by Dan Reynolds
The first breech loader
officially adopted by Greece in the early 1870's was the native designed
single shot black powder Mylona rifle which used a dropping breech block.
It was not successful and Greece decided circa 1876 to purchase a copy
of the French M1874 11mm Gras single shot rifle from the Austrian Arms
Factory of Steyr in Austria. This rifle is marked with a Steyr cartouche
on the left side of the stock. It is reported that 57,000 rifles
and 6,000 carbines as well as short rifles were purchased.
In the early 1890's
this design was obsolete with the advent of magazine repeater smokeless
powder rifles adopted by Turkey and Bulgaria, potential enemies of Greece.
Financial limitations prevented adoption of a new rifle on a large scale.
Quantities of the 5 shot turnbolt 8x50mmR were purchased from Steyr, cited
by one source as the Model 1894. Small numbers of the improved Mannlicher
Model of 1895 in 8x50mmR may have been purchased in the later 1890's.
In 1903, a new design
based on the Mannlicher action, the M1903 with a rotary spool 5 shot magazine
in 6.5x53mm (sometimes called the 6.5x54mm) was adopted as standard rifle.
The rifles were supplied by Steyr in Austria. Carbines were purchased as
well as the long rifles. This Mannlicher Schonauer design was modified
slightly when additional rifles were ordered in 1914. This was designated
The reason more
rifles were ordered was due to losses sustained in the First and Second
Balkan Wars. During these conflicts Greece lost many rifles to damage and
capture. It also acquired as spoils non-standard 7.65x53mm Mauser rifles
from Turkey such as the M1890, M1893, and M1903 as well as Mannlicher M1888/90
8x50mmR rifles and carbines from Bulgaria. These were placed in service
with support and reserve troops.
The production of
the new variation at The Austrian Arms Factory in Steyr (whose German initials
OEWG were stamped into the wooden buttstocks) was ongoing when WW1 started
in August 1914. Deliveries stopped as the rifles on hand at the factory
were taken over by the Austro-Hungarian Government for use by it's own
forces. Among the troops issued with these Mannlichers were the Polish
Legion serving the Empire.
During the course
of WW1 Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies. It sustained heavy
losses of the M1903 and M1903/14 Mannlichers and was supplied with French
M1907/15 8mm Lebel rifles and carbines to help arm its forces. At war's
end it received stocks of Mannlicher M1895 and M1888/90, M1903 Bulgarian
Mannlichers with enbloc clip magazines, and Turk and and German Mausers
It then engaged
in a war with Turkey in which it lost additional quantities of M1903 and
Model 1903/14 Greek rifles and carbines. In 1921, Greece purchased 3,500
M1903/14 rifles from its ally France. Circumstances suggest that these
may have been the remnant of those issued to the Polish Legion during WW1.
About 1922 it began rebuilding some of its damaged and worn out 6.5x53mm
M1903 and M1903/14 long rifles into a short rifle pattern.
The Italians, on
the winning side in WW1, received large numbers of rifles as war booty
from the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire. These included quantities of
the Greek M1903/14 rifles taken over in 1914 by the Empire. Italy kept
many rifles of the M1895 pattern and issued them up through WW2. It sold
off the odd types. The Greeks, through arms dealers learned of the availability
of these well used rifles. It desired to acquire enough M1903/14 pattern
rifles to replace many odd non-standard rifles such as the French M1907/15
It was arranged
for SOCIETA ANONIMA ERNESTO BREDA of Brescia in Italy to rebuild these
rifles. It is believed that Breda then arranged to buy new commercial actions
from Steyr in order to produce entirely new rifles of the M1903/14 pattern.
Greece purchased 100,000 rifles.
In 1930 Greece purchased
25,000 M.1903/14 "Systems 30" Mannlichers including short rifle and carbine
pattern directly from STEYR. Greece now had about 225,000 Mannlicher
Schonauer 6.5mm Mannlichers of various patterns.
Despite these acquisitions,
the Greeks were still short of enough serviceable 6.5mm Mannlichers to
arm all their forces. They decided to adopt 7.92X57mm Mauser as their substitute
standard rifle caliber ammunition and had Mannlicher M1888/90, M1894, and
M1895 converted to use this cartridge. The M1895 became the 7.92mm M95/24
short rifle. They also purchased F.N. Model 1930 short rifles in 7.92mm.
