Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How England Saved Greece During WWII

Despite the fact that England was struggling to feed her own citizens during WWII, there were many Britons who realized that other Allied countries were suffering from hunger; some because the country relied on imports no longer being delivered, others because of occupation by the Axis powers. One country whose population of women and children were starving because of enemy occupation was Greece.

Located at the southernmost part of the Balkan Peninsula and covering an area slightly smaller than the state of Alabama, Greece had a population of just over seven million when the war began. Eighty percent of the country is mountainous with Mount Olympus being its highest peak.

In 1940, Fascist Italy called for Greece’s surrender. When Greece refused, the Italians attacked beginning the Greco-Italian War. After brutal fighting, the Greeks were victorious, and Churchill praised them saying, “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but we will say that heroes fight like Greeks.”

Unfortunately victory was short-lived, and Greece was defeated in 1941 by the Germans during the Battle of Greece. Even Hitler recognized the valor of the Greek troops when he said, “Historical justice obliges me to state that of the enemies who took up positions against us, the Greek soldier particularly fought with the highest courage. He capitulated only when further resistance had become impossible and useless.”

The country was broken into three regions, ruled separately by the Nazis, Fascist Italy, and Bulgaria. Reports indicate that treatment of the Greek people was brutal. Over 100,000 died of starvation, while thousands more died at the hands of the Nazis. For each act of the Greek Resistance, multiple reprisals such as executions and destruction of whole towns and villages, were meted out by the German occupiers. Greek Jews were sent to concentration camps.

A group of Quakers, Oxford academics, and social activists learned what was happening and came together in 1942 to form The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. One of several local committees created in support of the National Famine Relief committee, their goal was to persuade the British government to allow food relief through the Allied blockade to occupied Greece. Successful in their lobbying, the group went on to raise over £10,000 (£370,000 in today’s money) for the Greek Red Cross.

After the war, Oxfam (as it came to be known) began to provide humanitarian relief in all parts of the world. The organization currently has programs in over seventy developing countries.

A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Shenton Matchett is the author of Love's Harvest and Love Found in Sherwood Forest. Under Fire, the first book in her trilogy about WWII War Correspondent/amateur sleuth Ruth Brown will be released on July 25, 2017. Visit Linda at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com


  1. History that is not will known. Thank you for sharing this informative post.

  2. I loved learning about this "unknown to me" relief effort. Thank you for sharing!