Why Britain was the ‘’ most dangerous’’ country to Albania?
How many times and how many reports of Albanian communist propaganda we heard the slogan ‘’ we are in war with the British and American Imperialism’’? The answer to that is, innumerable!
There are more than few British people that they have really risked their lives on supporting Albania during the Second World War and one more time after the war.
One example of this is two British agents David Smiley and Neil McLean walked into Albania through Greece on April 1943. Albanians on this time had their communist party. The leader of it was Enver Hoxha a school teacher in Korce. There were three groups of resistance partisans, the supporters of the King Zog with leader Abas Kupi and his party was called Legaliteti and the third resistance was Balli Kombetar led by Midhat Frasheri a former diplomat and Abas Ermenji a French scholar from Gramshi. The three groups were opposed to one another so were to the foreign occupiers.

The two British agents found the headquarters of Enver Hoxha. Enver Hoxha asked for a parachute drop of arms, ammunition and gold sovereigns. David Smiley trained partisans for six months including their commander Mehmet Shehu in how to use the British weapons and Western tactics and ate,lived and joked with them. In one occasion David Smiley observed that: Enver Hoxha was using a map and marked every country with red and lecturing him how he wanted to see the world red. Smiley who believed in Britain’s imperial mission answered ‘’ I would like to see the globe painted red but not the red you are thinking about’. The relationship between British agents and partisan was good natured but there was mutual suspicious. Hoxha saw British as little spies and fascist collaborators. Whereas Mclean and Smiley felt that that the partisans had no wish to fight the enemy and their aim was to exploit British prestige and equipment against no-communist organisations. Smiley specifically says that ” partisans fired few shots and they would claim that they had ambushed the enemy and killed large numbers’ ‘. In one occasion David Smiley remembers that the Italian army attacked a partisan position and Mehmet Shehu’s men ran away. He thought that the partisans were cowards but these were the orders not to attack unless absolutely necessary, to fire few shots from time to time to impress British officers, to accept all the arms the stupid British dropped for them to keep them for the civil war.

Enver Hoxha’s memoirs outline his version of Neil Mclean in some detail ” He smiled as he squeezed my hand; his eyes gleamed like those of a fox. He was intelligent but he had a black heart ” summer 1943. During this year British agents lived with the communists and supplied them with weapons, money, gold sovereigns dropped from the sky which they will never would have obtained elsewhere. By the end of the summer 1943 the First Partisan Brigade was well equipped and commanded by Mehmet Shehu but conditions were hard and people were starving. The two British agents Smiley and Mclean were to leave Albania where they made to the seaside and run out of food and spent ten days on a dead mule and water sacked out of the rocks with a sponge. One night in October 1943 a motor torpedo came near to inshore and threw food on to the rocks for the benefit of hungry Albanians.
When Italians made peace with Allies in September 1943 Albania was in the point of liberation. 20.000 leaderless Italian soldiers roamed into the country looking for food where the resistance groups took control over the villages. Germany was really quick in attacking small dis-united guerrillas in towns and villages. They looted, burnt, killed and hunted the resistance. Another British Rigg Hibbert officer that was parachuted in the highlands of Albania December 1943 concluded that: he was constantly on the move and made effective contacts but with Albanians they were struggling to stay alive and the resistance was unimportant.
The three dis-united groups in Albania had their differences. For instance, Balli Kombetar wanted to keep the traditional structures whereas the partisans wanted to destroy them. The partisans did not care if the Germans killed live stock or burnt their properties. On the contrary that worked in their advantage as people had nowhere else to go but to join partisans (that’s what Rigg Hibbert says).
During these times that was what British and Americans wanted in a short term. It is worthy to mention what one of the richest man with important and influential friends Ihsan Toptani, said that the complications of the war left Britain with little concern about Albania : They were interested only in killing as many Germans as possible in Churchill’s order. The British officer answered and agreeing tp what Toptani was saying, but they were reluctant on the villages being raised to the grounds if one or two Germans were killed.
British officers agree on that the nationalists fought the Germans less than partisans. However, there were reasonable explanations why they fought less and that was because they had property interests and not because they liked Germans. On the other hand partisans had nothing to lose as they possessed nothing. In one of the British reports 1943 was remarked that: the partisans were better fighters and Balli were finer gentleman. Julian Amery believes that, partisans were better fighters but after the Stalingrad Battle was clear who would win the war and he says that the British should have understood nationalist’s hesitation. British officers supported communists but who would win the war in Albania after the Germans would withdrew that, was a serious problem per nationalists to think about!
The Germans were hoping that they will destroy the resistance during the winter 1943. They killed enough but the First Brigade was the key to the partisans and by the spring thousands of new recruits joined them. British officers clearly favoured the communist side and the partisans did fight not as much as they claim but enough to impress British officers. The orders from Churchill were to support the communists in Yugoslavia where Albania wasn’t even mentioned anywhere and perhaps assumed that Albania would be a small province of it.

In April 1944 Mclean and Smiley were parachuted into Albania. They found out that the nationalists lost their property and their authority. And they did not think what exactly would happen after the war and still supported the partisans with weapon and money as they deserved.
Enver Hoxha’s attitude towards British officers was defiant. A good example of Hoxha being difficult was during an operation 1944 one of the British officers Anthony Northrop remembers who partisans were to attack Germans and a time was agreed and the Royal Force would attack from Italy, Hoxha cancelled taking part on this attack. Northrop was angry and reported this to headquarters in Bari, Italy and asked all supply drops to be cancelled to the communists. Hoxha’s reaction to that was: took his radio away from him and had him arrested. In another occasion Anthony Northrop remembers that: in one morning he was woken up by an Albanian who warned him that the Germans were on their way to search the village. This British officer escaped German soldiers for two minutes and he took a dim view of Hoxha by leaving him and going off, but you couldn’t expect anything else from a dictator like him. These unfriendly Hoxha’s acts were reported to the SOE Headquarters but they still supported him.

