A November we forget

In politics, it is the result that counts, so premier Eleftherios Venizelos’s decision to take Greece into the Entente Cordiale during World War I was the correct one. The Greek state was enlarged, although Hellenism was reduced postwar, following the disastrous war against Turkey, when the Greeks were eliminated from Asia Minor. Those (led by King Constantine) who wanted Greece to remain neutral, were not vindicated. Greece was divided as the warring parties blackmailed Greece into participating. The most aggressive of these were the Entente forces, chiefly those of France and Britain. One of the most characteristic incidents of that time was that of November 18, 1916, when the head of the allied naval force, which was moored in Piraeus, Rear Admiral Dartige du Fournet, asked the royalist government of Greece to provide him with warships and other military equipment. When the government refused, du Fournet disembarked 3,000 of his men in Faliron and Piraeus, some of them taking up positions within Athens itself. However, something happened that the vice-admiral had not expected – extreme right, Association of Reservists, forces clashed with the invaders in battles. In all, 194 foreigners and 82 Greeks were killed. Du Fournet recalled his men, only to subjugate the unruly south of Greece later on. Venizelists – who favored the Entente – were left at the mercy of the pro-Royalists who looted and set fire to property, and killed 35 people. This incident is probably not remembered today, not even by most Western-educated intellectuals. Greek history books, when they refer to it at all, play down its importance and understandably so. History belongs to the victors. The pro-Royalist paramilitary forces won the battle of Athens, but lost the war.

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