History of Europe

Ieros Lochos:The first Greek commandos in Africa and the Aegean (vid.)

One of the most glorious pages of the Nation's struggles, written in blood by a small unit of the Greek Armed Forces of the Middle East when Greece was living the nightmare of triple occupation during World War II, is the action of Iero Lochos in the Aegean.


The gathering in the Middle East of a large number of officers from occupied Greece and the active desire of all of them to participate in the fight on the side of the Allies, led to the proposal to create an elite unit composed exclusively of officers distinguished for their morale, courage and professional value , so that they can quickly enter the theater of operations. It was originally formed on September 6, 1942 in Palestine under the original name "Chosen Immortals Company" as a Machine Gun Company. Its administration was temporarily entrusted to Epilarchos Stefanakis Antonios. In the same month he was stationed in a camp near Cairo, received the name "HOLY KNIGHT", while other senior and junior officers were also incorporated.

The special badge that Hierolochites would wear on their chest with the Spartan saying "OR THEN OR THEM" was defined and the beige beret was established. Infantry Colonel Tsigantes Christodoulos was appointed its commander. Moved to a camp near the Suez Canal, discharged the composition of the Machine Gun Company and in the month of November engaged in special training which included subjects of parachuting, disaster, gunnery, driving, landings, etc. On 24 November 1942 he left to take part in the Western Desert operations . His force consisted of 130 officers, 40 fighting men and 30 auxiliary hoplites.

In April 1943 the Holy Company was ordered to return to Egypt where after a short reorganization and training it was to be used in the operations planned by the Allies for the liberation of the Aegean. The North African operations marked the victorious beginning of his struggles. Despite the fact that it participated in the period of its initial formation with great difficulties and shortcomings, its performance on the battlefield became the object of admiration and general recognition by the Allies. His losses were relatively small and amounted to 3 dead, 9 wounded and 11 missing.

By the middle of October 1943 the Company with its new composition and its subordination to the British Expeditionary Brigade included a Command Group, three Expeditionary Sections and a Base Section. The personnel now consisted of 327 Hierolochites with appropriate armament and means of transport for the fulfillment of expeditionary missions. Colonel Tsigantes maintained command, while Cavalry Lieutenant Colonel Kallinskis Andreas, Infantry Lieutenant Colonels Messinopoulos Photios and Triantafyllakos Tryfonas were placed respectively as commanders of the cruiser divisions. With this composition, the Holy Company was able to respond to surprise raid missions with parts of groups and platoons, against targets of little defensive capacity. The personnel were capable of special operations with combined land, sea and air power. Regardless of specialty, each Hierolochit was fluent in all available weapons, had the opportunity to participate in unique raiding detachments and was also trained in normal infantry combat.


On September 8, 1943 the forces of the Italian peninsula surrendered unconditionally to the Allied troops. The Germans, suspecting that the Italian garrisons of the Aegean islands would do the same, strengthened their presence in the Archipelago. The new Allied plan of operations called for the penetration of cruisers into the Aegean islands to harass their garrisons and coerce the Italians or force a capitulation, using a flotilla of light craft and a base of expedition on Cyprus or the coast of Asia Minor. However, at the end of November 1943, the Germans had the firm possession of the entire Aegean by transferring forces from mainland Greece, disbanding the 3 Italian Divisions and making the movement of allied ships in the area impossible.


The decision to use the Holy Company was finally made in February 1944, after plans for the Allied landing on mainland Greece were aborted. The ultimate aim was to undertake large-scale cruiser operations to attack the enemy's sea transports, neutralize outposts, destroy stores and supplies, and irritate and strain the garrisons of the islands. With this decision, the Holy Company is reorganized and trained as a Commando Squadron. The new composition, in addition to a Command Department, three Commando Departments and a Base Department, included an Elms Department, a Reserve, an Engineering (Disaster) Department and a Transmission Department. Each Department had a Command Group and 3 Commando Platoons. The personnel, armament and means were such as to achieve the exercise of command, flexibility and great firepower, for the effective fulfillment of cruiser missions. His strength now reached 423 Hierolochites.

