Gregory Mezeviris narrates:
“In the evening of April 4, 1944, I learned that serious events were taking place in the military facilities in Cairo, in the Brigades and in the Fleet. I rushed to the Ministry where I was informed of the unprecedented events happening in our Navy. In the ships and the naval shore establishments, sailors Revolutionary Commissions had been formed and were circulating for signing among the staffs and crews, petitions asking for a reshuffling of the Greek Government-in-exile in Cairo to include the Revolutionary Committee of EAM (the National Resistance Organization controlled by communists) from Greece. The Navy Command had not reacted to this mutiny. Under the pressure of the sailors Revolutionary Commissions, all crews signed the petitions. Some of the officers signed also; those who didn’t were arrested by members of their crews.
After the eruption of these cases, the Chief of the Fleet invited the ship commanders to a meeting to assess the situation. The commanders declared that the situation was not under their control any more. The Chief then decided to appear as heading the movement so as to avoid the interruption of the ship missions. The following order was issued by the Chief of the Fleet Rear-Admiral Alexandris:
“Following the announcement of the creation in Greece of a commission representing resistance organizations fighting against the conqueror, I was pleased to realize the unanimous wish of everyone in our Navy, from the Commander and the ship commanders to the last sailor, that our Government here cooperate effectively with the above-mentioned commission with the objective of joining forces for the continuation of our fight to free our Home Land. I have officially transmitted today this unanimous wish to the Government. I was re-assured that all the necessary measures will be taken immediately for the formation of a Government with pan-Hellenic characteristics. I therefore believe that this effort will soon end to the unanimous satisfaction of the Navy, which is also the wish of the entire Nation. I now invite you all to continue united and concentrated the beautiful task that our Navy is performing for more than three years, in order to achieve soon the supreme satisfaction of bringing with our ships the liberation to our Home Land.”
Next, a general signal announced that four senior officers were sent to Cairo to present officially to the Government the position of the Fleet and to cooperate for its implementation.
On the above, I can observe that it is not true that it was a unanimous wish of the whole Navy. Most officers strongly disagreed and they proved it when they used their hand weapons to repress the mutiny. It is characteristic that all the officers of the destroyer “PINDOS”, with the exception of an Ensign, refused to sign the protocol. The crew arrested the commander, the brilliant Lieutenant Commander Fifas, disembarked him and put him under shore arrest. Then, they threw all the officers in the harbor! They reserved the same treatment to the executive officer Lieutenant Kogevinas, an officer very dear to the crew since he had thrown himself in rough seas to save a sailor that was wiped over-board by a wave! What was more astonishing, was that “PINDOS” was ordered to execute a new mission with a new commander and Staff, but with the same crew and their Revolutionary Committee. The consequence was that the ship was assumingly obliged to pass from Malta to disembark an officer who claimed that he was in need of a surgical operation. The “PINDOS” crew came into contact with the crews of the Greek ships mooring in Malta and contributed thus to their revolt. Next, the “PINDOS” reached an Italian port where the crew contacted the Italian communist party, declared that the War was over and refused to continue the war effort.
Very few of the officers, especially some junior and non-commissioned officers, shared the revolutionary beliefs of the crews. What was strange was the attitude of some senior officers, even of some Captains, that hadn’t realized the seriousness of the situation and believed that the re-establishment of the order could only be done by soft measures. They considered that the first measures taken by the British against the mutineers –cut-off of food and water – should be relaxed. In my opinion, these officers were very much influenced by the enthusiastic radio emissions of the B.B.C. that praised EAM, as the only real resistance movement fighting in occupied Greece.
When, after the outbreak of the mutiny, the Minister of the Navy came to Alexandria, I met him and placed myself at his disposal for the repression of the mutiny. I considered that that was only possible by using force. He must have remembered then, what I have been telling him for several months, gave me a warm handshake and thanked me for my contribution. A new Chief of the Fleet was named on April 21, 1944; a reservist once more, Rear-Admiral Voulgaris, was appointed with the mission to crush the mutiny. The new Chief was trusted by the King and the Greek Government and was followed by the 1935 re-established officers, with the exception of a few that were sympathetic to the demands of the mutineers. However, without the help of the officers of the opposite political movement, who were more numerous, he wouldn’t have succeeded in his mission. When the new Chief asked me if I was disposed to help him, I replied that, in my opinion, violent measures should be used and that I would be supporting his actions.
