There are a few myths around about Greek Armoured Vehicles in World War II, and a couple of very wild stories! Here is a brief summary of the known types, and hopefully it will help in the de-bunking of one or two of the myths and inaccuracies!
During 1919-1920 Greece attempted to purchase Renault FT-17's from France. However when the Greeks became involved in their military "adventure" in Asia Minor at this time, France blocked the export of the tanks (said to be an order for 25-30 FT-17's). According to some sources (including Greek ones) no FT-17's were ever received, then or later. However other sources say Greece
acquired an FT-17 for trials in the late 1920's, and that numbers of FT-17's (possibly only 10) were ordered and delivered around 1929-1930. Although the exact number delivered is not known, Greece supposedly still had 11 FT-17's "on the books" as at the Italian Invasion on 28 October 1940.
In 1926 Greece was toying with the formation of a "Tank Regiment". The idea did not last long, but it did result in some one-off purchases for trials and experimentation. One such purchase was the NC-21 Light Tank from France. This vehicle was ordered and delivered around 1929-1930 and after extensive trials during the 1930's it was eventually scrapped. This NC-21 may be the same vehicle as the FT-17 ordered for trials in the paragraph above, the various sources confusing the real identity of the vehicle (although this doesn't explain the other 10 FT-17's supposedly present on 28 October 1940).
Also in the later 1920's Greece apparently ordered one Fiat-3000 Light Tank from Italy. We have found no proof Greece ever actually had any of these Italian copies of the FT-17, however, several authors insist they did. Therefore we can only conclude this was a case like the FT-17/NC-21, and a vehicle was purchased for trials and probably scrapped or mothballed before 1940.
Meanwhile also in the 1920's, Greece purchased several Peerless Armoured Lorries from Great Britain (who no longer needed them in Ireland), and they were used during the various Coup d'etats in Greece over the following 10+ years. In 1923 Vickers were contracted for “Armouring 10 Peerless Lorries” for Greece, but it is unclear whether these were new vehicles or ex-Ireland. The cost of this contract was £7,162.00. By 1935-1938, the various armoured lorries were probably no longer in service.
In 1930-31 Greece purchased two Mark VI Vickers-Carden Lloyd 1.5-ton Tankettes along with two trailers. These cost £2,900.00 and were purchased after trials in Greece in 1929. With the two Vickers “6-tonners”
(below) they were formed into a short lived “Tank” Battalion. It is suggested that these were part of the 9-10 “Non-Italian” Tanks that equipped one of the Light Tank Battalions in the 19th Motorised Division in 1941. However, it seems very unlikely these would still have been fit for use by this time.
In 1931 Greece also purchased two Type-E Vickers-Armstrong 6.9-ton Light Tanks, one Mark A with 2 x .303 MG turrets and one Mark B with a single 47mm (3pdr) turret. Cost was £11,897.00, the order being placed on 02 November 1930 and delivered on 22 August 1931. With the two Vickers-Carden Lloyd Tankettes
(above) they were formed into a short lived “Tank” Battalion. These vehicles were later fitted with Vickers Laryngaphone Internal Communications equipment at additional cost shortly after arriving in Greece. It is suggested that these too were also part of the 9-10 “Non-Italian” Tanks that equipped one of the Light Tank Battalions in the 19th Motorised Division in 1941. However, it seems unlikely these
too would still have been fit for use by this time either and more likely; they had been scrapped or disassembled.
During the 1930’s trials were also held in Greece with various Vickers Armstrong tracked tractors and folding boat equipment - However none of these resulted in an order being placed by the Greek Army. Greece also ordered several ADGZ Armoured Cars from Austria
in the mid-1930's, but when Hitler conducted Anschluss with Austria, all foreign orders were cancelled and the equipment used to equip the Wehrmacht and newly expanding SS. Consequently Greece never received it's order (although at least one author has
erroneously recorded Greece as receiving these).
Greek sources state fourteen 6-ton or 7-ton Light Tanks were ordered from France and/or the United Kingdom in 1937, but that these were withheld when ready for delivery in 1938 due to the impending war. Whether some or all of these were French Tanks, such as H-35, R-35, or even older NC-21’s, or British vehicles such as Mk.V or Mk.VI Light Tanks, or older model Tankettes is unknown, as is whether any of them were actually delivered. It seems most likely these were Vickers types ordered from Britain rather than French vehicles, and that none were ever delivered. This order however may be the source of the other mysterious FT-17's listed at the top of the page (or vice versa) - as some authors may have assumed these were delivered (as at least one assumed with the ADGZ Armoured Cars above).
