Kos and Leros 1943: Interview with the author Anthony Rogers on the German conquest of the Dodecanese

Aircraft wrecks, Interviews, WW2, WW2 in Greece, WW2 Wrecks

By Pierre Kosmidis

Photos by Anthony Rogers/Osprey Publishing, used by permission of the author

 

You can order the book by clicking HERE

Acclaimed author and researcher Anthony Rogers‘ new book “Kos and Leros 1943: The conquest of the Dodecanese by the Germans”  published by Osprey is set to hit the bookshelves soon.

www.ww2wrecks.com has reached out to Mr. Rogers, in order to discuss the events that unfolded in that forgotten episode of WW2 in the Aegean Sea, which proved to be the last strategic victory of the Germans in the Mediterranean.

The cover of Anthony Rogers' new book, which can be purchased via Osprey Publishing at https://ospreypublishing.com/kos-and-leros-1943
The cover of Anthony Rogers’ new book, which can be purchased via Osprey Publishing at https://ospreypublishing.com/kos-and-leros-1943

What made you write this book, having researched in depth the events that took place in this area in your previous works?

My first book about operations in the Aegean during September–November 1943 was the very detailed Churchill’s Folly. The latest book presented an opportunity to describe events in an altogether different style, incorporating situation maps and artist illustrations, both of which are a feature of Osprey’s ‘Campaign’ series.

Unternehmen Leros. Hauptmann Helmut Dörr (looking directly at camera) at an assembly area for British prisoners of war, most or all of them NCOs and WOs. Bundesarchiv: BA 101I-528-2356-34
Unternehmen Leros: Hauptmann Helmut Dörr (looking directly at camera) at an assembly area for British prisoners of war, most or all of them NCOs and WOs. Bundesarchiv: BA 101I-528-2356-34

If you could wrap-up the lessons learned from the Kos-Leros campaigns of 1943, what would they be, from both opposing sides?

An important lesson that still applies to world leaders in time of war is that they need to know when to take a step back and heed the advice of competent military commanders.

Operation ‘Accolade’ should not have taken place, at least not without securing the primary objective: Rhodes and its airfields.

In the event, British troops were dispatched to Samos and the Dodecanese without air cover. Specialist forces were not always employed in their intended role. When battle commenced on Kos and Leros the importance of training and tactics also became very evident.

On Leros, on the British side, command and control broke down and there were problems maintaining good communications. It is easy to see where the British went wrong, while the Germans demonstrated their usual professionalism.

Kos, 3 October 1943. Kos and Leros 1943 © Osprey Publishing.
Kos, 3 October 1943. © Osprey Publishing.

Historians claim that if the British had overcome, the Dodecanese islands would be handed over to Turkey, as an exchange for Turkey’s entry into WW2 as an ally to the British. What are your thoughts on that?

For political reasons the British preferred not to include Turkish or Greek forces during the occupation of the Dodecanese.

Turkey had no intention of becoming involved, anyway, but limited Greek forces did take part in later operations.

Whatever incentives and inducements there were, Turkey was content to remain neutral and indeed did not enter the war until it became clear which side would triumph. Even then, Turkey played no part in hostilities.

BYMS 72 about to be struck by a Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb, night 11/12 November 1943. Darren Tan, from Kos and Leros 1943 © Osprey Publishing.
BYMS 72 about to be struck by a Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb, night 11/12 November 1943. Darren Tan, from Kos and Leros 1943 © Osprey Publishing.

Having visited Kos and Leros on several occasions, what is the most striking thing you have seen there?

During my first visit I was surprised at how Kos has changed: there is so little evidence of what occurred there in 1943. On Leros, however, there was and is much to see from the five-day land battle. I was struck by the friendliness of those on Leros especially. I very much enjoy spending time there.

Do you believe the locals in Kos and Leros should promote the WW2 history of their islands, if so why?

Yes, I do. The Second World War is an important part of the islands’ history. A visitor to Kos only recently commented to me that when he had enquired locally about wartime events, those he spoke to had little or no idea.

The 1943 ops in the islands is mostly overlooked on the global scale of WW2. Why is it strategically and tactically important, as an obscure chapter of WW2?

How strategically and tactically important were Aegean operations? There are different views.

Personally, I am of the opinion that a British victory, however unlikely, would have made little difference to the war in Europe.

The Allies were by then concerned mainly with pushing north through Italy. Within months, they would land in Normandy.

The Soviets, meanwhile, were rapidly gaining momentum on the Eastern Front.

The Aegean was a humiliating British defeat disparagingly referred to by the War Office as ‘a minor affair’.

I chose to research and write about events because, even if a battle might be considered insignificant, it should not be forgotten. The human element is important and the stories of those who were there need to be told.

 

ADDITIONAL READING

Kos and Leros 1943, The German conquest of the Dodecanese, by Anthony Rogers

 

Battlefield Archaeology: The forgotten bunkers of 1943

 

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

 

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

 

Identified! WW2 German Stuka Ju 87 aircraft S7+GM shot down in a dogfight on October 9 1943 recovered west of Rhodes

 

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