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Metaxas Line: Wikis


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German artillery shelling the Metaxas Line.

The Metaxas Line was a chain of fortifications constructed along the line of the Greco-Bulgarian border, designed to protect Greece in case of a Bulgarian invasion during World War II. It was named after Ioannis Metaxas, the then dictatorial ruler of Greece, and chiefly consists of tunnels that led to observatories, emplacements and machine-gun nests. The constructions are so sturdy that they survive to this day, some of which are still in active service. Some of them are open to the public.

The Metaxas Line fortifications consist of 22 independent clusters, the largest of which is Fort Roupel as it covers 6.1 out of the 155 km of the full line and had been constructed at a height of 322 m. Illumination was initially mostly provided by oil-lamps, although generators were also installed. (Currently, the fortifications are supplied with public electricity, but they are also equipped with generators). Ventilation was achieved both naturally and artificially. Water was supplied via water-mains. The fortification works lasted four years and their cost at the time reached 100,400,000 drachmas.


Before the outbreak of World War II, the additions made to the Roupel Fortress were considered to be too weak. Thus, it was decided that further fortifications should be constructed, not only in that particular region, but also along the entire northern Greek borderline. The plans were drawn up in 1935 and work began at Kerkini in 1936. The original intention was that the full fortifications' line reach as far along the border as Ormenion. Greece, however, became involved in World War II in 1940, thus preventing completion. At the war’s outbreak, the fortification line had only reached Komotini, Thrace and was 155km long.

Like the Maginot Line on the Franco-German border, the Metaxas Line was outflanked by German forces specifically when the Germans invaded Greece in April 1941 through Yugoslavia. The Germans initially attacked the Metaxas Line but they were unable to go through it because of the heavy resistance they encountered, so they decided to outflank the Line by moving troops to Greece through the Greek-Yugoslav border which was poorly defended. German forces surrounded the Metaxas Line but the soldiers continued to resist the waves of attacks. The Greek Army surrendered on 21 April but the soldiers and officers kept on fighting until 23 April when the Germans used tear gas to force the defenders to emerge from the fortifications. German General Wilhelm List, who led the attack against the Metaxas Line, admired the bravery and courage of these soldiers. He took no prisoners and declared that the army was free to leave with their war flags, on condition that they surrender their arms and supplies. He also ordered his soldiers and officers to salute the Greek soldiers. The line was also poorly manned as most of the Greek Army was fighting against the Italians, on the Albanian frontier.

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