The Battle Of Leros…

…We Shall Remember Them…

23rd/24th July

So, we are still going North, and STILL the Meltemis blow! The good thing is that the Meltemis always bring a great wind for sailing, the bad thing is it’s always from the North! Simple physics thus denotes that we are permenantly heading into it! And this is uncomfortable travelling!

” eh, what did you say? – I can’t hear you, the wind is too loud!”

Kalymnos was a really interesting place, culturally the people there are proud of their ancestry. Unlike many of the smaller islands its population remains all year and doesn’t just visit for the summer months. This gives it a far more traditional feel, even than Kos!

The Marina in Pathios is quite shallow beneath larger vessels keels and there is an alarming swell which occurs off the many, many, many scurrying Dodecanese ferry and hydrofoils! These come and go all day and night, so just be warned, stay far enough away from the pontoons on a tight anchor that you don’t get washed back with the swell.

Mum had struggled on a lot of the other islands to find anything other than Greek sausage to cook, so, bored with sausage we had been visiting restaraunts lately! Anyway, she has decided that butchers are like buses, in that there’s never one when you want one, and then three come along at once! Kalymnos has three lovely butchers shops, mum was so thrilled she went in them all, and had a sneaking suspicion that there were one or two more lurking in the back streets!

So with a well stocked fridge we pooh poohed Vathi, too shallow and a mooring man who kept saying ” trust me” – and ventured a day early to the next island on the agenda….. Leros.

We were heading to a bay on the south of the island called Xerokampos where anchoring possibilities, or pontoons, apparantly were a plenty. What actually IS here are many, many, many mooring bouys. All in varying hues of shiny plastic. Yellow ones, white ones, orange ones…. So exciting, too many to choose from! With mooring bouys again comes hours of
” mooring mishaps ” potential. And ” buoy oh bouy ” ( did you see what I did there?! ) we weren’t let down!

In fact, no sooner had mum and Geoff successfully lassooed their chosen bouy for our mooring place (- on the first pass, might I add -) then the action began. Mum had jumped off the back for the lazy swim to the bow to thread the mooring line through the heavy warp eye and then she would pass the end back onto the boat……..( Our boat is very high at the bow so it just saves breaking boat hooks trying to pull the bouy onto the boat, plus, it’s tried and tested this way and it’s what we are used to…) when a huge SHOUT went up from close by.

Mum was the first to recognise what had happened and her lazy swim became a jet fuelled torpedo powered scramble back to the stern of our boat and she hastily climbed back on board. The 75 foot motor yacht which was moored a couple of bouys ahead of us had snapped it’s mooring, the shout was from the boats skipper ( who was luckily on board at the time !!!) and it appeared that he was locked out of his helming room! Meanwhile the very big motor yacht was busy being blown down wind, obviously, and downwind was….. Yup, you guessed it,…… Us! Yey!

Mum had called to Geoff and myself what she had seen happening and we all watched as the skipper of the motor yacht finally made it to his wheel and we heard the engines start. The BIG boat was still a lot too close to us for our liking, and it appeared that he was still attached to a line or something in the water too, so mum slipped our line cleanly and Geoff took Steady On Jean out and clear of the flailing boats way, just to give the other skipper room to manoeuvre really.

We motored over to a bouy closer to the shore, collected this one- tied up and carried on watching.

The skipper of the motor yacht was shouting at ( what was probably a waitress off of the crew of the boat ) ordering her to tie up to a new mooring, the owner of the moorings was hollering at the super yacht. The waitress was crying then decided to scream at everybody and then clearly in a state of paranoia the skipper demanded two bouys, AND put his anchor down too!!

Things calmed down…….and then the Italians arrived!

Clearly these chaps had absolutely no clue about how to use bouys or tie up in this method, after three or four failed passes and two attempts of trying to bribe the passing fishing vessels to help them out by tiring up for them as they went past, the Italians finally got a bouy and put a line through it. The binoculars came out then and we watched them scrutinising the nearest vessel to them, to see how they should tie up properly, good idea. You know it makes sense!

