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Greek Army - 1897

The Greek Army is the product of the repeated changes which it has undergone for seventy years under the direction of French and Bavarian instructors. In the year 1892 it received its present organisation on the basis of universal conscription, introduced as far back as 1878. Service begins with the twenty-first year and lasts thirty years. This includes 2 years in the standing army, 10 years in the reserve, 8 years in the territorial army (Landwehr) and 10 years more in the Landwehr Reserve.

During this time the troops of the reserve are liable to be called out twice for a fortnight's training, and under special circumstances, after the last year of completed service, they may be retained with the colours for a further period of 3 or 4 months. On the other hand, the Landwehr is not called out for training, and though in case of war they are liable for service in the field, would probably be relegated to garrison duty.

The Landwehr Reserve could only be called out if the numbers of the Landwehr were insufficient. The latter had no military organisation at all. The Landwehr is divided into 8 Classes of 12,000 men = 96,000, which yields after the deduction of 20 percent some 76,800 men. The Landwehr Reserve may be set down at 57,000 men. It will be easily understood, however, that with defective measures for mobilisation, constant financial difficulties, and other hindrances, these numbers were never even approximately reached. The Landwehr and its Reserve must consequently be regarded only as a depot for troops in making an estimate of the military power of Greece. The annual contingent of recruits in the late 1890s reached 11,000 men, of which 8,000 presented themselves. As a rule about 1000 men a year escaped conscription.

The standing army of 1897 consisted, in time of peace of 10 Infantry Regiments of 3 Battalions each, 3 Cavalry Regiments, 3- Artillery Regiments, and 1 Regiment of Engineers; making a total of 38 Battalions, 12 Squadrons, n field and 9 mountain batteries, and 10 Companies of Engineers; at most 25,000 men. Among these are included about 1,900 Officers, with about 33,000 horses and mules.

For purposes of war this force was organised in 3 Corps of from 12 to 14 Battalions, 4 Squadrons, and 6 or 7 Batteries each, according to their destination. To form the reserves of an army in the field, theoretically there should be 9 Infantry Battalions, 47 Battalions of Rifles, 36 Squadrons of Cavalry, 68 Field Batteries, and 39 Companies of Engineers.

For the actual Reserve there were in round numbers 125,000 men bound to serve with the colours, but as they had neither staff organisation, nor arms, nor equipment, they cannot be regarded as playing a very important part in the defence of the country. Since 1880 the Infantry had been armed with Gras rifles; but through neglect and the want of proper care, most of them were probably far from being serviceable weapons; there was said to be in store a total of 120,000 Gras, 50,000 Chassepots, and 6,000 arms of other patterns.

The supply of horses for the cavalry was one of the weakest points in the Greek army system; one third of the peace establishment was always deficient, and of the remaining two thirds, 50 percent in round numbers, were utterly unfit for service. The native horses being but little suitable for purposes of war, the cavalry was almost entirely dependent for its supply on foreign countries.

The Artillery was divided into 3 Regiments, two with 7 batteries each, and one with 6 batteries. Of these some were armed with 87 mm. guns (= 3.45 in.) and some with 75 mm. guns, (= 3 in. very nearly). One or two of the mountain batteries had guns of the latter calibre. Besides these there was a company of Artillery artificers, and a company of Artillery Train. Altogether there were 86 Field and 54 Mountain guns, being respectively 16 and 51 guns short of the necessary complement. The prescribed military training of 40 days for the reserve, and 15 days for the Landwehr had never been seriously enforced.

The ordinary training of the troops has latterly been more and more neglected partly in consequence of the low numbers, and partly on account of the multifarious duties required of the troops on the frontier, as police, and in the repression of brigandage. The small interest taken by the Officers in the training of the troops was still further diminished by the political events of the country, especially the elections, the changes of ministry, and by the financial as well as political difficulties by which the country had always been beset.

The young and inexperienced subalterns were without practice, stimulus, or authoritative supervision by their superiors. The War Ministry was compelled by lack of funds to discontinue the rifle practice of the Infantry entirely, and to reduce that of the Artillery to a minimum. As far as the military development of the troops is concerned therefore, the last few years had been almost entirely lost.

One of the most mischievous features in the Greek army is the share taken by the Officers in political life. In the year 1895, for example, 104 Officers came forward as candidates in the parliamentary elections, of whom 30 were chosen as representatives. Even if this share in politics cannot strictly be measured by the standards of Western Europe (for the sympathy of the army with the public life of such newly-erected constitutions as the Balkan States is unavoidable), it nevertheless is certain that these conditions are fatal to the spirit and discipline of the respective armies.

The continuous disorders that had troubled Turkey for years, and the grave defects of the Turkish system of government upon which these disorders threw light, roused in Greece the hope of a speedy breaking-up of Turkey. At the same time the conviction had deepened that the Greek military system in its present condition was by no means fitted to support, or eventually to defend, the Greek claims upon the inheritance to which they hoped to succeed.

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Page last modified: 27-08-2016 15:34:56 ZULU