Hydrovius Diving Center Diving Center - Page 6

"One of the largest attacks was on the Greek Navy's flagship, the Queen Olga, sunk by..."

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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One of the largest attacks was on the Greek Navy's flagship, the Queen Olga, sunk by German bombers on Sunday September 26, 1943, along

with HMS Intrepid, while they were anchored in Portolago. This signalled the start of ther Battle of Leros. It was to last for 52 days ending in

operation Taifun.

The island of Leros was finally captured by German troops during operation Taifun in airborne and amphibious assaults between 12–16 November

1943. The forces involved were paratrooper units and a battalion from the elite Brandenburg division. The ground troops were supported by

bombers of the Luftwaffe. Among them I.and II. group of Stuka-Wing 3. I. Group operated from Megara Air Base. After the fall of Leros, which

was received with shock by the British public, Samos and the other smaller islands were evacuated. The Germans bombed Samos with Stukas,

prompting the 2,500-strong Italian garrison to surrender on 22 November. Along with the occupation of the smaller islands of Patmos, Fournoi

and Ikaria on 18 November, the Germans thus completed their re-conquest of the Dodecanese, which they were to continue to hold until the end

of the war. The Battle of Leros was considered by some to be the last great defeat of the British Army in World War II, and one of the last German

victories. The German victory was predominantly due to their possession of complete air superiority, which caused great losses to the Allies,

especially in ships, and enabled the Germans to supply and support their own forces effectively. The whole operation was criticised by many at

the time as another useless "Gallipoli"-like disaster, and the blame was laid at Churchill's door.

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The withdrawal of the American fighters had sealed the fate of Leros. With no air support and heavily attacked by enemy aircraft, the three

battalions had fought for five days until they were exhausted and could fight no more. The Commander-in-Chief, Ninth Army, General Wilson,

reported to the Prime Minister: "Leros has fallen, after a very gallant struggle against overwhelming air attack. It was a near thing between success

and failure. Very little was needed to turn the scale in our favour and to bring off a triumph."

HYDROVIUS

Casualties; Approximately 520 GERMANS (300 PARATROOPERS), 187 ALLIES, 164 ITALIANS,68 GREEK OFFICERS & SAILORS

FROM "VASSILISSA OLGA" & 20 CIVILIANS