Evzones: Wikis

  
  

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Evzones changing the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Evzones, or Evzoni, (Greek: Εύζωνες, Εύζωνοι) is the name of several historical elite light infantry and mountain units of the Greek Army. Today, it refers to the members of the Proedriki Froura (Presidential Guard), an elite ceremonial unit that guards the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Άγνωστος Στρατιώτης), the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. The Evzones are also known, colloquially, as Tsoliades (Greek: Τσολιάδες; singular: Τσολιάς - Tsolias).

Though the Presidential Guard is a predominantly ceremonial unit, all Evzones are volunteers drawn from the Hellenic Army's Infantry, Artillery and Armoured Corps. Prospective Evzones are usually identified at the Army Recruit Training Centres during Basic Training; there is a minimum height requirement of 1.86 meters to join, and the soldier must serve a minimum of 6 months with an operational Army unit before beginning Evzone training.

The unit is famous around the world for its unique traditional uniform, which has evolved from the clothes worn by the klephts[1] who fought the Ottoman (Turkish) occupation of Greece. The most visible item of this uniform is the fustanella, a kilt-like garment. Their proven valour and peculiar dress turned them into a popular image for the Greek soldier, especially among foreigners.

The name Evzone is first found in Homer, and derives from "εὖ"+"ζώνη", meaning the "well-girt" men, implying an elite status. As a word it has been used by ancient writers for centuries to describe a type of light infantry of unidentified equipment.

Contents

History

After the arrival of King Otto, the Greek Army was organized in 1833 along new lines. The Bavarians that had come with Otto formed the majority of the "European" Line Infantry battalions (Τάγματα Γραμμής). In these units, one rifle company, designated "Skirmisher" (Λόχος Ακροβολιστών) or "Evzone" (Λόχος Ευζώνων), existed. In addition, ten light "Skirmisher" battalions (Τάγματα Ακροβολιστών) were formed from Greeks, dressed in a uniform based on the garb of the klephts. In 1836 these battalions were reduced to four, and eight "Mountain Guard" battalions (Τάγματα Οροφυλακής) were formed in their stead, which were grouped into four regiments in 1843. These units were primarily engaged in patrolling the Greco-Turkish border, combating insurgents and hunting down the many brigands that infested the countryside. The Mountain Guard was incorporated in the strengthened "Skirmisher" battalions in 1854.

Evzones in the 1880s

In December 1867, the first four elite "Evzone" light battalions were formed, of four companies each (soon expanded to five), with the task of guarding the frontier. On 12 December 1868, the Royal Guard detachment, initially named Agema (Άγημα), later the "Palace Guard" (Ανακτορική Φρουρά), of two Evzone infantry companies and a cavalry troop was formed. In 1880-1881, the Evzone units were expanded to nine battalions, and participated in the disastrous War with Turkey in 1897 forming part of the infantry divisions. In the aftermath of the war, through various reorganizations, the number of Evzone battalions varied from eight to six, operating either independently or divided between the infantry divisions, and were among the first units to be equipped with machine guns.

During the Balkan Wars, the eight Evzone battalions operated independently on the vanguard or the flanks of the army and distinguished themselves for their fighting spirit, but suffered high casualties, especially among officers. The Evzone units, totalling at their height five regiments, fought with distinction as elite shock troops in the First World War, the Asia Minor Campaign and the Greco-Italian War. During the German invasion, a memorable event occurred: On April 27, 1941, as the German Army was entering Athens, the Germans ascended to the Acropolis and ordered the young Evzone who was guarding the flag post, Konstantinos Koukidis, to haul the Greek flag down and replace it with the swastika flag. The young soldier did so, but refused to hand over the Greek flag to the Germans, and instead wrapped himself in it and fell off the Acropolis to his death.

Evzones in campaign uniform during the Balkan Wars.

After the occupation of the country, in 1943, the collaborationist government raised a number of "Security Battalions" (Τάγματα Ασφαλείας), which were dressed in the Evzone uniform, and participated in operations against the EAM-ELAS partisans. They were derisively known as Germanotsoliades or Tagmatasfalites, and were disbanded after liberation in 1944. After the war, the reconstituted Hellenic Army did not raise the Evzone regiments again, their elite status and role being assumed by the newly established LOK special forces, with the exception of the ceremonial unit of the Royal Guard (Βασιλική Φρουρά). In 1974, with the abolition of monarchy in Greece, the Guard was re-designated as the Proedrikē Frourá (Προεδρική Φρουρά, "Presidential Guard").