The repression of the mutiny in Alexandria and Port Said
The first operation for the seizing of the mutinous ships was set for the night of April 22, 1944. Some senior officers, who, from their general attitude, did not inspire trust to the officers participating in the operation, were moved away from Alexandria. In the operation participated mixed armed teams of officers of all ranks, cadets, non-commissioned officers and even some Army officers who volunteered. The operation targeted initially 3 rebellious ships: the destroyer “IERAX”and the corvette “SACHTOURIS” that were coasted to the same side of the British cruiser “H.M.S. PHOEBE”, the other side of which was coasted to the dock and the corvette “APOSTOLIS”, laying in anchor far from the other two. We boarded the British cruiser just before 2:00 in the morning of April 23. On the deck we were given the side towards the Greek ships. On the other side armed British detachments were ready to intervene. On the docks, stretcher bearers and ambulances were waiting. The attack set for 2:30, started simultaneously against “APOSTOLIS” and the sea-side of “IERAX” and “SACHTOURIS”. The attack from the cruiser was delayed somewhat. The mutineers were not surprised and responded immediately using heavy fire. The attacking detachments successfully and with self-sacrifice executed the orders. The mutineers on “APOSTOLIS” reacted very strongly in the beginning, then their defense was weakened and in half an hour they gave in. On the other two ships resistance was stronger and it took almost an hour to force them to surrender. Some 250 volunteers participated in the operation. Seven were killed in action: three officers, Lieutenant Roussen, Junior Lieutenant Repas and Junior Lieutenant (Army) Kavadias, one non-commissioned officer and three sailors. About twenty were injured, among which Captain Kyris and Lieutenant Commander Theofanidis. There was about the same number of injured on the side of the mutineers. This successful operation was followed in the next 24 hours by the bloodless surrender of all the other mutinous ships in Alexandria, the floating repair shop “HYPHAISTOS”, the destroyer “CRITI”, minesweepers and auxiliary ships. Bloodlessly also surrendered in Port Said the battleship “AVEROF”, six destroyers in reserve and the submarine “PAPANICOLIS” who was seized with great difficulty on April 29, 1944. Finally the rebels that had seized the Central Recruit Center located in a central district of Alexandria surrendered, thus ending the very unfavorable comments on our behalf.
The repression of the mutiny in Malta (document: Top Secret cypher CIC Med RN)
Serious disturbances had taken place on our ships based in Malta, three submarines, the submarine escort ship “CORINTHIA”, the reserve destroyer “SPETSES” and two auxiliary ships. All these ships were under the command of a Captain, the Superior Submarine Commander (S.S.C.). The Chief of the Fleet ordered me to go to Malta, provisionally assume the duties of Supreme Naval Commander, re-establish order and install the new S.S.C., Captain Antonopoulos. The previous S.S.C., having refused to serve under the orders of the new Chief of the Navy, was arrested by the British Admiral and sent under escort to Alexandria. I flew to Malta on April 26, 1944. At the airport I was expected by the British Vice-Admiral and Supreme commander of Malta who, very upset by what had happened, drove me directly to his office to brief me. The previous day, as soon as the S.S.C.’s arrest was learned, most of the crews went ashore and refused to return to their ships. They were arrested by the British and confined in a camp. From a total of 456 men, 172 only remained on their ships either from their own initiative or ordered by their revolutionary committee. The destroyer “NAVARINON” had previously sailed from Malta to Bizerta for repairs. About 100 of her crew had refused to sail and remained on Malta. The ship had sailed without them and the British Admiral asked me to convey his congratulations to her commander, Commander Neofytos.
