Language is so often an expression of the collective memory, yet few Greeks know that the term “trelokambero,” used to describe someone behaving irrationally or acting crazy (“trelos”), was actually inspired by a real person, an intrepid Greek aviator.
Dimitrios Kamberos (1883-1942) was born on the Saronic island of Hydra and grew up in the port city of Piraeus, before graduating with honors from the Evelpidon Military Academy in 1905, at a time when Greece didn’t have an air force. He began his military service in the artillery unit and was among the first Greeks to train as a pilot in France when the country purchased its first aircraft from Farman Aviation Works. Even though they were the most advanced at the time, the planes were not equipped with navigation equipment or with any indicators of engine function. The task of flying them therefore depended entirely on the pilots’ training, judgment and skill.
The first batch of planes reached Piraeus in boxes, unassembled, and on May 13, 1912, Kamberos carried out Greece’s first-ever military flight, taking off from the seaside village of Faliro and wowing thousands of Athenians who had gathered to watch the spectacle.
By June 25 of that same year, the ingenious pilot has transformed the Farman into a seaplane, with the addition of two floats, and managed to fly it from Faliro to the island of Hydra. He even broke the world speed record, flying at 110 kilometers per hour.
He didn’t stop there either, and later in 1912 became the first person in the world to conduct a surveillance flight to check enemy movements, flying over the Thessaly front. What’s more, he turned the plane into a bomber by lobbing hand grenades at the enemy below and was able to come back safely even though his aircraft was riddled with bullet holes.
Celebrating the feats and memory of Dimitrios Kamberos, the Hydra Historical Archive and Museum and the Athens-based National War Museum recently held a special event, re-enacting his historic first flight on its 109th anniversary.
The flight was conducted with a Zenair CH701 piloted by Konstantino Rossidis and was followed by a ceremony on a boat that was attended by Hydra Mayor Giorgos Koukoudakis, the island’s coast guard chief Gavriil Haralambidis, the head of its historical archive, Dina Adamopoulou, and War Museum President Anastasios Liaskos.
More information about the life and feats of the brave airman can be found in a biography (in Greek) written by Antigone Kamberou.