Sir John Stavridi (1867-1948) and Greek Neutrality
John Stavridi lived at Ferndale on Mill Road between Holmwood and Blackbrook. He was raised in Britain by Greek parents. Director of the British-owned Ionian Bank, he was Greek consul-general , in London, when war broke out.
In November 1915 Stavridi was sent, by the British government, on a secret mission to persuade Greece to abandon its policy of strict neutrality. This would have seen British and allied troops disarmed and interned as they retreated through Greece after the failure of the Gallipoli campaign. These troops were desperately needed on the Western Front.
King Constantine I had rebuffed approaches from both sides to come into the war. Stavridi’s mission was therefore to persuade Greece to favour the allied cause. When diplomatic efforts failed he threatened a naval blockade of the country’s coastline and the confiscation of its merchant fleet.
Many in Greece regarded Stavridi as a traitor, accusing him of putting the interests of Britain above those of Greece, which would either lose its neutrality (and therefore come under threat from Germany/Austria), or see its economy devastated by the loss of its shipping. He was forced to resign as consul but he was convinced that the allies would win the war and that cooperation would be in Greece’s long-term interests.
In 1917 internal conflict over Greece’s position in the war became almost civil war. King Constantine was forced into exile. Constantine’s son Alexander re-appointed Stavridi to his position. The new government was sympathetic to the allies and he was able to charter the Greek merchant fleet for the Western powers. After the war he was knighted by the British government.