Unfortunately the closest boat to theirs was the super yacht with its now paranoid captain. The Italians didn’t know this, and just went about replicating the knitting that they could see at the front of the motor yacht!! So with some jiggling, and an Italian swimming the equivalent of five lengths of a swimming pool trying to tow another ( fixed in concrete bouy ) to their yacht, they eventually dropped their anchor too (!!!!!!) and patted each other on their backs! Eek!

It would have been interesting to have watched them and their tangles try to leave!

Anyway the wind was howling again this morning! If the forecast says it will be blowing 30 knots by three pm, then you know that at lunch time it will probably be hitting 30 knots! The plan to go to Archkengelos Bay was promptly put on the back burner and mum and Geoff organised plan B.
Geoff called a marina, apparently the “safest Marina in the Aegean” ( mum now doesn’t want to leave!!! ) and reserved a space ( good move, it turns out, spaces were very limited!!!! ) so, again…. We are safely tucked in and are now waiting, once more, for the weather!! We have just had lunch, the wind is whistling around in the marina…. Hate to think what it’s doing out there!

25th July
During the late 30’s, whilst under Italian occupation, the island of Leros was home to a well protected harbour, in the bay of Lakki. This well fortified bay, held submarines, aircraft carriers, frigates and many other navel ships. But one kilometre away from Lakki, there is an underground tunnel museum that once held weapons and ammunition. It is a tunnel that now homes many antique artefacts from the war, and gives you information on one of the most famous battles in the Mediterranean, The battle of Leros.

The reason for the battle of Leros was because of the natural bay. This was well protected from the Meltemis, and also from stormy waters. The bay was home to the Italian navy from 1930, but when the Italians surrendered to the Allies, the Germans immediately attacked the whole of the Italian controlled Dodecanese. Before long, Rhodes, Symi, Halki, Alimia, Tilos, Nisyros and Kos were all under the Nazis control, and soon, the people of Kalymnos were surrendering to them. However, before they could capture Leros, British forces were sent in to help the Italians and the people of Leros.

Before the battle of Leros took place, on the 26th of September the Greek warship, Vasilissa Olga was attacked, and sunk in Leros bay by 25 Junker Ju 88’s. Then on the 27th of September 1943 ,the British destroyer HMS Intrepid was attacked by two German Junker Ju 88’s, and the 98metre boat sank in Leros harbour. This caused uproar in Britian, since ” Intrepid” was one of the Royal Navies ships that destroyed the German Bismarck in May 1941. Both ships have had monuments erected for those who lost there lives onboard these two ships.

The battle of Leros began on the 12 November 1943, when a boat was seen in the distance. The sighting was by the allied forces at 3:00, but because of communication problems, the Germans were able to move undetected. The fighting was hand to hand and for over four days, they kept fighting the Nazis.

On the evening of the sixteenth, the leader of the British force on the island, told his men to surrender. Although the Italians had also been informed by the British that they were surrendering, many of them kept on fighting until the morning of the 17th. The surrender of the British army, navy and Air Force on the island surprised the British public, and because of the fall of Leros, the other Dodecanese islands were evacuated of British troops.

When the Germans did take control of the whole Dodecanese, they had completed there conquest.

The battle has since been compared as “Gallipoli two”, and the blame was ultimately put of Churchills door, since the British were just “messing around” on a tiny island.

To summarise, I personally believe the battle of Leros was one of the last German wins, and the last British defeat during the period of the Second World War. From that point, the British would be able to take back control of North Africa, South east Asia, and most importantly, Europe.

The film/ book, ” The Guns of Navarone” is apparantly based on the battle of Leros…………..

Mum picked ripe figs off a tree, delicious!


Author: adventurerintrainingblog

I am a 14 year old boy and live and am home schooled by my parents aboard our 45 foot sailing yacht which we sail from Turkey. I have travelled through/ across Europe by road, several times now, and have also driven into the heart of Turkey, visiting Konya, Cappadocia and many other places. You can read about both of these experiences on the blog... However, at the moment you can read about our life aboard our yacht in Turkey during the winter... I hope you can come along for the ride, then sail along with me as I blog my sailing adventures for next year!

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