General Ioannis Metaxas became Prime Minister and dictator in Greece during 1936-1941. It was an upsurge of dictators at that time much as now. At various periods of history it seems that an energy arises which tries to restrain a liberal period of letting go and relaxing, morals degenerating perhaps but having some fun such as occurred in the 1920’s and the 1960’s. It’s as if , the chaos and apparent disorder which follows the democratic freedom to say and do as one wishes has to be curbed and quelled. Certainly, Metaxas was very right wing. He ardently supported the monarchy and was against entering the First World War which led to a fall out with the liberal, Eleftherios Venizelos, creating a National Schism which haunts Greece to this day. He was drawn into the Second World war when Italy laid down an ulitmatum and demanded that the Axis forces be allowed to enter Greece. Metaxas made the famous reply ‘Then it’s war’ which is celebrated in Greece and Cyprus as ‘Ohi Day’…the day he said ‘No’ to the Axis powers. The Italians tried to invade Greece via Albania but got stuck in the treacherous mountains. The Greeks won the war easily but their joy was short lived as this woke the Nazis to the problem of Greece and they then invaded the country themselves. It would have been better for the Greek if the Italians had invaded as they had a terrible time under the Nazis. My mother and father just managed to escape from Athens as the Nazis were advancing from Thessaloniki in April1941
Metaxas was not an evil dictator like so many others though like all such dictatorial regimes, much went on that was scarcely pleasant. However, there is a funny tale I recently read about him which shows his human side!
He was inspecting his troops one day and was invited to fly one of the sea planes. He accepted this with pleasure and set forth with another officer. As he began to come in to land, the officer with him realised he was about to try and land on a runway and tactfully suggested they land on the water as it was a sea plane. Metaxas thanked him for his courtesy and made a safe landing on the sea. He then opened the door and stepped out of the plane and into the water.