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Urban Combat in Greece or Albania


New Member

I have been reading the Abridged History of the Greek-Italian and Greek-German War, 1940-1941 (Land Operations) - copyright 1997 (English edition). I can find few instances were the Greeks & Italians engaged in urban combat.

For example, on page 116, the II Division launches its attack on 15 December 1940 ...

"On December 17, the Divisions troops operating in the centre of its zone of action seized the village of Hormova, where they captured 150 Italians and captured an abundance of war supplies belonging to the 'Ferrara' Divisions. Enemy counter-attacks conducted on December 19 and 20, in order to reoccupy the above village, were repulsed."

From this reading, and many others in the Abridged History, it would almost seem as if the Greeks just had to move forward and the Italians surrendered in mass. However, I do know that this is not he case as overall KIA were similar for both combatants and numerous Italians were captured after their lines of communication were cut the aggressive Greek troops. [As an aside, why would anyone start a war during the Fall/Winter? I am thinking of the Soviet invasion of Finland and the Italian attack on Greece.]

Can anyone shed some light on the action of Hormova, i.e. units involved and casualties taken? Other examples of urban combat?

Thank you,



Active Member
I am sure that other members will be able to provide you more information, but with regards to Hormovë, are you sure it's correct to call the fighting in it "urban"? Even today, at least from Google Maps https://goo.gl/maps/jGpnerXn8VrAvMPh8, it looks like a tiny village of scattered buildings.

With regards to your question about the timing of the Italian attack, you should take into account that at first it was scheduled for August 1940, but Hitler suggested to Mussolini to postpone any action because UK was going to sue for peace and therefore the Greek matter would have been solved in the following conference. When Operation Sea Lion was put off and the Germans took complete control of Romania (Italy's only source of oil, besides Albania itself and a handful from Hungary), the only way for Italy to open the route to the Black Sea and therefore to Soviet supplies of raw materials (oil in first place) was to take control of Greece, whose neutral waters and ports were regularly violated by British naval units. A control that had to be taken not by a war, but by a rather pacific occupation facilitated by a coup d'etat in Athens, which did not materialize due to Metaxas' (maybe helped by the British intelligence, even though it should be noted that Ciano's agents operated in a careless and superficial way) discovery of the conspiration against his regime.
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Staff member

As DrG stated, Hormova is a small village. However, such places were important as they offered some protection for troops from the weather. I am sure there are many other places with both sides fighting over small villages.

Here is a quick translation of the action from the Italian official history. It isn't much.

Vol I, pp. 403-404 [11 Dec 1940]. The Italian unit involved was the d.f. «Ferrara». Words in [ ] are my additions to make the translation easier to understand.

The losses had been very significant, especially for Ferrara, which since 28 October had lost 127 officers and 3,420 non-commissioned officers and soldiers among the dead, wounded and missing, but all in all the announced arrival from Italy of four assigned battalions led to favorable consideration of the immediate future. Although the long retreat had not been disturbed, the organization of the defensive position encountered difficulties: the artillery and engineers commands of the C.A. were still practically non-existent because they lacked personnel, material and means, with negative repercussions in their respective fields of action; the two centuries of workers who would prepared the positions were transferred from the Higher Headquarters of another sector; the units of the Modena were particularly uneasy in terms of the functioning of the their [logistical] services because they [the services] were ad hoc and they [men of the Modera] still found themselves at over 1,500 meters [in elevation] above sea level in the snow and rain without tents. The defensive arrangement was evidently embryonic: the works [positions] barely sketched in at some point; some tracts of simple triangular barriers had been laid in the Dhrinos valley, but there was no time or ability to build positions, trenches, walkways, roads, and shelters. Everything had to be done. In front of the resistance position there was a thin security zone, of which three points - Mali Hormova, the town of Hormova and q. 866 on the eastern slopes of Bus Devrit - had to be organized on rocky ground. Also in this sector the Army Command had studied, and partly prepared, the construction of a line of strongholds to partially double the defensive line, strongpoints of two or three in sequence in relationship to Tepeleni, of which some were to be occupied immediately and others when the availability of forces allowed it. The new position, centered on the Golico and on the southern edge of Kurvelesh, was undoubtedly strong, but was such extent that not even forces twice the size of the existing forces would have been enough to firmly hold it. In addition to this, the units were not only reduced in numbers but extremely worn. On 6 December, the head of the information office of the Higher Command wrote, among other things, in a memo on the situation:

"(...) The commander of the XXV C.A. reminded me the other day that he had at most available as combat troops - at least temporarily - no more than 6,000 men in the four divisions Ferrara, Siena, Modena and Centauro and in the units of the former Litorale Group. As can be seen from the various communiqués of the Higher Command of the Armed Forces Albania (...), Said remains of assigned units are fighting well. But, as I found the other day at VIII and XXV C.A., men in such depressed physical and moral conditions cannot give any guarantees (...).
The fact is that the desired, necessary, and indispensable reinforcements arrive too slowly and without any organizational logic. They are drops of water that solve nothing. No Command, from battalion to army, can deploy, during an action, reinforcements or fresh reserves to intervene directly (...) “.

P. 412 [11-14 Dec 1940].

Subsequently it [the Greeks] planned to proceed along the Vojussa track [could be low ground] in order to encircle the troops of Valona with the help of the II Corps. In this operational concept the part assigned to the [Greek] 2nd D.f. was therefore substantially limited, except in two points corresponding to the flanks of Ferrara: the ridge of the Strakavec, from Mali Hormova to the Golico, and the Bus Devrit. The left of Ferrara was secured by small detachments located in Mali Hormova and on the Golico in the security zone. Given the environmental characteristics, they appeared adequate and in fact the Greek attempted to obtain some temporary results but ultimately failed to succeed. The actions carried out in Val Zagorias might seem more frightening, tending on one side to Brezhanit and on the other to circumvent the Golico from the north, infiltrating val Vojussa from the village of Pesclani, and those on the right of the Dhrinos. Except that the Hellenic task force operating in Val Zagorias against the Belluno and Val Natisone battalions, the first between Golico and Brezhanit and the second on the rocks of Brezhanit, did not have sufficient strength for two divergent objectives and, on the other hand, Val Vojussa was already barred by units from the 2º bersaglieri holding between the Shéndeli and Golico; in Val Dhrinos the only result obtained by the Greeks was the occupation of Hormova (in the security zone), which fell essentially due to the inexperience and lack of training of the replacement battalion which became III/48th (104).

As you can read, Hormova was held by a replacement battalion. These units were not trained as a unit and generally lacked all sorts of equipment, to include heavy weapons and communication systems. They were designed as an administrative unit to bring replacements to front line units, and then be broken up as the men were assigned to their final units. They were not meant to be actual combat units, but the crisis in Albania forced their use in such a manner. In this case, the 48º fanteria was missing battalion (likely broken up to replace losses in the other two battalions) , so the btg. complementi was was incorporated as the new III btg.

I will check the Greek officials, but that will take time as translating Greek requires much more effort to accomplish.

Pista! Jeff
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New Member
Jeff and DrG, thank you very much for the prompt replies; Jeff, thanks in advance for the Greek translation.

DrG, it just seems that most of the battles -- that I am reading about -- occur in hills or mountains. I stated "urban," but that is just a generalization, i.e. something different than Hill 731 -- the new book Mussolini's Defeat at Hill 731, March 1941: How the Greeks Halted Italy's Albanian Offensive by Carr -- or any number of mountains mentioned in the Abridged History.

Again, thank you both!