The question why British did not support their natural allies’ royalists and Ballist’s it is a question that has been argued amongst British officers who took part in the Albanian war. Mclean, Smiley and Amery believe that the Britain did make a mistake on not realising on time that, the communist would have won the war. They thought if the anti-communist resistance would have had enough British support would have had a stronger motivation to fight and would have gained the confidence of the population. There are some others that believed that no British action would have stopped the communist victory. In addition, Tito being the strongest military force on that region, he would not have permitted an anti-communist force to win the war in Albania.
Julian Amery in August 1944, arranged some parachute drops in north of Albania where the nationalists started to act seriously. But unfortunately these drops never arrived and this was not going to be the first time where the actions were not completed as they were promised by the Brtish. David Smiley says ” the drops never arrived and the Bari people had made up their mind that the partisans were the only people worthy supporting”.

In autumn 1944 Germans were pulling out and the communists won the war. Julian Amery says that on these times the game still not lost. He says ”I was in Albania at that critical moment and a small intervention of America and Britain could have saved Albania for the West as it did in Greece where stumped down the communist resistance, bringing up General Zervas and the tradionalists ”.
Winston Churchill sided with Yugoslavian communist forces and had no interest in Albania’s future whatsoever and Julian Amery disagreed with Churchill. He as any other English gentleman did see the best of the Albanians and wanted Albania to be saved from the Bolsheviks for two reasons: Firstly, it was wrong to abandon Albanians to Hoxha’s evil regime and Stalin’s imperial designs. Secondly, Vlore and Sesano Island were an important naval gateway. Instead of British to overthrow the communist they integrated with them. The British officers that supported the non-communist groups were ordered to leave Albania. At the same moment Hoxha was strong enough and decided that he didn’t need Britain approval any longer. Hoxha no longer needed to treat British officers with courtesy and started on being suspicious that they were spying on him and trying to corrupt his followers. Hoxha was an evil man and no one could expect anything different from him. Someone that is not Albanian would have had a good judge at Hoxha’s character and British officers were gentleman and very well educated not to see what Hoxha was to become.

How could anyone would ignore the help and the great assistance that enabled Hoxha to fight against the Germans? It is only one answer to this is: Dictators like Enver Hoxha and similar communist leaders in Eastern Europe can, because they were ruthless and had no humanity within them!

One example of Hoxha’s indignified treatment to one of the British officers:Tony Simcox. He was one of the British officers that was attached to Said Kryeziu and his brother Gani, leaders of Albanian guerrillas from Kosovo, who agreed with Julian Amery’s approach who he reported to Bari” We have left Albanian nationalists of Albania-especially Gani Kryeziu, who had fought well and is sacrificing more than any communist-by not being firmer with the partisans when they attacked Abas Kupi. We should have stopped, at once all supplies and refused negotiations until they were prepared to fight only the Germans. Allowing communist to attack or provoke and kill with our supplies is as bad as we did it ourselves ”. This report demonstrates nothing else but being a gentelman. The honours of the British officers match the honours of the Albanian gentleman as Aubrey Herbert says in his memoirs, where he draws a comparison between Albanians and English gentlemanly code of conduct.
The consequences of this report to Tony Simcox was: partisans surrendered his mission, pulled down his tent, looted his kit and beat his interpreter to death. Mclean and Smiley who were the first to assist partisans and worked with Hoxha were ordered to surrender to the communists but they didn’t trust Hoxha. And also in the same time they didn’t want to dishonour their friend Abas Kupi. The dilemma was solved when Bari people found out Hoxha’s intention which was to humiliate them to demonstrate his own strength. They were ordered to leave Albania by the sea.
Hoxha’s intentions to humiliate the two British officers Mclean and Smiley who spent six months with him and partisans, helped, trained, supplied him with weapons money but on Hoxha’s evil soul and a paranoyed mind was justifiable to treat them like this! He had no honours and his soul was conquered by devils which desired only blood. The blood he wanted to see had to be from the ones that they were the best of the society. After reading the book (The Great Betrayal) where we find out how Hoxha treated his friends during these years and it would give a clear idea what regime and what type of persecutions would follow! Hoxha and his regime, build a maliciois, persecuting and executing system. The humiliation of any indivudual that did not fit in his group first had to be humiliated, degraded and executed. His intention from the start was to erase from the ground the most notable people in Albania.

When three British officers were to leave Albania, they wanted to take Abas Kupi with them. This request was rejected by the British SOE fearing that might impair their relations with Hoxha’s communist partisans. British officers that took part in Albanian war and wartime resistance (1948 and 1951) felt that the SOE betrayed British interests and it’s allies. David Smiley disappointed on being forced to abandon Abas Kupi where he says: Kupi lent us money, money for food and mules to keep us going. His men saved lives of allied airmen, including Americans, who baled out after bomb runs over Rumania. He was promised supply drops if he fought and he was let down over that.
The three British officers were to be evacuated end of October 1944 from North of Albania. The final indignity of SOE was to find out that there was a British officer sent on the board to ensure that no Albanian was taken on board. As men of honours when they arrived in Bari they sent telegrams to any influential person they knew, to rescue Abas Kupi. Abas Kupi managed to leave Albania with his son Petrit and Ihsan Toptani on a boat that he himself obtained.

The British officers were angry how Albania cause was handled or even betrayed. They had to meet again with Abas Kupi and Albanian cause during the ‘’Cold War’’ period.