Britain supplied large numbers of Vickers Bren Carriers to Greece during the course of the 1940-41 campaign. However, the full allocation was never completed due to German intervention. 100 Carriers were delivered to Greece (some arriving only days before the German invasion), of which the 19th Motorised Division used 77. The Bren carriers not issued to the 19th Motorised Division were formed into a Training Company of
14 Vehicles that remained “in the interior”. The other 9 are currently unaccounted for, and may not have been delivered, may have been in transit at the time of the German attack, may have been losses in transit, or may even be the 9 "mystery" tanks in the 3rd Motorised Regiment's Light Tank Battalion’s Tank Company (19th Motorised Division).
Meanwhile the Greeks captured over 45 Italian L3 Tankettes during the course of the campaign. Of these, at least 35 were used operationally, some being given to the Motorised Cavalry Regiment, then later to the 19th Motorised Division. Some were used by the Motorised Cavalry Regiment in 1940, shortly after their capture. Later Twenty-seven were issued to the 19th Motorised Division (9 each for it’s 3 Light Tank Battalions). However some Greek sources state that only 18-20 L3 Tankettes (9 or 10 each to two of the Light Tank Battalions) were issued, and that the remaining 9-10 vehicles in the Division (equipping one Light Tank Battalion) were British Vickers Models (type unspecified). One or two odd vehicles were also used by the Greek units that captured the vehicles during the first months of the campaign.
Although the Greeks appear to have
captured 1 or 2 Italian M13/40 Medium Tanks later in the
campaign, none were apparently in a suitably serviceable
condition to warrant salvage as there is no mention of any
effort to utilise these.
The United Kingdom had also agreed to supply Greece 40 Ex-Dutch M1936 Carden-Lloyd 3.8-ton Tankettes in
early 1941, after the original order was cancelled when delivery was made impossible following the fall of Holland. They were to be used to form a single “Cruiser” Tank Regiment (Battalion) for the Greek 19th Motorised Division - However none were delivered due to the fall of Greece. Instead, the British Army in England
endign up using them as training vehicles.
Britain had however (supposedly) agreed to supply Mk.VIB Light Tanks for the newly formed Greek 19th Motorised Division. However, none were shipped before the end of the campaign. Some sources claim Greece did actually receive 6 or 9 of these, while another says 4 or 6 were handed over by the 4th Hussars while in Greece. Finally at least one claims a Mk.VIC was supplied to the Greeks, however since 4th Hussars had only 52 Mk.VIB’s in Greece (and there were only a couple of Mk.VIC’s in the entire Mediterranean Theatre
at that time) this seems most improbable. All of these reports are unsubstantiated and there are no records in the Vickers Quarterly Reports of any shipments direct from the U.K. These claims therefore seem unlikely but would certainly answer the mystery of the third Light Tank Battalion’s equipment. We would welcome any info anyone has on these, particularly from Published Memoirs or Official Histories relating to 4th Hussars.
So to summarise, at the time of the Italian invasion on 28 October 1940, Greece had (or may have had,
or had had) the following Armoured Vehicles, any still present were probably in the states listed:
1 NC-21 (or FT-17) Light Tank (probably scrapped or unserviceable),
10 FT-17 Light Tanks (probably never actually existed, otherwise would
certainly be unserviceable),
2 Vickers Tankettes (probably scrapped or long since unserviceable),
2 Vickers Medium Tanks (probably mothballed or effectively unserviceable).
Although it is claimed by various authors these all saw service in the first few months of the campaign on the Albanian Front Greek sources do not support this view. They are consistent in their absence of any reference to Tanks other than captured Italian L3 Tankettes.
However it is a wonderfully romantic notion that the Greeks bravely cobbled
together a unit of all these antiquated and obsolete vehicles and in the early
days of the campaign bravely went forth in them to do battle with the mighty
So to summarise, during the course of the campaign Greece acquired
and utilised the following vehicles:
45+ L3 Tankettes captured from Italian forces (and about 35 used operationally, balance scrapped for parts),
100 or so Bren Carriers from Britain (part of a larger order of about 180 that wasn't completed),
4-10 Mk.VIB and/or Mk.VIC Light Tanks (which is currently unsubstantiated by
any primary sources).
Otherwise Greece had no other AFVs at her disposal (other than perhaps a handful
of old or improvised armoured lorries).