Ioannis Sotiris Alexakis

Ioannis Sotiris Alexakis (1885–1980) was a Cretan lieutenant general. He fought in both Balkan wars, in World War I, the Asia Minor Campaign and World War II. He fought in numerous battles and was decorated with 20 medals for bravery.

Early life and education

Ioannis was born on 1 November 1885[1] in the village of Potamoi, at the Lasithi Plateau on the then Turkish occupied island of Crete. At that time the conditions were primitive and dangerous. His forefathers were warriors who fought for freedom and for Crete’s independence from the Ottomans. Michael Alexis, Nicholas Alexios Alexis, Alexios Alexis, the nobleman Misser Alexis, to name but a few, were amongst many patriotic family members.

As a child, Ioannis had seen atrocities and experienced struggles and revolutions. Therefore, he spent most of his later school years in the nearby city of Agios Nikolaos, Crete.

Alexakis entered service in the Hellenic Army and graduated from the Hellenic Military Academy. Raised to become a military leader, he quickly climbed in ranks. His first measure of fame came early when Alexakis was 27 and received orders to proceed to Thessaloniki. He executed the order with the maximum of dispatch and his platoon was the first to enter Thessaloniki on 26 October 1912.[2]

Junior army officer, Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913

The Greek Army accepted the surrender of the Ottoman garrison at Thessaloniki on 26 October 1912. The Bulgarian army arrived at Thessaloniki late, one day after the surrender of the city to Greece. Hasan Tahsin Pasha, the Ottoman ruler of the city, told the Bulgarian officer: “I had only one Thessaloniki, which I had to surrender.” In the meantime, on 14 October 1912, Crete was annexed to Greece. Alexakis, who was an avid supporter of Eleftherios Venizelos and his Venizelism, continued to advance towards the north. With the Allies’ support Greece advanced and extended its borders. During both Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, Alexakis’ troops moved swiftly and brought key battles[3] to successful conclusions. A few amongst the many are: the Battle of Arnaia on 2 November 1912, Ierissos and the seize of Mount Athos from the Turks before[4] the arrival of the Bulgarians, the Battle of Kilkis-Lahanas in June 1913 and the fight over Height 1378 in July 1913.[5] These strategic victories came with heavy casualties on both sides; Greece: 8652 killed and wounded; Bulgaria: 7000 killed and wounded and 2500 captured. During these battles Alexakis was injured twice,[6] and on 12 July 1913, seriously in the heart. But after these decisive battles, Bulgaria was driven from Macedonia.[7]

First World War, 1914–1918

When the Balkan Wars ended in autumn of 1913, the balance of power had changed. The Ottoman Empire had lost almost all its European holdings, Bulgaria was defeated, Serbia made some gains and Greece was enlarged. This rearrangement soon ignited a new crisis, the prelude to the First World War, which started on 28 July 1914. By September 1916, Bulgaria had seized considerable territories in northeastern Greece.

The Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos formed a Provisional Government of National Defence in Thessaloniki and Alexakis was an adjutant in this government.

Many skirmishes, conflicts and a number of battles had started again amongst the Balkan countries. Therefore, in 1918, Alexakis was sent with his forces to northern Greece where, on 17 May 1918, during the fourteen-day Battle of Skra-di-Legen, he was injured.[8]

Later in September, the Battle of Doiran commenced and was one of the surprises of World War I; it is called the battle of “P” Ridge[9] which occurred on 18 September 1918. The fierce attack lasted three days before the Bulgarian army collapsed.[10] Alexakis was given the Distinguished Service Medal by the General Louis Franchet d'Espèrey.

This quick victory was the result of a well planned attack by the Allies which compelled Bulgaria to give up and sign the Armistice of Salonica on 29 September 1918. This armistice was signed by General d'Espèrey and shortly after this, on 11 November 1918, the First World War was over.

Interwar period

After the First World War, unity and a constitutional government were restored in Athens. During these years of peace, Alexakis researched and wrote accurate accounts and articles of historic merit.

However, three years later in 1921, he was ordered back to line of military duty for the Asia Minor Campaign. Under the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, between the Allied powers and the Ottoman Empire, Greece had a mandate for the occupation of Smyrna but the treaty, although signed was never ratified. Based on this treaty, the Greeks rashly advanced beyond Smyrna but by September 1922 Turkey recovered the land in Asia Minor. The victorious Turks massacred most of the Greeks in Asia Minor and burned down Smyrna. In 1923, by the Treaty of Lausanne, Greece lost all territorial rights in Asia Minor and a Greco-Turkish population exchange was arranged. Alexakis was injured on 1 July 1921, before the Greek front collapsed and the Turkish army advanced.

