The caravan of the Italian soldier

Frantsesko DiPierro

War Life Stories

“Mother, I will come back because I love you!”

This was engraved on his caravan by an Italian soldier who was serving his duty at that time in the Italian-occupied  Dodecanese. He was only twenty-two years old!

It is the penultimate year of the Second World War. Italy has capitulated (September 8, 1943) and the Germans attack the Dodecanese with vigour. The Italian garrison defends itself along with the allies against the Germans, but our islands, one after another, are in captivity.

Frantsesko DiPierro

The Nazi old steamship "Oria"

The Nazi-ordered old steamship ”Oria” sailed from Rhodes to Piraeus on February 11, 1944 with 4,115 Italian captured soldiers, interned in its holds. They were people, they were the garrison of Rhodes but also of Leros, they were the soldiers who refused to join and serve Nazism. On 12/2/1944, during the night, the ship ran aground, hitting the rocks of the islet of Patroclos, off Sounio. The rotten ship quickly sank, leaving just for a few minutes its bow in the air. The only survivors from this shipwreck were the German captives, the captain, the Greek engineer and some Italians, counted on the fingers.


This long-dead shipwreck, which far exceeds that of the Titanic (1,523 dead), was never recorded anywhere. Neither in the incidents of the Greek port authorities, nor in the Ministry of Merchant Marine, nor in the Athenian newspapers that did not mention a singleword. The beaches from Charakas to Lagonissi, were filled with corpses that looked like ” fish in frying pan”, according to the words of one local resident. Nazi censorship had banned the recording or publication of any relevant information.

The tragedy is that for two twenty-four hours, the tugboats “Balkan” and “Titan”, tried to approach and extricate the remaining Italians confined in the holds, something they never managed due to bad weather… Unfortunately, the little twenty-two-year-old soldier who had caraved on his caravan “mom, I love you”… he never came back…. 

In the following years many divers dived into the wreck of the “Oria” and gave their own testimonies from time to time. However, the main research as well as identification of ORIA was done by the experienced diver Aristotelis Zervoudis in  1999. In 2002, after his own research, the history of the sinking was published for the first time, as it was found in the archives of the German Naval Command.

And, of course, the diver friend, Telis Zervoudis who identified the wreck of the Oria, comments kindly to us: ” I returned the photographed caravan of Fransesco Andreozzi to his 2 sisters and his brother, who were still waiting for him to return ……” 

Thank you for reading. especially thanks to diver and friend Teli Zervoudi. 

This post was made by our Page on September 16, 2016. Returning after so many years, we republish the tragic event in memory of the wronged soldiers. In our days. the issue has received a lot of publicity. At the beginning of 2020, on the initiative of SKAI channel and the Italian Embassy, about 4100 cypress trees were planted, as many as the Italian soldiers who lost their lives trapped in the holds of the rotten boat.This activity took place in the area of Palaia Phocaea (after Kalyvia). 

“Sunday’s tree planting has a historical significance, because it is carried out to honor the memory of the approximately 4,100 Italian prisoners of World War II, who lost their lives when the Steamship Oria (SS Oria) crashed into the rocks of the islet of Patroclos in the Saronic Gulf, on February 12, 1944.)


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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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