Greece during World War 1

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the Kingdom of Greece remained neutral.

Nonetheless, in October 1914 Greek forces once more occupied Northern Epirus, from where they had retreated after the end of the Balkan Wars.

The disagreement between King Constantine, who favoured neutrality, and the pro-Allied Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos led to the National Schism, the division of the state between two rival governments. 

Finally, Greece united and joined the Allies in the summer of 1917.

Despite Greece remaining officially neutral, by September 1916 the country was effectively a battleground in the war.

The Bulgarians occupied eastern Macedonia, while relations with the Allies were marked by deep hostility and mistrust.

After repeated calls from Thessaloniki, on 25 September Venizelos, accompanied by many of his followers, sailed to Chania in his home island of Crete, with the intention of forming a revolutionary government. 

Although Venizelos stressed that his initiative served national rather than narrow party, interests it was welcomed in Crete and the islands of the eastern Aegean, which had been only recently seized during the Balkan Wars (when Venizelos had been prime Minister), but found few supporters in “Old Greece”, the pre-1912 territory of the kingdom.

Venizelos was joined by two respected military figures, Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis and Lt.

General Panagiotis Danglis, in the so-called “triumvirate” (τριανδρία). Together they landed at Thessaloniki on 9 October and formed the Provisional Government of National Defence.

Soon recognized by the Allies, the new regime declared war on Germany and Bulgaria on 23 October and 24 October respectively.

Entente and Venizelist efforts to persuade the “official” royal government in Athens to abandon its neutrality and join them failed and relations irreparably broke down during the Noemvriana, when Entente and Venizelist troops clashed with royalists in the streets of the Greek capital.

The royalist officers of the Hellenic Army were cashiered, and troops were conscripted to fight under Venizelist officers, as was the case with the Royal Hellenic Navy.

Still, King Constantine, who enjoyed the protection of the Russian Tsar as a relative and fellow monarch, could not be removed until after the February Revolution in Russia removed the Russian monarchy from the picture.

In June 1917, King Constantine abdicated from the throne, and his second son, Alexander, assumed the throne as king (despite the wishes of most Venizelists to declare a Republic).

Venizelos assumed control of the entire country, while royalists and other political opponents of Venizelos were exiled or imprisoned.

Greece, by now united under a single government, officially declared war against the Central Powers on 30 June 1917 and would eventually raise ten divisions for the Entente effort, alongside the Royal Hellenic Navy.