“If you’ll have to cross seas and oceans, do not forget that this war is total and our objective one: to annihilate the conqueror that infects the saint Hellenic Land…”
Liverpool England, November 1943, Rear-Admiral Mezeviris addressing the crews of the corvettes “TOMBAZIS” and “KRIEZIS” at the ceremony of their transfer to the R.H.N.
On August 20, 1943, Rear-Admiral Mezeviris was leaving Cairo for London onboard a RAF bomber plane. The objective of the mission he was entrusted with by the Minister of the Navy of the Hellenic Government was the negotiation with the British Admiralty for the transfer to the R.H.N. of new ships to replace worn-out ships soon to be retired as useless.
Gregory Mezeviris narrates:
“I traveled to England on a British Air force bomber. Because of the German fighters that were patrolling off the French shores, airplane that were executing regular lines were only flying during the night hours and in between they were spending the day in Gibraltar.
In Cairo airport I joined some officers of the heroic and gallant R.A.F. and for the first time I felt that I had really earned the epaulets of General officer. I will never forget the few hours that I spent with the Admiral of Gibraltar. He was very impressed, as were all British officers, with my escape from occupied Greece to Egypt.
I had on several occasions visited England before the war and I was interested in forming a personal opinion on wartime England and the way the British were arranging their lives during this period. I soon came to the conclusion that everything had been arranged so that life continued untroubled; no matter how long the war would last. Systematic work, deep consciousness of the seriousness of the moments and absolute self-control were the basic elements of the whole organization. Every citizen, independently of sex and age, considered he was obliged to offer his services important, small or even insignificant. For both men and women, there was always possibility to offer one’s services to the National Guard, the passive air defense, the auxiliary services and the war industry. Women were operating the antiaircraft guns installed in Hyde Park. Overage generals and admirals of the previous war were competing to undertake any available service, accepting to serve with two, three or more ranks lower that their rank of active duty.
Food quantities distributed with tickets had been reduced to the absolute necessary and perhaps the English people –who value so much their habits-, felt that they were suffering from privation. In my Home country however, many would have been happy if in the good peace-time periods such food was available at so low prices. Even if the British citizens were not dressed as well as before the War, the clothing distribution system with tickets insured to all renewal of the worn-out items at prices slightly higher than before the war. For the British it was a matter of honor to limit their supplies to the items they could legally buy with their tickets and were not buying on the black market. Very few owned private cars and, they were much fewer taxis than before the war and service cars were used sparingly. However public transportation operated in a way that fully satisfied the needs. At the same time entertainment for the military and the citizens was not neglected. They were plenty of cinemas, theaters and night clubs operating …at full capacity, even though the quality of the shows wasn’t as good as before the war.
The British with their natural character and the systematic organization of their daily life succeeded after four years of intensive war life to remain masters of their nerves. They were listening with special interest the war announcements and they all trusted the bold hands that governed the Empire. The renowned politeness of the Londoners had remained intact in the middle of the ruins of the catastrophic bombardments of the first years of the war.
Such a different ambience from the one I left behind in Alexandria! Back there the personnel of the Navy lived in the poisonous fumes of politics and was acquiring habits of luxury that could not be sustained after their return to Greece. I am sure that for those who were sent for training or to take delivery of a ship, the stay in England was a real period of revival.
During the most part of my five month stay in England, almost daily, we had night air raids. But they were feeble attacks not comparable to those of the first years of the War. They were executed by a small number of planes of which only a few succeeded in passing the antiaircraft barrier and bomb Central London. The others, facing an unbelievably thick barrier of fire and projectors network, quickly dropped their bombs and changed their course heading to their bases. Every air raid however was causing a number of casualties and material damages. The Londoners used to face the old air raids when the anti-aircraft defense was insufficient, were acting completely indifferent to these feeble attacks. No one was descending to the shelters anymore; road traffic was not interrupted and public shows went-on imperturbable. The price paid for this attitude was sometimes dear…in one occasion, a bomb dropped on a public dance hall made some 180 victims.
Mission to the British Admiralty
My mission to the British Admiralty was executed under perfect conditions. Avoiding extreme claims that can only bring irritation, I submitted requests that could be supported by arguments based on logic. In a clear and sincere way the officers of the Admiralty presented their point of view and gave me some promises that didn’t practically defer from what I had asked. These promises were kept to the letter. This success was not of course the result of my personal efforts, but was rather due to the sacrifices and hard 3-year labor of all those onboard our war ships. I, for my part, had only presented to the Admiralty the just requests of our Navy. A series of exploits of our ships -with important human and material losses- had contributed significantly to the success of my efforts.
Exploits of the R.H.N.
First among these ships was the destroyer “QUEEN OLGA” under her commander Lieutenant Commander G.Blessas. She had joined the British Fleet of the Mediterranean Sea, was actively participating in the operations and had repeatedly been praised in war announcements. She met her glorious end on September 26, 1943 during the unfortunate operations of the Dodecanese that followed the downfall of Italy. The heroic Lieutenant Commander, the Executive officer Griroropoulos, 5 more officers and 65 members of the crew were lost with the ship.
A few days earlier, on September 14,1943, after a brilliant career, the submarine “KATSONIS” while patrolling on the North Aegean Sea was attacked by a German corvette with depth bombs. She suffered very important damages but went on firing with her gun, until she was completely sunk. Her commander, the heroic Commander B. Laskos, and 31 officers, non-commissioned officers and sailors were lost with her. From the 15 that saved their lives, the executive officer Lieutenant Tsoukalas and 2 non-executive officers succeeded to avoid to be taken prisoners, swam to shore and after many adventures arrived safe to the Middle East.
October 28, 1943, Barrow-In-Furness. Rear Admiral Mezeviris, accompanied by the commanding officer of the ship Lieutenant Commander A. Rallis, reviewing the "PIPINOS"crew
October 28, 1943, Barrow-In-Furness. On board of the s/m "PIPINOS"
unveiling the ship's name draped by the Greek flag