Battlefield Archaeology: The forgotten bunkers of 1943

WW2, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

Photos & Research by Andreas Galanos

Archive photos by Tony Rogers, submitted via Andreas Galanos

Capture
Map of Leros, where the battles took place in 1943

The Eastern Aegean was the setting for a series of German air-sea landings, something not normally associated with the Wehrmacht.

Leros Island, 1943: German infantry carried out beach assaults and, unusually, Fallschirmjäger were deployed in their intended role as paratroopers, more than two years after sustaining frightful losses in Crete.
Both sides relied on air and naval forces, as well as conventional and unconventional ground forces.
German paratroopers were drawn from the Luftwaffe and Division Brandenburg; the latter also fielded coastal raiders and assault troops.
Respected researcher Andreas Galanos walked around the battlefields in Leros and shared his photos with www.ww2wrecks.com  

FURTHER READING ON THE BATTLE OF LEROS (CLICK THE LINKS IN RED TO READ THE STORIES AND SEE MORE PHOTOS):

 

Battlefield Archaeology: The rare relics of Leros, 1943

 

The Battles for Kos and Leros, 1943 – the new edition of “Churchill’s Folly”

 

 

Autumn 1943: Operation “Taifun”, the Battle for Leros, the tragic end of the LRDG and the defeat of the British

 

 

Leros Island, 1943: The underwater museum of WW2 aircraft wrecks and shipwrecks

 

 

The Heinkel He111 of Leros, shot down on 14 November 1943

 

 

Then and Now: Operation “Taifun”, the Battle for Leros, 1943-2016

 

 

WW2 German Stuka Ju87 aircraft shot down in 1943 recovered in Leros

 

 

Hellenic Air Force Museum – The wings of history

 

ME_14
The forgotten battle of Gun Emplacement “1”. Defended by Italians who fought on the side of the Allies on the last day of the Battle of Leros, this position still echoes the battle cries of 1943. When Captain Werther Cacciattori, commander of the battery,  realised that the Germans managed to neutralise the British defenders, he requested and received authorisation from the British Command to turn the gun against the Germans at a distance of approximately 250 metres. When the ammo was exhausted, he left the gun emplacement and with Pietro Caveccale he used the 20 mm antiaircraft gun. The Germans were forced to take cover, stall their advance and flee, but Cacciattori was severely injured in a “duel”, as he described it, with a German officer. At the sight of his wounded Commander, Caveccale charged on his own against the Germans and went after the German Officer who injured his Captain.  After the battle, the body of Caveccale was found, lying over a German Officer, with his bayonet still on the German’s chest. Caveccale was posthumously awarded  the highest Italian military distinction, the “Golden Medal of Military Merit» (Medaglia d’oro al Valor Militare, M.O.V.M.).

 

Battlefield Archaeology: The rare relics of Leros, 1943

ME_16
“VIETATO FUMARE”, “Smoking is not allowed”, an Italian sign outside the ammunition dump, which survives to this day

The Battles for Kos and Leros, 1943 – the new edition of “Churchill’s Folly”

ME_19
Italian layout of the gun positions in Merovigli, Leros (Photo: Tony Rogers)

Then and Now: Operation “Taifun”, the Battle for Leros, 1943-2016

ME_20
Italian layout of the Headquarters. In the first level, Comando attico & Osservatorio, in the second level section of the hill with the exit. In the third level, the internal passageway that connects it to Headquarters (Photo: Tony Rogers)

 

MΕ_5
The west exit of the Allied Headquarters. Elements of the 3/1 Brandenburg Battalion had blocked the exit. In Tilney’s words: “I moved from the western exit and my helmet was seen and attracted German machine gun bursts . I looked over the entrance to the top towards the east. While I did this, a German standing right over me, did not manage to kill me with his machine gun and grenades, I still cannot understand how he missed”.

The Heinkel He111 of Leros, shot down on 14 November 1943

ΜΕ_3
Panoramic view of the observation post over the port of Aghia Marina in the background. On the last day of the battle the Germans were there, just above the headquarters, having trapped inside the British. Brigadier Tilney described their plight as follows: “I knew that the enemy was at the top of our observation post. Headquarters seemed completely trapped. The Germans were like hunters, standing outside a rabbit hole”. (Brigadier Tilney, Operations Report, Leros, 12-16 November 1943).

WW2 German Stuka Ju87 aircraft shot down in 1943 recovered in Leros

ΜΕ_4
The eastern exit of the Allied Headquarters in Merovigli, Leros.  Right here, from the afternoon of November 12, 1943 (the first day of the Battle) the British were burning secret documents and cryptographic codes. But this early destruction, especially the communication codes, hindered the direction of the battle. Signals to the General Headquarters Middle East were essentially “open” to the Germans, while the already inadequate communications, were now made by messengers (according to eye witness journalist Marshland Gander correspondent of the “Daily Telegraph” newspaper) The east exit was the first to be blocked by the Germans who attacked from Kastro and Apitiki.

Hellenic Air Force Museum – The wings of history

ΜΕ_6
Inside view of the Merovigli bunkers, as they are today.
ΜΕ_7
Another view of the bunkers in Merovigli in a contemporary photo. British and Italians remained hidden there, while the Battle raged on the surface of the island for 5 days.

ΜΕ_8

ΜΕ_9

ΜΕ_10
The opening which connects the bunker with the observation post at the top of the hill.
ΜΕ_12
Machine gun emplacement, camouflaged with rocks from the surrounding area.
ΜΕ_13
Another machine gun emplacement, which was also used post-WW2 by the Greek Army

ΜΕ_15

ΜΕ_17
The gun control notes are still visible to this day

ΜΕ_18

 

WW2 Wrecks welcomes and encourages readers to comment and engage in respectful conversation about the content posted here.
We value thoughtful, polite and concise comments that reflect a variety of views.

Name:*
E-mail:*
Comments:
Type the characters you see here: