Hydrovius Diving Center Diving Center - Page 5

"From 1940, when Italy entered the Second World War on the side of Germany, Leros suffered bombing..." raids by the British Royal Air Force. As

a result of the excellent anchorage provided to warships by the many natural coves, the island was the second most bombed during World War

Two (after Crete)

"

In 1912, during the Libyan War against the Ottoman Empire, the Italians occupied all of the Dodecanese islands (except Kastelorizo). On May 12,

1912 the island was seized by the sailors of the Italian Navy cruiser "San Giorgio". The Greek inhabitants of the islands declared the autonomy of

the islands under the title "The Aegean State", with the aim of unification with Greece, but with the outbreak of the First World War, these moves

came to nothing, and the Italians retained control of the islands.

From 1916 to 1918, the British used Leros as a naval base. In the Venizelos-Tittoni Agreement of 1919, the island was to be returned to Greece,

along with all of the Dodecanese except Rhodes, but after the Greek defeat in the Greco-Turkish War the Italians cancelled the agreement. As a

result the Treaty of Lausanne confirmed the Italian possession of Leros and the Dodecanese.

During the 31 years that the Italians remained in Leros, they set up a great plan to build and fortify the island, since its strategic position and its

large natural harbours (the largest of which, Lakki, is the largest deep water harbour in the Mediterranean Sea), made it an ideal naval base. The

fortification of Leros and the creation of a major naval base at Lakki, ensured that the Italians had control over an area of vital interest to the Allies

(the Aegean, the Dardanelles and the Near East).

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From 1940, when Italy entered the Second World War on the side of Germany, Leros suffered bombing raids by the British Royal Air Force. As

a result of the excellent anchorage provided to warships by the many natural coves, the island was the second most bombed during World War

Two (after Crete).

During Italian rule, Leros, with its excellent deep-water port of Lakki (Portolago), was transformed into a heavily-fortified aeronautical and naval

base, "the Corregidor of the Mediterranean", as Mussolini boasted.

The island was base for some Italian naval units, specifically:

• 4ª squadriglia cacciatorpediniere (4th destroyer flotilla) with the sole destroyer Euro;

• III Flottiglia Mas (third MAS Flottilla) with two motor torpedo boats and six MAS;

• XXXIX Minesweeper Flottilla with eleven boats;

Additional vessels included, seven steamships, two minelayers and three Marinefährprahm of German project.

Motoscafo Armato Silurante (Italian: "Torpedo Armed Motorboat"), commonly abbreviated as MAS was a class of fast torpedo armed vessel

used by the Regia Marina (the Royal Navy of Italy) MAS were essentially motorboats with displacements of 20–30 tonnes (depending on the

class), a 10-man crew, and armament composed of two torpedoes, machine guns and occasionally a light gun.

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After the fall of Greece in April 1941 and the Allied loss of the island of Crete in May, Greece and its many islands were occupied by German and

Italian forces. With the surrender of Italy on 8 September 1943 however, the Greek islands, which were seen as strategically vital by Churchill,

became reachable for the first time since the loss of Crete.

On 8 September 1943, as Italy could not continue the war on the German side, it signed an armistice and came over to the Allied camp. After the

Italian armistice, British reinforcements arrived on Leros and other Dodecanese islands and the island suffered continuous German aerial

bombardment.

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