Now and Then: 1941-2016, rare photo from the British Expeditionary Force in Athens

Then and Now, WW2, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

A previously unpublished photo, from the personal collection of a British Army Officer, brings back to life the moment when the British Expeditionary Force entered Athens, in March 1941.

Major (his rank in 1941) E. Holding served throughout the Second World War in Egypt, mainland Greece and Crete, Libya, Tunisia, and Italy.

He actively participated in Operations Lustre and Demon (mainland Greece) as well as at the Battle of Crete.
In March 1941 Major Holding was sent from Egypt with elements of the 2nd Armoured Division to reinforce Greece (code named Operation Lustre).

The Brigade landed at Piraeus and set up camp at Voula.

By the end of April the Germans had overrun the Greek mainland & the Allies were forced to conduct a fighting withdrawal to the south for evacuation to Crete (code named operation Demon).


Major Holding took a unique collection of photographs (48 original previously unpublished), during the battle for Greece in March and April 1941.

One must bear in mind that as opposed to the German Army, which actively encouraged officers, NCO’s and soldiers to take photographs during their service, for obvious propaganda purposes, the British Army did not allow servicemen to take pictures. Only the odd officer who would not fear of any disciplinary action, would take photos at the front, therefore period photos from the Allied side are enormously scarce.

The pictures show the desert Camp and scenes in Egypt prior to leaving for Greece, the convoy approaching Piraeus Harbour, the Brigade’s camp at Voula with trucks and bell tents.

In April 1941, elements of the BEF are seen driving through Kozani main street, where Major Holding got caught in the middle of the German blitz, columns of Greek refugees trying to get away from the battle front,

Together with photos capturing important events in Athens on April 6th, 1941, the date Germany declared War against Greece, the parade of the Evzones, Greek soldiers cheering Major Holding’s car as he passes through the central streets of the capital, Greek children and youth giving the salute as the crowd sings the national anthem and last but not least the Acropolis.


In due course, the whole collection will be published exclusively