chapter  8
15 Pages

The Civil War, 1947–50

Despite what seem to have been quite heavy losses caused by enemy air­ craft and artillery, by some desertions, and by shortage of facilities for its sick and wounded, the DSE managed to increase its numbers steadily until in the spring of 1948 it reached its peak of 26,000 in Greece, the great majority of them being effective combatants, supported with information and food by many thousands of civilian supporters who under pressure could join the guerrillas. Across the northern frontier were several thousand reservists and wounded. During 1948, the army’s geographical reach reached its zenith. In the spring it was active all along the northern frontier and southward along the country’s central mountain spine, as well as in the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Ikaria, and Crete, while in the Peloponnese its activities were still expanding. The forces on the mainland, including the Peloponnese, were linked by radio, and could to some extent coordinate their activities. The British police mission reported at this time that a third of rural police stations were abandoned by the government. According to a plausible American estimate, the guerrillas effectively controlled over a third of the rural population and a half of the surface area of the country. Their power in the Peloponnese was discovered the hard way by the BBC

correspondent Kenneth Matthews, when he went to Mycenae in October for a weekend, only to be kidnapped and marched for scores of miles across rugged mountains to the Communists’ regional HQ near Patras. Here he was surprised to find the hub of an efficient system of communications, supply, and civilian administration, supervising elected councils in more than 400 villages.2