Monday, 14 April 2008

Grigoris Afxentiou: Greek hero, part three

Last month, I wrote posts (here and here) about the pre-eminent EOKA hero Grigoris Afxentiou and made available a clip from a Cyprus TV documentary about his life and martyrdom at the Battle of Machairas.

Above now is the whole of the Cyprus TV documentary.

Staying with EOKA: in a comment I made in an exchange with Apostolos in this post, I gave the following quote from an article, which looks at the Cyprus emergency from a military strategic/guerrilla warfare point of view:

'[As] Bernard B. Fall said in the Naval War College Review, Winter 1998, The Theory and Practice of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency:

"Remember that the British fought in Cyprus, and seemingly had everything in their favor. It is an island half the size of New Jersey. The Royal Navy, which can be trusted to do its job, sealed off the island from the outside. There were 40,000 British troops on Cyprus under Field Marshal Sir John Harding, and his opponent, Colonel George Grivas, had 300 Greeks in the EOKA. The ratio between regular troops and guerrillas was 110-to-1 in favor of the British! After five years the British preferred to come to terms with the rebels."'

Now, of course, it is remarkable to think of the odds EOKA was fighting against and the success it had; but one or two things should be clarified.

The 300 Greeks in EOKA probably refers to those armed fighters under the direct guidance or control of Grivas. The point being that there were many facets to EOKA and that essentially it was a mass movement, so that someone printing leaflets, making available a safe house, hiding or transferring weapons or even taking part in a demonstration could be considered and would consider themselves to be part of EOKA.

Also, the failure of the British to defeat EOKA militarily reveals not so much the bravery and cunning of the Greeks and the cowardice and incompetence of the British; but how the Cyprus emergency proved to the British – and to the world in fact – that they, the British, no longer had the stomach to defend their empire, were no longer prepared to take the measures or suffer the losses that would have crushed EOKA and the civilian population that supported it as, for example, the French were (more) prepared to do in Algeria. The EOKA war, 1955-59, was a nasty affair but it was not Algeria. The British gave up their empire fairly meekly.

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