Greeks around the world are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the emphatic Ohi! (No!) Day.
Personally, we will never forget Greece, which, as a small and poor nation, refuted the Axis powers who requested access through the nation.
It was on this day in 1940 when the Greek government answered “No” to a request by Mussolini to enter Greece on behalf of the Axis Powers.
In Melbourne, the Hellenic Sub Branch of the Returned Services League of Australia (RSL) is organising a range of activities.
Steve Kyritsis, the Senior Vice President of the Hellenic Sub Branch, is profoundly aware of the historic event.
“Personally, we will never forget Greece, which, as a small and poor nation, refuted the Axis powers who requested access through the nation,” said Mr Kyritsis.
“The Italians gave Greece only three hours and the Greek Government said “Ohi!”.
Not only did Greece defend itself against the invading Italian forces, it was able to push them back into Albania.
The Greek military success was the first Allied victory against the Axis Powers.
“The six month delay for Germany was a turning point for the war,” Mr Kyritsis highlighted.
“It was an historical day for Greece and the Allies. Greece’s victory allowed the Allies to regroup and halt Germany’s advance,” he added.
The Greeks were invaded by Germany after the Italian failure, but continued to defend themselves “honourably and the battle in Crete against the German invaders later,” said Mr Kyritsis.
The Battle of Crete cost the Germans over 20,000 casualties as Greek army, partisans and Anzacs, abandoned in Crete, fought side by side against the invader.
Ohi Day commemorations in Melbourne will begin with a church service at Saint Eustathio in South Melbourne, which will be proceeded by wreathe laying ceremonies at the Australian Hellenic Memorial and the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance.
At a later reception at Queen’s Hall at Parliament House the Australian Hellenic Memorial and the Hellenic RSL will present 31 awards to school children who participated in the competition, expressing their knowledge of the Greek and Australian war effort.
For more information on the Ohi Day! events contact Steve Kyristis on 0418 571 800
Mussolini’s Fascist government, in allaince with Nazi Germany, gave Greek dictator General Metaxas an ultimatum in the early hours of October 28 as the Axis sought passage through Greece.
Metaxa rejected the ultimatum with a laconic “Ohi” meaning “No”.
Heavily armed divisions of Italian soldiers began moving from Italian controlled Albania towards Greece.
Italy had ten times the fire-power of Greece and overwhelming sea and air superiority.
After a 25 kilometre advance into Greece 200 000 Italian troops were halted for days by a small army of Greek soldiers.
Italian generals were shocked by the Greek Army’s strategic knowledge and determination.
Greeks were outnumbered yet they drove the Italian forces back deep into Albania.
Greek victory provided a rallying cry for the demoralised British and other European nations under attack from the Germans.
By the end of the six month campaign, 12 500 Italians returned home as casualties of war; 13 800 were buried in the frozen winder soil of Northern Greece; 25 000 were missing in action; and 40 000 were Prisoners of War held by the Greek Army – it was a humiliating defeat for Mussolini and his Fascist state.
All US and British media covered the Greek victory.
Hitler was outraged and in April 1941 invaded Greece and, after two months of fierce fighting, overwhelmed the Greeks.
Over 10 000 German soldiers died and thousands more were wounded trying to invade Crete making it Germany’s first significant troop loss.
The ANZACs, abandoned in Crete, were saved by Cretan partisans, villagers and soldiers and continued to wage guerrilla war with Greeks against the Germans.
The Greek resistance in October 1940 and in 1941 against the Axis Powers was considered the turning point of the war, leading to the ultimate defeat of Germany and Italy by the Allies.