British security services archives focus on General Grivas

British security services archives focus on General Grivas


By Thanasis Gavos – London

General Grivas, the man that led EOKA’s armed struggle against the British in Cyprus during the second half of the fifties using the nom de guerre ‘Digenis’, kept the whole of the British security apparatus quite concerned over his plans even after the 1959 end to his organisation’s activities.

Secret documents kept in six files of the archives of the Security Service MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 are declassified today in London and reveal that the British authorities were keeping a watchful eye over every movement by Georgios Grivas.

Particular emphasis was given to his relationship with Archbishop Makarios, his strained links with the Greek Government of Kontantinos Karamanlis and his plans to enter the political arena in Greece.

One can find a number of reports attempting to describe the character of this former Greek Army officer who took up the arms against the British without the necessary resources, as the British officials were commenting, but based on his determination and to a degree his pursuit of fame. His possible motives against the British were extensively discussed, with many officials pointing to a possible grudge because of the lack of support Grivas’ anti-communist ‘Organisation X’ had received from London after the end of the Second World War in Greece.

An MI5 document dated 12/6/56 notes that his “defects” included his “arrogance, conceit and restricted intellectual power.” On the other hand the British were admitting that Grivas was “a good professional soldier, courageous, a monarchist and a rabid anti-communist,” elements of character greatly appreciated in London.

A running theme in the commentary over Grivas’ personality, noted among else in MI5’s director Brigadier Bill Magan’s extensive ‘personality sketch’ of the General dated 12/6/56, was that he was a “practical” man and not one for “abstract theory.” As Magan puts it, “Grivas is a doer, not a thinker,” incapable of producing a strategic plan but confident that he could deal with any tactical situation that might arise.

One of the documents of particular interest is a secret report by the MI6, dated 18/3/56, which refers to comments made by Archbishop Makarios in an event in Athens a few weeks earlier. The Cypriot leader, according to the MI6 sources, had told an audience of Cypriots and influential Greek Government supporters that a way out of the Cyprus deadlock had to be found, as “the Cypriot people and indeed he himself were tired of the struggle.”

Grivas and Makarios were growing increasingly distrustful of each other. Brigadier Magan comments in his report of March 1959 that the two men seemed to dislike each other and that in Grivas’ references to the Archbishop a “note of contempt” was discerned.

Grivas was also growing uncomfortable with the Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Averoff, following the end of the EOKA struggle and the Zurich/London negotiations over the future of Cyprus. As months were passing by Grivas was becoming more and more vocal in stating that the political leaders in Nicosia and Athens were keeping him in the dark over the progress towards the final Agreements, in order to present him with a fait accompli. According to the British, there was some justification for Grivas’ complaints, but at the same time they were commenting that his stance on the negotiations was ambiguous from the beginning.

London’s security services were also following Grivas’ statements and meetings closely for any indication that he might enter the Greek political arena. Both in London and Athens, according to the secret documents, for the first months following EOKA’s termination of operations it was thought that Grivas could influence political things in Greece, and that he could raise a serious claim to power.

A few months later, however, the British were commenting that Grivas was consistently hitting the wrong notes with the Greek public, which in the end almost forgot who he was.