The main actions carried out by the Unit in the year 1944 with the 1st Cruiser Division were the following:

The first Raid on Samos in March with the destruction of enemy ships in Pythagorion and in the bays of Marathokambos and Kokkari. In the same month, the reconnaissance operation in Chios and Fournos with the capture at sea of ​​an equipped German sailboat with its cargo and crew, the successful identification and collection of information in Oinousses, the transport of food and medicine to the residents of Fournos and Ikaria and the capture of two more enemy ships. At the same time, the recognition in Ikaria and Lesvos by gathering information. During his action he captured an enemy sailing ship with provisions and an escort ship with its garrison. March ended with the raid on Psara and the attack on the German outpost on the island.

April began with the amphibious operation in Lesbos as a distraction operation which was ordered due to clashes between the residents of Agiasos and the Germans. The results were impressive, with the successful attack on a passing German car, an attack on the residence of the German Secret Police and its prisons, the extermination of the guard and the release of 12 prisoners. At the same time, another division attacked the prisons of the Didaskalion and freed the prisoners. In April 1944, the patrols and raids against moving enemy vessels in the maritime areas between Chios - Lesvos and Chios - Samos resulted in the capture of 7 ships serving the needs of the Germans. We joined the British Expeditionary Brigade at its request, in the expeditions of Ios and Amorgos.

In May he formed a mixed Greco-British group and carried out a raid on Paros with 7 Germans dead and massive material damage to the enemy. At the end of May and beginning of June, he attempted a second raid on Samos, destroyed an enemy supply convoy and neutralized the garrison of the Marathokampos outpost. At the same time, he conducted a raid on Chios with targets in the town and the port of the island and a force of 49 Hierolohites led by the Commander of the 1st Raid Department. As a result of the action, the facilities of the youth and 13 ships were blown up. The I Division completed its action with raids on Lagada Chios and Gera Lesbos in June and the destruction of the German outposts and 3 ships.

From the middle of June, the I Commando Division was gradually withdrawn and replaced by the II, which, reinforced with Carriers and a mortar group, was renamed the "Aegean Detachment". At the same time, the reinforcement with 30 officers and soldiers of the British Commando Brigade led to the operational takeover of the entire Archipelago. The most important actions carried out by this part of the Holy Company during the period under review were the following:The raid on Kalymnos in July with an attack on the outpost. In the same month, the raid on Symi with an attack on the German garrison, destruction of its facilities and blowing up of its watercraft.

It is noted that the aforementioned raid was characterized as the first very well-organized large-scale operation. In addition to the enemy's losses in personnel with many killed and captured, the Destroyer Group inflicted significant material damage on ships in the dockyard, ammunition depots, heavy weapons, fortress defense organizations, and telephone lines. Until August 24, the "Aegean Detachment" sent reconnaissance patrols to collect information on the islands of Kos, Tilos, Nisyros, Samos, Symi, Astypalaia, Ikaria, Fournos, Ios, Naxos, Paros, Amorgos, Thira, Milos, Sifnos, Serifos, Mykonos and Andros. At the end of August, the II Commando Division withdrew and was replaced by the III, which was commanded by Artillery Major Dimopoulos Pavlos.

At the same time, the Germans were trying to unhook the bulk of their forces in order to transfer them to mainland Greece, while at the same time the Allies were starting the operations to liberate the islands. The action of the III Cruiser Division was mainly characterized by intense patrol activity with reconnaissance and small raider actions. The most important of these were the raid on Thera, in the month of August, with the destruction of the enemy installations and the raid on Kos with a surprise attack on the outpost of Thymianos, neutralizing the guard and blowing up its installations.

