1/05/2012 Italy, Colonies, States & Areas
Between April and May 1941, the Ionian Islands were rapidly occupied by Italian Troops. In addition to the General Issue of overprinted Italian stamps for the island group, local issues for individual islands were produced between May and September, hand-stamped on Greek issues of the period.
Issues for the Island of Ithaca were hand-stamped in blue 'Occupazione/Militare Italiana/Isole/Cefalonia e Itaca' on single values of the 1937/8 Greek Mythology series. A second issue was overprinted in the same type, but with the 'O' of 'Occupazione' in Capital. The extremely rare complete set being offered in our current sale is one of only a handful known, and includes the exceptionally elusive 80l violet and brown.
Until late 1943, the occupying Axis force was predominantly Italian - the 33rd Infantry Division 'Acqui', who together with Navy personnel totaled some 12,000 men. However, there was also a smaller German contingent of some 2,000 troops.
Following the conclusion of the Allied Armistice with Italy in September 1943, most of the Italian troops wanted to return home, but the Germans were determined to disarm them before allowing their repatriation. As German reinforcements headed to the island the Italians dug in, and eventually after a referendum among the soldiers (there was no effective military command), they fought against the new German invasion.
The German forces prevailed however, eventually taking full control of the islands and taking 9000 Italians prisoner. On the direct orders of Adolph Hitler, 5,000 of the prisoners were executed in reprisal.
A romantic storyline in the period before and after the Acqui Division Massacre, forms the basis for the Louis de Bernieres book 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'.