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HEROES OF THE RESISTANCE

OPERATION HARLING

On the night of 25 November 1942, a coalition of Greek resistance fighters and British-led Special Operations Executive (SOE) forces carried out one of the most dramatic and effective acts of sabotage of WWII.

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Operation Harling saw a twelve man SOE team of British, New Zealand, Indian and Greek soldiers, in cooperation with 130 Greek resistance fighters, blow up the important railway viaduct at Gorgopotamos. The successful attack significantly disrupted the vital supply lines for Rommel’s Afrika Korps in North Africa.

In a rare moment of cooperation, both the communist-led ELAS (Greek People’s Liberation Army) and their centre-right foes in the EDES (National Democratic Greek League) came together for the operation.

For the sabotage to work they first had to clear Italian garrisons at both ends of the bridge. As dusk fell they attacked under moonlight, clearing the pillboxes at the south end of the bridge with relative ease. The north end proved more difficult but after intense fighting they secured both sides of the bridge. Soldiers climbed down the steep gorge with eight mules carrying explosives used to destroy the viaduct. Remarkably they suffered no fatalities and killed at least 30 Italian soldiers, and the successful operation severed the only railway line between Piraeus and Thessalonika for six weeks.

While the collaboration between different parts of the Greek resistance movement was fleeting, the operation’s success motivated thousands more to join resistance movements, and this act of resistance has remained a source of inspiration for Greeks to this day.

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