Battlefield Archaeology: Wartime graffiti at the forgotten barracks of WW2

Bunker Archaeology, Interviews, WW2, WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

Photos: Panagiotis Brokos



Battlefield Archaeology: One of the last battles of WW2 in May 1945 


 Wartime graffiti: Soldier artists turn their barracks into an art gallery  


Battlefield Archaeology: The rare relics of Leros, 1943 


Battlefield Archaeology: The nazi bunker at the village of “Zorba the Greek”


Battlefield Archaeology: Heroes or villains? An insider’s view on WW2 battle relics excavation

Rodos island was under Italian occupation from 1912 up until 1943, when Italy capitulated and swiftly changed sides.


Following the capitulation, the Germans quickly took over control of Rodos, which was an important base, with airfields and other military installations, which were of strategic importance, due to the island’s proximity to the Middle East and at the crossroads of Europe with Asia.

Location of Kalavarda village in Rodos island, Greece
Location of Kalavarda village in Rodos island, Greece

Researcher Panagiotis Brokos from Rodos Island shared with photos of the military barracks, used by both the Italians and the Germans during World War Two.


“The barracks are still there” Panagiotis Brokos says and adds: “We can see the graffiti and the paintings the soldiers did, but unfortunately no immediate plans to preserve them, as a testimony of the occupation of Rodos Island by both Italians and Germans during WW2, have been made”.

“Nec temere nec timide” – According to Polish researcher Marcin Pruski “Gdańsk was a free city (Freie Stadt Danzig) before WW II, but was German in the past, up until the end of WW I. Before 1939 nazi activities in the city was quite intensive, and Hitler claimed rights to Danzig/Gdansk. It was a matter of honour for the Third Reich. WW2 started in Danzig, at Westerplatte, 1 IX 1939. Polish citizens of Freie Stadt Danzig were killed or sent to concentration camps. In the city itself military schools and bases were existing, including the old artillery school in which Rommel was a cadet. In March 1945 the city was declared a Festung (fortress) by order of Hitler and liberated by Red Army,with over 80% of city destroyed.”

The barracks are located in Kalavarda village and after the Italians surrendered, they were used by Sturm-Division Rhodos which was formed by order of OKH on 19 May 1943 and the formation process  started during the last days of May 1943.

“Praise what makes one hard”

Basically upgrading Sturmbrigade Rhodos (staff), the division received elements of 22. Infanterie-Division (troops garrisoned on the Island already : Stab I./GR 16, 2./ and 3./GR 16, 8./ and 11./GR 65, Pz.Jg.Kp) and various smaller units stationed on the Aegean Islands of Festungs-Division Kreta and 999. Leichte Afrika-Division, which weren’t transferred to North Africa in spring 1943.


On 8 September 1943, the Italian garrison on the island of Kastelorizo surrendered to a British detachment, which was reinforced during the following days by ships of the Allied navies.

The next day a British delegation, headed by Lord Jellicoe, was dropped by parachute on Rhodes, in order to persuade the Italian commander, Admiral Inigo Campioni, to join the Allies.


This was followed by the immediate reaction of the most important German force in the Dodecanese, the 7,500-strong Assault Division “Rhodes” (Sturm-Division Rhodos) commanded by Generalleutnant Ulrich Kleemann, and stationed on the administrative center of the Dodecanese Islands, the Island of Rhodes.

Without waiting for the Italians to decide, Kleemann attacked the 40,000-strong Italian garrison on 9 September, and forced it to surrender by 11 September. This successful operation earned him the Oakleaves to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.


On 17 October 1944 the division was formally dissolved. A smaller number of divisional units remained on the Island, Pz.Abt. Rhodos was amongst them.

Larger parts of the division were incorporated to Panzergrenadier-Division Brandenburg, when the former Division Brandenburg (commando operations) was restructured to an ordinary combat formation near Belgrade in October 1944.



The divisional staff was used to reform the staff of IV. Pz.Korps. The duty on the Island of Rhodos was overtaken by Kommandant Ost-Ägäis.

With this command the remaining former Sturm-Division elements, together with all army units on the island under command of Panzergrenadier-Brigade Rhodos until December 1944, surrendered to British Forces on 8 May 1945.