By Pierre Kosmidis
Photos: Khaki Depot
It is one of those instances when a book manages to be a point of reference from the moment of its publication, both for the variety and depth of its documentation, as well as for its design, with the rare photographs of the era it includes, or with the drawings and illustrations by Nikos Panos.
A result of hard work, many years of research and arduous search for evidence from various sources, the book by Dimitrios A. Papadopoulos Hellenic Army Soldier 1938-1941 is a valuable help for the history buff, the researcher, the reenactor, but also all those interested in this turbulent period of Greek history.
The book is written in English and is available online at www.khakidepot.com at the price of 55.00 euro for Greece, 62.00 euro for Europe and 66.00 euro for America and the rest of the world including shipping costs.
What was the stimulus for writing the book?
When the research for the reconstruction of the fabric of the uniform of the Greek soldier began, the need for a brief manual for the reenactor of the period 1940-41 was immediately apparent, as the information about that period time was virtually non-existent, both in Greece as well as internationally.
However, the need to further elaborate the research, led us to look back to previous work we had done and in order to make it a point of reference we edited the information, making it easy to refer to, both for researchers, as well as reenactors, regarding insignia, uniforms, equipment, arms and other items.
The book is a reference point for researchers, filmmakers, collectors and reenactors. How difficult was the process of collecting the material presented on its pages, but also its documentation, with archival information and photos?
Documentation is always the hardest, most time consuming, and most important reference point in books such as this one. The collection of information began almost three decades ago, as the image of the Greek soldier of 140-41 that was available to the general public was based on 1960s movies, which were not accurate at all, in terms of equipment and materiel used.
We relied on photographic, documentary and oral sources, as well as painstakingly researching Legislative Decrees, Presidential and Royal Decrees, Laws, Military Regulations and a relatively extensive bibliography of contemporary military journals.
The help of friends who embraced the project was also important, giving us access to their files and collections, while their input was crucial in cross-checking information and sources.
Evaluating the equipment used by the Greek soldier during the period of 1940-41, what conclusions do you draw, in terms of adequacy, quality, but also utility and efficiency in general?
Despite the hard work of the governments after the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the dictatorial regime of Ioannis Metaxas to reform the Greek Army and provide it with modern equipment, the examination of the evidence actually highlights widespread corruption.
The Greek Army’s uniform and fabric were mainly based on similar French patterns, but the weaving was entrusted to private companies that tried in various ways to reduce production costs at the expense of durability and quality, which was evident in the end result.
From the beginning, there was no plan to deal with the extreme weather conditions in which the Greek soldier was called upon to fight.
As an example, boots usually lost their soles when they were soaked in mud and the Y straps were seldom cut.
A fire, possibly an arson, at the Piraeus military equipment warehouse in the summer of 1940 destroyed more than 90,000 complete sets (along with the possible proof of corruption) resulting in the provision of materials from older supplies with all the risks that this entails.
From the testimonies of fighters, we see that the main shortcomings in the combat divisions were helmets, boots, blankets, raincoats and underwear as the equipment piled up in Ioannina, due to adverse weather conditions.
The General Staff reacted relatively quickly by redesigning the uniform Mod.38, improved the design of the boots, simplified the webbing, designed the ski uniform from scratch and introduced protective uniforms such as woolen leggings, gloves, scarves and snow camouflage.
The illustration of the book is the work of Mr. N. Panos.
Nikos Panos is an internationally renowned illustrator with participation in over 45 publications in Greece and internationally.
In this edition, in addition to the amazing illustration, the page layout and the design of the maps, he also edited the commentary of the battle uniforms of the officers and the insignia, as this is the subject of his current study.
How important is his contribution to the accurate depiction of the 1940 soldier?
Because the book was largely based on photographs and in the context of the regulatory provisions of each period (about 3,000 photographs from my personal collection ranging from 1925 to 1941 were evaluated), I believe that we depicted as accurately as possible the image of the soldiers and officers, as well as auxiliary and paramilitary units.
Tell us a lesser known story that came to light through your book.
Many unknown stories came to light, but the main one was that the new uniform was distributed at the frontline, so photos that we could not identify were thus explained and that the GHQ was preparing with improvements and new material designs for another winter war.
He studied Archaeological Preservation in Florence and worked at the excavations of Dion and Maronia, with archaeologists Pantermalis and Pentazos.
Today, he works with museums, collectors, movie/TV productions and reenactors with exact replicas of costumes of various historical periods while, at the same time, he is the co-founder of KHAKI DEPOT.
In 1999, with the Historical Archives Preservation Company, the Institute for Defense Analysis, and the Greek GHQ, he organized and edited the first in Greece, Cd-Rom, for the tactics, uniforms and equipment of the organizations of the National Resistance, of the period 1941-44, which is also published later as a book/ Cd-Rom by Hellenic Post Publications.
He has worked with the Army Cadets Armament Museum, the National Resistance Museums in Therissos and Karpenisi, and in 2012 for the Centennial of the Balkans Wars 1912-1913 under Nikos Panos guidance, creating uniforms and editing the exhibits used by the Royal Hellenic Navy during 1912-1913.
His book “ELAN The Greek People’s Liberation Navy 1943-1945” was published in 2007 .
In 2012, under the Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Program of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, organized by the National Technical University of Athens, on issues surrounding “Technology in Greece 20 th Century, 1922-2012″ he presented his work “The War of Trains 1940 -1944, Technologies of Resistance” which is part of the two-volume work with the same title.
“Greek Gas Masks 1916-1944” and “Operation Stay Behind in Greece 1942-1945 “are under publication.
Since 1985, he has been publishing articles on the uniforms and equipment of various historical periods in magazines in Greece and abroad, such as Modern Army, Panzer, Military History, Rivista Italiana Difesa, Histoire & Collections.
Nikos Panos was born in Athens in 1961.
He studied illustration and composition, costume design, graphic design and product design at Ontario College, Canada.
Since 1982 he has been working as a freelance designer-illustrator, having undertaken the creation of illustrations, books, magazine covers, historical maps for public and private institutions in Greece, Europe, Canada and the USA.
Since 1999 he has devoted himself to researching and depicting historical uniforms from antiquity to the present day, such as depictions of Greek shield emblems ( “Symbols of 300” , “Symbols of Attica, Persian Wars” ) and illustration of a three-language book “Playing in Ancient Greece” for the Museum of Cycladic Arts.
His major work is the redesign of the official Greek Navy uniform Regulation (in use since 1986), uniforms at the Salamanca Historical Museum (Spain), the Balkan War Department at the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle and the Thessaloniki War Museum, the Museum of the Army Cadets, the Naval Museum of Piraeus and at the Floating Museum of the Battleship Averof.
In 2005, he was honored with the ΕΥΓΕ/Greek Graphic Design & Illustration Award (GGDA), for the 59 art plates he painted as part of the multimedia installation “The Battle of Gravia Hani”, at the Museum of the Municipality of Gravia as a framework of EU Development Programs.