In 1939, the final
order was placed for 6.5mm Mannlichers from Steyr. These were short rifles
marked "Systems 30" and 15,000 were bought for the National Police.
Note: The Greek
Crest found on Greek Mannlicher Schonauers and possibly other weapons may
be found with and without a Crown on top of the Cross within the shield.
If it lacks the crown it was marked in a period when the King was not head
World War 2
In late 1940 Greece
was invaded from Albania by Italy. The Greeks were able to check
the Italians and advance against them, inflicting 100,000 casualties.
Turkey sold the Greek Government ex-Greek small arms and ammunition it
had captured from Greece during the War of 1921-22. Turkey had converted
some of the captured Mannlicher Schoenauers to 7.92mm and it kept these.
the Italians needed
help and on April 6, Germany attacked Greece from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia
causing the collapse of the Greek Government. The King and his government
fled to Egypt under British protection. Germany occupied Greece with Italy
and Bulgaria being given large spheres of control.
groups formed. The largest was called "ELAS", a front of the EAM
controlled by the KKE (the Greek Communist Party). The largest non-Communist
movement was called "EDES" which was loyal to the exile government.
Both of these had ex Greek Army officers in prominent positions.
Both used rifles of the type described previously in initial operations
while acquiring Axis rifles in active operations. The British began
supplying .303 Enfields No.1 Mk3 by air drop to support these groups.
When Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, most of the Italian forces
in Greece turned all their small arms over to the Communist ELAS partisans
along with large stocks of ammunition. This made the Carcano rifle
in 6.5x52mm the principle rifle and carbine of the the REDS and gave it
a decisive advantage over EDES. The 6.5x52mm would fit the chambers
of Greek 6.5x53mm Mannlichers and could be used as an expedient if proper
ammunition was not available (WARNING: this is not a safe practice and
should not be attempted).
When the Germans
withdrew from Greece, ELAS began assuming control of the country, clashing
with non-communist groups and British troops which landed in country to
take control of key areas. In keeping with the Churchill-Stalin agreement
dividing sphere's of influence in the Balkans, a Soviet officer with the
writ of Stalin was flown in and advised ELAS to co-operate in a postwar
plebiscite and election. An agreement was reached and ELAS was to
surrender its weapons and disband. By this time it had acquired additional
Enfields and large numbers of German Karabiner 98K 7.92 rifles. It
turned over about 70,000 rifles consisting of the worst condition and least
desirable rifles on hand and it bunked the rest it had along with ammunition
In 1945 conflict
continued between right wing and communist elements in the period leading
up to the election/ plebiscite. The KKE was a legal political party,
but ELAS officially no longer existed. Some of its elements had moved
into Yugoslavia, Albania or Bulgaria. The rest had gone underground
or inactive. Eventually, a partisan war began as the right wing won
the elections and martial law was proclaimed. The KKE remained legal
and did not accept responsibility for the new partisan movement based on
the old ELAS organization. By the fall of 1946 a civil war was underway.
The conflict was
between the left and right with partisans known as the "Democratic Army
of Greece" representing the Communists and other "pink" elements and the
government "Greek National Army " representing right wing and moderate
republican elements. The KKE was still legal and had members in the
The DAG was armed
chiefly with Carcanos, 98K Mausers and Enfields but had almost all types
of rifles previously mentioned in service. The mainline mobile bands
of the DAG were engaged in hit and run raids on government units, police
stations and other targets which would supply weapons, ammo and necessary
supplies or money at this phase. These units usually tried to have
the best rifles and to standardize on one type in a given unit if possible.
The DAG controlled
remote areas and some villages where a form of government was in place.
An axillary support organization was in place in these areas and also
covertly in government controlled areas to provide intel, security, logistics
and other support as well as to provide static defense of bases, caches,
etc. These people would have second line rifles of less desirable
type if not enough of the above mentioned rifles were availably.
Any type from Gras rifles to Berdans might be found.
The GNA was armed
mainly with No.4 Enfields and No.1 Mk3 in .303 provided by the British
who were supporting the government, as well as with 6.5x53mm Mannlicher
Schonauers and 98K Mausers.