Soon after my briefing, I organized a meeting with Commander Iatridis (the First Secretary of the S.S.C.), the ship commanders and Commander Baker of the British Naval Mission in Greece, now serving in the S.S.C. I declared to them that I wished to be informed of the situation, before issuing my orders. I realized that I was dealing with loyal men in a state of complete confusion. Being far from Central Command, they were seeing the situation under the prism presented to them by their ex-commander. They were under the impression that the order of the ex-Chief of the Fleet was adopted by the whole Fleet. They had signed the petitions presented by the sailors’ revolutionary committees, but were not able to explain the reason. Commander Iatridis, an officer of right wing political affiliation that had distinguished himself as commander of the submarine “PAPANICOLIS”, after the arrest of the S.S.C. had issued a day order that showed complete confusion. For that reason I had to order his replacement by Commander Zepos, who came with me from Alexandria, and send him to Alexandria. I made it clear to the commanders that their ships should return to legality and that the period of the revolutionary committees was over. They
should be aware that in the future the officers will have to protect their honor with their guns. Whoever disagreed with the above had to tell me right then. Next morning, I decided to officially review the officers and remaining crews on board of the “CORINTHIA”, in spite of the scruples of the British Admiral who took exceptional safety measures on shore during the review. No anomalies were noticed during my review and I received the honors according to the regulations. After reviewing the men, my strict order of the day was read and another one concerning the installation of the new S.S.C. I then met separately with all the officers and repeated the instructions given to their commanders. I asked if there was any objection; there was none and I announced that I considered that their silence was an unconditional acceptance of my orders.
Next, we tried to bring back to their duties those that were arrested and imprisoned in the camp. Commander Baker split them in three groups; one consisting of the men of the destroyer “NAVARINON”, one of the assumingly “good” and one of all the others. We then tried to read to the “good” group through the loudspeakers my order of the day and another one of the new Prime Minister Georges Papandreou. They refused to listen and were shouting that they didn’t recognize the new Government. Our effort to distribute these orders by pamphlets, also failed. In my report to the British Admiral I stated that these men should be considered mutineers and be moved to Egypt, as the Admiral didn’t wish these men to remain in Malta. Commander Baker undertook a last effort to persuade some men, he knew personally and considered good elements, to return to their duties. Thanks to his efforts and eventually because in the mean time they were informed of the pitiful end of the mutiny in Egypt, many of them accepted to return to their ships.
Following a request of the British Admiral, I flew to Bizerta on April 29,1944 to examine the situation that had developed on the destroyer “NAVARINON”. Her commander, Commander Neofytos (my First Secretary aboard the destroyer “HYDRA” at the time of her sinking) explained to me with tears in the eyes that he was forced to order his officers to sign the protocol after receiving the general signal of the ex- Chief of the Fleet. He declared ready to follow the new orders and continue the war missions as soon as his crew was completed. My same order of the day was read and all the officers agreed with all I said. I returned to Malta, after turning in to the British authorities a small number of men that I considered suspicious.
The British Fleet Commander, Mediterranean, had the intention to send to Malta the RHN destroyers “PINDOS”, “THEMISTOCLIS” and “MIAOULIS” to be cleaned-up from mutinous elements. The British Admiral of Malta asked me whether the men that had remained in the Supreme Submarine Command were to be trusted for undertaking such operation. I studied the situation and reported that I didn’t consider these crews good for repeating a similar operation to the one in Alexandria. He then asked me to fly to Algiers report the Malta situation to Admiral John Cunningham, Naval Commander in Chief, Mediterranean and then transmit his instructions to the RHN Chief of the Fleet in Alexandria. Admiral John Cunningham was quite enraged and I sensed that he was determined to sink any of our ships that would revolt in the future. He ordered that the mutineers in Malta should remain provisionally in the camp, hoping that several will change their minds while the rest would later be moved to a prisoner camp in Africa. He also decided that the three destroyers do not approach Malta, unless they refused to execute their missions. In such a case they would go in reserve and their concession to the RHN would end. The three destroyers and three tank landing ships continued their war missions in spite the fact that, in most of them, remained mutinous cores. With great difficulty we finally succeeded in cleaning-up their crews.”