The commando operation against the Mykonos garrison from September 25 to 28, with the extermination of a significant part of the enemy personnel and the burning of the ammunition and food stores, led to the surrender of the remaining Germans and the liberation of the island on September 30, 1944.

The liberation of Chios and Lesbos in the last ten days of September 1944 is part of the evacuation of the German forces from the NE Aegean, under the constant pressure of the Holy Society.


In the summer of 1944, the new reorganization of the Holy Company took place and its development into a Commando Regiment. It now included a Command Staff, a Command Squadron and two Commando Squadrons (A and B). With the new composition his strength rose to 1,084 men. In order to exert greater pressure on the German garrisons of the occupied islands, the Allied headquarters formed two expeditionary corps:

Force "B" from the 1st Commando Squadron (apart from the III Division that participated in the Aegean operations) commanded by the Deputy Commander of the Holy Company Colonel Ketsea Themistocles and Force "C" with men from the 2nd Commando Squadron and Commander Lt. Col. Messinopoulos, which would form part of the British corps that would land in mainland Greece after the withdrawal of the Germans.

Force B landed on October 2nd and 3rd in Chios and undertook operations throughout the Aegean, from Thassos and Samothraki to the Dodecanese complex to liberate the islands.

On Samos, while the German forces had evacuated the island, about 1,000 Italians remained who had cooperated with the Germans and had been promised transfer to Leros. The acuity and quick reaction of the Commander of the Holy Company, who personally went to the island, led to the bloodless surrender of the weapons by the Italian garrison on October 4, 1944.

Alongside the above actions, the Holy Society developed patrolling activity in all the Aegean islands held by the Germans, as well as operations aimed at confirming the evacuation of the islands by the occupying troops. The liberation of Naxos and Lemnos with detachments of Force B, the operation in Tilos (Episkopi) with a raid against the German garrison, the reconnaissance activities from 5 to 19 November 1944 on the islands of Milos, Sifnos, Patmos, Skopelos, Makronissos, Kos, Leipsos, Donoussa, Amorgos, Astypalaia and Farmakonisi. The continued pressure of the Hierolochites with raiding actions against the Germans, combined with the Allied aerial bombardment in the first months of 1945, resulted in the surrender of Milos, which was completed on 12 May 1945. The surrender of the German garrison of Milos was a fact of particular importance, as with the continuous raids of Hierolohite forces, a force of 522 Germans had been isolated on the island for 6 months.

The raid at Nisyros, the second operation at Tilos, the continuous patrolling activity during the months of March and April 1945, the raiding operations in various parts of the island of Rhodes, the operation of Alimnia Rhodes - where according to a British report it was a raiding operation against in which the plan that had been drawn up was implemented in its entirety – led to the isolation of the German garrisons of the Dodecanese. On May 8, 1945, the German General Wagner (Wagner) unconditionally surrendered to a Greek, British and French delegation the entire German force of the Dodecanese and collaborating Italian divisions.

After the surrender, on May 9 a force of Hierolohites and Britons left for Kos and Leros to take over the islands from the Germans. By June 15, the entire force of the Holy Company had gathered at its base in Chios, marking the end of the cruise operations in the Aegean and the end of its war action. The total losses of the Holy Company since the beginning of the operations were 12 dead of which 7 officers, 55 wounded of which 28 officers and 32 prisoners or missing of which 10 officers.

On August 7, 1945, in a ceremony on the Field of Mars, a medal was awarded to the flag of the Holy Society and a commemorative plaque was unveiled that was built into the Hierolochite monument. The transfers and dismissals of the officers and soldiers ended on September 15, 1945 and this day is considered as the official date of dissolution of the Holy Company.


The action and military exploits of the Hierolohites are ranked among the most memorable events of modern Greek military history. Their spirit teaches and will exemplify the next generations of Greeks how to fight to enjoy the good of Freedom. The Holy Society with its struggles and the blood of its warriors set the stamp of Greece on the entire Aegean.