In 1924, Alexakis attended the Cours Superieur d’État-Major in France,[11] and later he was promoted from Colonel to Major General. In 1937, in a demonstration against the Ioannis Metaxasdictatorship,[12] Alexakis was demobilized and served as Commander of Athens’ garrison until the Second World War. In 1940 Benito Mussolini decided to capture Greece and therefore, the country needed Alexakis again to fight against the Italian troops.

Second World War, 1939–1945

The Greco-Italian War started on 28 October 1940. Following the declaration of war with Italy, Alexakis returned to the line for the Battle of Elaia-Kalamas on the Albanian border, from which the Italian troops were trying to enter Greece. The Hellenic Army repelled the Italian offensives and by November 1940 the victory in the Battle of Elaia-Kalamas signaled the failure of the Italian attacks. Alexakis then returned to the capital to serve as Military Commander in Athens. On 6 April 1941, Naxi Germany invaded Greece through Bulgaria, creating a second front.

With the German advance, Alexakis was posted to Heraklion and was assigned the duty of Military Commander in Crete, which the Germans attacked in May–June 1941 in the Battle of Crete.[13]

The Germans held Crete until late 1944. Towards the end they put hundreds of war prisoners on a boat which was hit by a torpedo and sank. All but one drowned, and it has been said and believed that it was Alexakis who survived; he had escaped[14] before the torpedo hit. The other prisoners of war perished; their whereabouts were unknown.

Researcher and writer of historical interest

The Second World War ended on 12 September 1945. Alexakis gained the admiration of the Allied forces and was recognized for his heroism. Overall the Allied forces decorated Alexakis 20[15] times with medals for his courage and in1945 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general. After forty years of military service he did not fade away. He remained active as a historical writer, researcher and lecturer and held sessions on historical events which are documented in historical archives.[16] As a member of numerous social committees and the Parnassos Literary Society, he received public adulation and he shared his vivid memories with people who were always eager to meet their beloved army general. Alexakis wrote and published 23[17] books and he contributed to Encyclopedias, newspapers and magazines. His books and articles are used as forums for historical information and discussion.


Ioannis Sotiris Alexakis died on 24 May 1980, and is interred in the Municipal Cemetery of Heraklion. He was buried with the full military honors Greece could bestow on a departed army general.

A museum whose contents of historical interest reflect the General’s forty years of military service, is located inside the Municipal Library of Agios Nikolaos, Crete. Also, in this city as well as in the city of Heraklion and other towns, several streets have been named after him.

Encyclopedias, bibliography, citations


  1. Note: Greece officially adopted the Gregorian calendar on 16 February 1923 (which became 1 March). All dates prior to that, unless specifically denoted, are Old Style.
  2. "Νέα Κρήτη - Παγκρήτια εφημερίδα - Τιμητική εκδήλωση για τον Στρατηγό Ιωάννη Αλεξάκη". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  3. George Diamantoulakis. "ISSUU - ΟΙ ΒΑΛΚΑΝΙΚΟΙ ΠΟΛΕΜΟΙ - Η ΑΠΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΩΣΗ ΤΗΣ ΧΑΛΚΙΔΙΚΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΟ 1ο ΑΝΕΞΑΡΤΗΤΟ ΤΑΓΜΑ ΚΡΗΤΩΝ by George Diamantoulakis". Issuu. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  4. The Battle of Arnaia, 2/11/1912, Alexakis Ioannis Sotiris, infantry lieutenant, Liberation of the town, Commemorative Plaque. Battle of Ierissos 4-6/11/1912, gate of the Holy Mount of Athos
  5. "Το ύψωμα 1378 και η πολωτική φάρσα ενός Σαμαρικού «φιλοευρωπαϊκού συναγερμού»". TO BHMA. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  6. "Εγκώμιο για έναν ήρωα των εθνικών αγώνων". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  7. "AbeBooks - Used Books, Rare Books, New Books & Textbooks". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  8. "Η Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Ελλάδος". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  9. Battle over the “P” Ridge on 18 September 1918, Everyman’s Encyclopedia, volume 4 page 719
  10. The Balkan Wars 1912-1913, Everyman’s Encyclopedia, volume 2, pages 17-20
  11. "Βικελαία Δημοτική Βιβλιοθήκη Ηρακλείου". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  12. Encyclopedia NEA DOMH, Volume 2, page 254, Alexakis, Ioannis Sotiris
  13. George Kavos, History, Battle of Crete 1941-45
  14. The Nazis captured Alexakis twice, Encyclopedia CHARI PATSI, Volume 4, page 437
  15. "Η Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Ελλάδος". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  16. "Museums of Macedonia, Greece — Museum of the Battle of Lahanas". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  17. Alexakis Ioannis (Αλεξάκης Ιωάννης), writer, list of 23 published books

External links

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