The Guard always takes precedence in all military parades. They always march in half-time, and always strike ground forcefully with their right foot. They guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier round the clock. Guards on duty perform their movements in a very slow and highly stylized manner. They switch positions with each other every fifteen minutes and remain completely motionless and at attention in the meantime. Since the Guards are required to be totally still at all times, there is police surveillance to ensure that no one approaches or harasses the Guards while on duty. The "little changes" take place every hour on the hour, and involve the two incoming and two outgoing Evzone guards, and a supervising "Corporal of the Change". The Grand Change takes place at 11 AM on Sunday mornings, and involves the whole Guard with its officers and a military band, all marching from the Guard Barracks to the Tomb for the Change, and back. The Grand Change is a popular Sunday morning spectacle for Athenians and tourists alike.

In January 2010, a makeshift bomb was placed 20 meters from where the Evzones guard the Tomb of the Unkonwn soldier, at Syntagma Square. Although the police informed the Evzones of the imminent threat, the Guards refused to leave their posts and remained on guard while the bomb exploded.

Former Units

Greek Evzones in summer service uniform changing guards at the tomb of the unknown soldier

The historical units were numbered and known as Τάγμα Ευζώνων - "Tagma (Battalion) of Evzones" - or Σύνταγμα Ευζώνων - "Regiment of Evzones." The names are usually translated in English-language works with "Evzones" as an adjective modifying the unit, instead of a possessive plural, which is a more accurate reflection of the original Greek. Since the regiments were distinctive, elite units, they had dual numbers - the first, numbering them in the Evzones hierarchy, the second, in the overall infantry hierarchy. Thus the 5/42 Evzones Regiment was the 5th Regiment of Evzones, but also the 42nd Regiment of Infantry.

  • 1/38 Evzones Regiment
  • 2/39 Evzones Regiment
  • 3/40 Evzones Regiment
  • 4/41 Evzones Regiment
  • 5/42 Evzones Regiment

Uniform

The various uniforms of the Presidential Guard.
Left to right: Cretan (ceremonial), Macedonian (winter service), traditional mainland (dress), modernised mainland (summer service), Pontic (ceremonial).

In 1833, the uniform of the Evzones (as in all infantry companies of the line battalions) was in the much-maligned Bavarian style, complete with pants, tailcoats and shako, distinguished only by green braid and plumes. In 1837, a new uniform was created based on the traditional fustanella style worn by the klephts, armatoli, and many of the famous fighters of the Greek War of Independence. At first, it was only issued to the native light infantry battalions, but its popularity led to its adoption as the official uniform of the Evzones in 1867. After a few minor changes over the years, it became the familiar uniform seen today.

The basic elements of the uniform are:

  • The phareon (φάριο), a scarlet garrison cap with a long black tassel, with the national emblem in the front.
  • A woolen foustanella kilt.
  • A cotton undershirt.
  • White woolen stockings.
  • Black-tasseled knee garters (καλτσοδέτες - kaltsodetes).
  • Red tsarouhi leather clogs with a black pompon.
  • A leather cartridge belt and a M1 Garand semi-automatic battle rifle, with bayonet.
Changing of the Evzone guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The basic color of the winter uniform tunic is navy blue and closely resembles the service uniform worn until 1910, while the summer uniform tunic is light khaki, and similar in design to the field uniform adopted by the Evzone regiments after that date. The full-dress uniform, which derives from the traditional uniform of south-mainland Greece (Sterea Hellas), is worn on Sunday, on important national holidays, at the reception of foreign dignitaries and other special occasions. It has a white, bell-sleeved shirt and a white foustanella with 400 pleats (commemorating the 400 years of Ottoman occupation[1]) with the addition of a fancy silver-brocade waistcoat. Members of the guard can also sometimes be seen in a royal blue and red uniform based on the traditional male costume of Crete, or in the black traditional habit once worn by the Pontic Greeks.

The officers are armed with a sabre instead of a rifle. Their full dress uniform is distinguished from that of enlisted men by being imperial purple with gold brocades instead of blue with silver brocades and by the substitution of buskins for the stockings. Their fustanella kilts are also longer, below the knee, as opposed to mid-thigh and their sleeve covers are worn on the arms instead of being fastened to the coat. Rank insignia are born on the phareon below the national emblem.

The phareon is similar to the fez adopted by the Ottomans which were the main enemies of the evzones. (See Origin of the fez.)

The first King of Modern Greece, Otto wore this uniform often in public. Today, many Greek boys dress up as tsoliades on Greek Independence Day.[1]

Notable Evzones

References

  1. ^ a b c [1]

External links








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