With the recent success of films like ‘300’ and ‘300: Rise Of An Empire’, you could almost feel that the Sabaton track ‘Coat Of Arms’ is about this same time period. But that is not true. On this week’s Sabaton Saturday the real background of ‘Coat Of Arms’: The Greco-Italian War.
The lyrics of this song are full of references to the past. “Descendants of Sparta, Athens and Crete” and the word “Hellas” meaning Greece. Also King Leonidas is mentioned in the refrain.
But this song is all about the descendants of this great Greek ancient times. It’s about the civilians and soldiers in the first years of World War II. On the 28th of October the Italians invaded Greek territory. Lead by Benito Mussolini, an ally of Adolf Hitler and his German army, the Italians sought to take over Greece.
Italy had already invaded Albania in 1939, as well as a couple of British strongholds in Africa. Mussolini wanted to show his Axis partner that he was capable of leading the Italian forces to a similar success as Hitler had with his German Army.
On this late October day the Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected an Italian ultimatum to give free passage to Italian troops to occupy un specified strategic points inside Greek territory. Metaxas had been an economic partner of Nazi Germany, but when this ultimatum was handed to him, he replied in French, saying “Then it is war. (Alors, c’est la guerre)”. An invasion was the result of this rejection. The Greek army counterattacked and forced the Italians to retreat.
Greece counterattacked very successful, occupying nearly a quarter of Albania by mid-December. Somewhere around 530,000 Italian troops were tied down at that time. In March 1941 the Italians failed at counterattacking, which was enough for Nazi Germany to come to the Italian aide.
On the 6th of April the Nazi’s invaded Greece through Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. The Greek forces started to retreat from Albania on the 12th of the same month. By the end of April 1941 Greece was occupied by Italian, German and Bulgarian forces, with Italy occupying nearly two-thirds of the country.