OCTOBER 26, 2019

On these rocks... My father died... .

Frantsesko DiPierro

War Life Stories

In November 1943, the British and Italians found themselves fighting together as allies and defending the island against German aggression. 

 

On Mount Merovigli, the English set up their temporary administration. Many fighters and defenders of this island left their last breath forcibly and unjustly there…

 

Frantsesko DiPierro

It was a Saturday when I was informed that a senior officer from England had come to the island, looking for the place where his father was killed. Without a second thought, I agreed to help. The appointment was given at noon at the top of the former naval artillery, PL.127. Three men of the Greek army in a military vehicle accompanied the English officer. 

 

This unknown officer had lost his father when he was three years old on this mountain. I felt it was my obligation, since he had maps and drawings indicating the spot, to help him find it. The English officer filled us with various historical details, and we all agreed that the battle here was fierce and uneven.

 

 

The discussion went deep and the processing of the data had to give its place to action. The tough English officer was determined! He had to find the spot where his father lost his life. Following carefully, step by step, the drawings of the old artillery, stationed on paper, seeing the photos he had with him… we were led after an hour to artillery D …

When he realized that the old photo he was holding in his hands matched the spot that we were, he said in a whisper … “This is the place that my father was killed…, it is here that he lost his life, in this artillery, on this mountain, on this island.” 

He stood still for over five minutes without speaking… we all remained quiet… A silent tear rolled from his eye, a sigh of relief and a big hug with a deep thank you came out of the Englishman’s mouth. He was satisfied that at last today, after so many years, he found the place where his father, another young man, perished in an unjust war! In the unjust war started by a paranoid, under the name of Adolf Hitler. 

I didn’t ask either his name, or who he was. I did my duty, and so did he, we exchanged wishes, said goodbye to each other and then he left. A wind of peace blew and our meeting came to an end. Have a nice trip, unknown friend… I am sure that today your father finally met you again, after 79 years!! 

Congratulations to the Camp Command for the interest and assistance they offered to the English officer. 

Thanks for the help and cooperation of the Captain, the sergeant, as well as the corporal Di Pierro A. who did the translation.



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Fortification of Leros


Among the islands of the Dodecanese, Leros, due to its geographical position in the eastern Mediterranean and its special morphology, was chosen for the creation of Italy's main air and naval base in the Dodecanese.

The purpose was purely strategic: the fortification of Leros and the creation of a large military base ensured the Italians control of an area of ​​vital interest to the Great Powers. This Base, according to the planning, would have facilities for the Navy, the Air Force and the Army, as well as the necessary workshops of private companies manufacturing military equipment.

The main construction projects of the Italians in Leros, for the fortification and defense of the island, were carried out as early as 1923 and were completed at the end of the 1930s.

Among these are:

  • "Gianni Rossetti" Seaplane Base in the area of ​​Lepida 
  • Submarine Base in the adjacent area of ​​Aghios Georgios
  • New town of Portolago (nowadays Lakki), created in order to cover the housing needs created by the construction of the Aeronautical Base
  • Centro Radio Lero – the installation of the Italian telecommunications center in the area of ​​Aghios Nikolaos in Lakki
  • The headquarters of FAM - DICAT, the “FAM -  Fronte A Mare” - Coastal Defense Command and the “DICAT - Difesa Contraerea Territoriale” -  Anti-Aircraft Land Defense Command on Mount Patella, with the unique installation of the Aerophone and the Acoustic - Parabolic Wall

Along with the other defense installations of Leros, the fortification of the island with artillery began already in the mid-1920s, initially mainly for naval defense. Gradually, until the middle and mainly at the end of the 1930s, 103 guns of caliber from 76mm to 152mm were installed on almost all the heights of Leros, most of them from decommissioned battleships and cruisers of the Italian Navy from WW I, composing a network of 25 batteries, responsible for the defense of the island, both from the sea and from the air. Along with the construction of the gun emplacements, other military facilities were developed in each artillery barracks, such as material and ammunition storages, shelters, barracks and logistics buildings, as well as various other facilities. The defense network of Leros is considered a model of interwar fortification architecture (1918 – 1939).

Especially since 1936, when military zones were officially created on the island, fenced with barbed wire, the mountains and heights of Leros acquired a purely military character. The granting of compensation stops, since the cutting of the bushes was first prohibited by decree, and thus the fields were turned into forest land, and by extension they are considered the property of the Italian State. Thus, livestock breeders and farmers, losing their properties, are forced to resort to day labor, since there is indeed a lack of labor force, due to the excessive number of projects in progress. For the construction of the defense and public works of Leros, artisans are transferred from Italy, with a daily wage of 40-50 italian lire, while the Greeks receive 6-10 italian lire.

The outbreak of World War II led to the expansion and improvement, on a large scale, of military installations, but this was opposed to economic criteria and above all the lack of availability of means and the difficulties in maritime transportations. The serious shortcomings of the hasty Italian military preparation led to the dispersion of the scarce available means in many areas, all of them of high importance and therefore did not allow the care imposed on any of them.

Thus, in the Dodecanese, although the level of preparation could be described as satisfactory, in relation to infrastructure and logistics facilities, the field of armaments, and especially that of Artillery, lagged far behind, since the Dodecanese had been sent almost exclusively old-style and dissimilar weapons caliber, which did not allow the organization of defense to develop to a sufficient and satisfactory degree, which will have a huge impact on the events of September - November 1943.

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