Amongst the comments of my first article were requests to know more about the Greek SOF—since (as it seems) you don’t come about this kind of information every day. Well, sit back then, for here comes more. And as the rules of storytelling go, we’ll start from the beginning.

The beginning finds us in 1942 in the Middle East, which is where the Greek government and king had fled after the Greek defense had eventually given in to the Germans, who backed up the initial unsuccessful Italian attack. The major concern of the exiled military leadership was to assemble the forces that had managed to escape the occupied mainland back to a fighting force. Consequently, two brigades were created, with the first one being ready before the battle of El Alamein and taking part in it. However, the officers were a few too many for the corresponding positions, which resulted in the creation of an Army unit, formed by officers, with soldier’s duties—after the suggestion of  Lt Commander (Air Force) G. Alexandris, initially with the form of a MG company and the force of 200 men.

When Colonel Tsigantes, a former political exile who until then fought with the French Foreign Legion, assumed command, the unit was renamed to Sacred Company, in honor of the Sacred Company of Thebes and the Sacred Company of the Greek Revolution, and used on their insignia and as a motto, the customary farewell of the women of ancient Sparta to men going to war, “With your shield, or on it.” With the cooperation of Lt. Colonel David Stirling, the unit had its role redefined to that of a commando unit. It was attached to the SAS and then relocated to its base at Kabrit in Egypt to be trained.

Sacred Company CO Colonel Tsigantes

On January 27th 1943, while the Company was in Libya en route to link up with the rest of the SAS, it became known that the SAS forward elements already in Tunisia had suffered heavy losses and David Stirling had been captured. Thus, the unit found itself without a mission and so it was put under the command of General Leclerc of the Free French Forces, with the duties of Light Mechanized Cavalry, after the suggestion of Colonel Tsigantes who did not want it to stay out of the fight. In Ksar-Rillan, the Sacred Company gave its first major battle while covering the advance of the X British Army Corps. When the Allied forces captured Gabès, the Company was detailed to the 2nd New Zealand Division, along with which it fought the Germans at Wadi Akarit. On April 17th, it was sent back to Egypt to train and regroup.

After the armistice was signed by Italy, the British forces began operations in the Aegean to keep the ‘owned by Italians’ Dodecanese away from German hands. Since the islands were mostly populated by Greeks, the Greek government requested the participation of its own forces, a request initially declined until October. With Rhodes lost from the beginning, it was decided to occupy the remaining islands, especially the larger ones: Kos, Leros and Samos. The Sacred Company deployed on Samos by ships and night drops, in which the unit’s commander, Colonel Tsigantes, participated in without prior paratrooper training. The Greek unit was tasked with the island’s defensive preparation, but the loss of the other two islands made the Allied forces evacuate Samos.

Four months later, the Company was attached to Raiding Forces alongside SBS, with the objective to disrupt supply lines and harass the German garrisons in the Aegean. By July 13th 1944, when the operation on Simi, which resulted in the liberation of the island, took place, the Sacred Company had expanded to regimental size, with a strength of approximately 1,000 men. With the departure of the SBS in August, the responsibility of operations in the Aegean rested solely on the men of the Sacred Company.

In September the Company was divided into two battalion-size task forces; force B with the objective to continue operations in the Aegean and force C  was to participate in the liberation of mainland Greece, as the German forces were beginning to retreat. With Athens liberated on October 14th, 1944 by British forces, the Company reunited and continued the operations in the Aegean, liberating Nisiros, Tilos, Tinos, Milos, Kos and Rhodes. On August 7th, the unit was awarded with Greece’s highest military awards, the Gold Cross of Valour and the War Cross First Class and disbanded in a ceremony in Athens.

The total casualties of the Sacred Company were 17 dead, 58 wounded, 3 missing and 29 captured.