces in Athens.
Outcome: Operation Manna was sent to prevent the Communist EAM/ELAS from seizing power in Greece after the German withdrawal.

'Do not hesitate to act as if you were in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress.' - Winston Churchill to General Scobie on the uprising in Athens, December 1944

Local resistance to the German occupation of Greece emerged in the form of the communist EAM/ELAS movement and the royalist EDES party. During the winter of 1943-4, civil war broke out between the two groups and the British became alarmed at the prospect of communist rule in Greece after the war.

Following the German withdrawal from Greece in 1944, Churchill arranged for a small British force to accompany the Greek government back home.

In late September 1944, Scobie's Force 140 began landing on the Peloponnese while the Special Boat Squadron (SBS) captured Araxos airfield. Parachute troops were dropped at Megara on 4 October and entered Athens on 14 October. The rest of Force 140 landed soon afterwards.

The Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, arrived in Athens on 18 October. However, confrontation with EAM/ELAS loomed. After 15 communist protesters were shot dead, fighting broke out between ELAS and the British on 3 December. Scobie's troops were outnumbered and clinging onto a small section of the city, but once reinforcements arrived they regained the initiative and suppressed the uprising.

On Christmas Eve, Churchill and his foreign secretary Anthony Eden flew to Athens to resolve the situation. A ceasefire was agreed on 11 January and a political settlement reached in February. It was not to last - Greece fought a bitter civil war from 1946-9.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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