The DAG had the
initiative and by 1947 Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania were providing arms,
food, sanctuary, and other forms of support to bring victory to the Communists.
Tito of Yugoslavia was the main backer of the KKE/DAG insurrection.
By mid 1947 the British were unable to continue support of the Government
and the KKE went over to open support of the rebels. The USA took
over from the British with the "Truman Doctrine" bringing support to the
Greek Government along with American advisers and arms for the GNA.
The first .30 M1 Garands, in small numbers, arrived in 1948 but did not
play any significant role in the civil war.
By 1948 the DAG
attempted to go over conventional warfare, converting partisan units into
regular platoons, companies, battalions, etc. This was unsustainable
and a fatal error. Stalin, alarmed that in his view a sideshow might
escalate into a direct conflict with America before he was ready, "suggested"
to Tito that support for the DAG be ended. Stalin was already concerned
about the nature of Tito's ambitions and a conflict was already simmering
between the two. Tito disregarded this order and continued his support
of KKE/DGA until 1949 when the KKE publicly sided with Stalin against Tito.
At that time Yugoslavia sealed the border with Greece and the DGA insurgency
faded out rapidly.
was absolutely necessary to sustain the DAG. It had been provided
overland through the mountainous border regions with Yugoslavia, Bulgaria
and Albania and by sea. The Yugoslavs used three small submarines
from small harbors near Split and the Albanians used small trawlers to
move supplies to coastal areas of Greece under nominal Government control.
The sea lift effort was not very viable and was terminated. The Greek
Navy was too efficient. To cite one example, on the night of September
6, 1948, the Royal Hellenic Navy Ship Polemistis destroyed an Albanian
supply vessel carrying 2,000 98K Mausers, 100 Machine Guns, 3000 mines
and large quantities of 7.92mm ammo in the Bay of Fokianos. This
load was fairly typical of such shipments.
Most supplies came
over the mountains to the DAG controlled areas along the borders with the
supplying Communist regimes. From here, material was transported
by mule trains of up to a 150 animals to the designated units in active
service. One Yugoslav source lists 5500 machine guns of several types,
35,000 rifles, chiefly Carcanos and Mausers (VZ24, 98k, others), 7.92mm
and 6.5x52mm ammunition, 10,000 Panzerfaust (the original RPG), 10000 land
mines, food, uniforms, supplies of all sorts as the aid supplied by Yugoslavia.
Albania supplied unknown numbers of Carcano and Mauser 98K rifles and ammunition
for them. Bulgaria supplied 98K Mausers, Mannlicher M95/24 7.92mm
short rifles and 8x50mmR, 8x56mmR, and 7.92mm ammunition.
In August 1948 ,
one unit of the GNA in its area of operation captured the following rifle
types from the DAG : 97 Carcanos, 21 98K, 14 Enfields, 11 6.5mm Mannlichers,
3 Bulgarian M1903 Mannlichers,3 M07/15 Berthiers, 3 Turkish Mausers, 1
M1891 Mosin Nagant. This would be representative of what could be
found in a typical DAG unit. Some very well armed units might have only
one or two types in issue, these being 98 Mausers, Enfields, and Carcanos.
The Carcanos being less desired than the previous two types, where Mausers
and Enfields available with adequate ammunition, the Carcanos would be
passed on to arm other mobile troops or static support units.
After the war ended,
U.S. aid continued to upgrade the arms of the Greek Army. By 1950
159,990 American small arms including Garands, Thompsons, Carbines, Browning
M1917A1, M1919A4 and A6, BAR's and M1911A1 pistols had been supplied.
In 1953 the M1 Garand became more common and eventually was the standard
rifle of the Regular Army for many years. The No.4 Enfield remained
in active service at least through the 1970's with the Army and Reserves,
and into the 1980's with Police. The Mannlicher Schonauers were withdrawn
and sold off circa 1959 by which time all other types except the M1 and
No.4 were out of service.
Greece was late
in adopting a NATO standard rifle, but eventually adopted the Heckler &
Koch G3A3 in 7.62x51mm in 1979 as made in Greece at Anjion by "EBO" .
Any additional information
or corrections on Greek rifles is welcomed, especially photographs. Credit
will be gladly given.