Sunday 15 May 2022
The distinguished author and member of our community a few years back, Ms. Antigoni Kamberou, will be among our community and she has kindly offered to give a lecture on the life and achievement of the best known airman of WWI, her uncle Demetrios Kamberos. The lecture will take place in the Church Hall, shortly after the end of the Divine Liturgy while we take our usual refreshments. You will find below the author's CV, together with a synopsis of the book she has written on her uncle.
Antigoni Kamberou was born in Athens, daughter of Evangelos Kamberos lawyer and known writer of Piraeus. She studied English, German and Italian Studies at Strathclyde University in Glasgow then Hamburg University. Further on, she continued her postgraduate studies at the European Institute of Geneva in European Studies with her thesis on Greek-Turkish differences on the International Law of the Sea. Her PhD focused on European cultural identity and civilisation at Panteion and Geneva University. She taught English, German and Greek in Geneva alongside her studies in Geneva. Upon her return to Greece after 12 years abroad, she taught European Studies at Panteion University and English terminology (European Union terms, medical, legal and financial) at Athens University for 9 years. Her career as a writer appears with the historical novel “Demetrios Kamberos, crazy-Kamberos, the life of the first military airman in Greece” published in 2014. Then in 2016 she publishes the “Mind’s spinnings” a collection of thoughts and short stories as the title reflects. In 2018 she publishes the children’s book on sky-crazy Kamberos entitled “The crazy-Kamberos in the skies”. In 2020 her historical novel based on the true story of her grandparents entitled “Pontos: winds of bliss- storms of anguish” is published.
Dimitrios Kamberos was born in Hydra in 1883 and grew up in Freattida, Pireus. He was the first son of six children, one daughter and five boys. His father, Anastasios owned a construction firm and completed many public works in the harbour. Dimitrios was admitted to the Military School where he graduated after five years in 1905 and continued his military career in the artillery.
In the beginning of the 20th century, following the Wright invention in the U.S, France was the country where airplane manufacturing took place. Greece turned to France in order to equip herself with airplanes and to seek expertise. On 27th March 1911 the Venizelos government signed an agreement with the French government in order for the latter to supply Greece with planes, equipment and expertise. In May 1911 the British Navy Expedition under Admiral Lionel Grand Tufnell and a month later the French Infantry Expedition under Major General Joseph Louis Paul Eydoux arrived in order to organise the Greek Infantry and Navy. One of the tasks was to create an aviation service in the infantry. Prime Minister Venizelos showed great interest for this new invention which would have an immediate impact on the defense of the country. The Ministry of Defense and the Maurice and Henry Farman House signed a contract whereby 123.000 French francs were offered for the purchase of biplanes type Henry Farman.
On 2nd May 1911, a decree was published whereby Prime Minister Venizelos who also held the Minister of Military Affairs office invited all sections of the Military Forces to take part in the selection process for officers to attend aviation courses. Sixty candidates applied but three were chosen in 1911 and another three the following year.
Demetrios Kamberos artillery lieutenant
Michail Moutousis engineer lieutenant
Christos Adamidis second cavalry lieutenant
And the following year:
Loukas Papaloukas infantry lieutenant
Markos Drakos artillery lieutenant
Panoutsos Notaras second cavalry lieutenant
In few weeks Kamberos, Moutousis and Adamidis were sent to France. This was the first military training in the Farman Aviation School in Etampes, 45 km outside Paris. There were smaller schools in France but the main ones were Henry Farman a military and Louis Bleriot a private one, both situated in Etampes. The first one was regarded the best one because it provided a two part training. The first part offered a “political diploma” and the second part the more difficult a “military diploma”. The superior diploma was called “Brevet” and only 60 French officers out of 300 had obtained it. In terms of the Greek training two left after injury and four completed the training. First of the graduates was Demetrios Kamberos and the other three were Michail Moutousis, Christos Adamidis and Panoutsos Notaras.
The new statute for the Greek Aviation was voted on 7th January 1912 while the four Henry Farman biplanes arrived on 9th April in wooden boxes at the port of Pireus.
The first military flight
On 13th May 1912 the news spread quickly that the first military airplane was going to take off at the Zoological Garden of Faliro. Thousands of people arrived there in order to watch the first flight of a military airplane with pilot the lieutenant Demetrios Kamberos. Newspapers at the time wrote extensive articles about it and people rushed from every part of Attica to watch this amazing event. The main means of transport was the modernised streetcar which stopped at the Zoo. The admission ticket was 2 dracmas and only the affluent ones could afford it. The common folk remained outside the Zoo hoping to take a glimpse of this amazing take off. The crowds waited for a few hours until they saw about 7 p.m soldiers dragging the Farman biplane onto the area, the “airport”. The soldiers worked as a means of brakes because the biplane itself had no brakes. In the same manner, when the biplane landed men had to catch it by its tail and wings in order to immobilize it. This process was called in Greek “vastazou”.
As the men brought it from the side to foreground, Kamberos jumped on it and started the motor. The soldiers distanced themselves and the “big iron bird” moved forward a few metres and then took off. The spectators shouted and cheered as the first Greek military aviator flew for eight minutes over the port of Faliro and Pireus. He flew forming a few circles in the sky and landed smoothly towards the sea. The crowds rushed towards the plane to congratulate him and to look at this amazing machine more closely.
In the afternoon of the following day 14th May, Kamberos took off from the airport of Faliro to take part in military exercises. The duration of the flight this time was long but he did not reach his destination. While he was approaching the exercise area which was between Kapandriti and Kiourka, his motor started misfiring and Kamberos decided to land but a few metres from the ground the motor stopped completely so the biplane dived and fell on a pile of dirt. As a result the right part of the landing system broke. He was slightly injured but because time was pressing him, he decided to find parts from the nearby area, repaired it with the help of the French airplane engineer Chauvau and flew the next day being part of the exercise which took place from 14th – 19th May.
The baptism of “Dedalos”
On 27th May 1912 the Prime Minister carried out the ceremony of baptism of the biplanes. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered for this special occasion. The godfather was Venizelos as he was the Minister of Military Affairs apart from Prime Minister. There were many ministers and high rank officers both Greek and European. To the right a military band was playing. Among the officials were Arniotis, the first aviator who never managed to take off and Argiropoulos the first private aviator.
Kamberos stood and cheers came from every part of the airport. He was a young man of medium height, flushed with a thick moustache and with a proud walk as he approached. His movements were confident and had a cigarette hanging from his lips. He greeted Venizelos and climbed on the airplane. Only when he had to use his hands, he decided to throw his cigarette. At that point, the prefect Dasios, the Mayor of Athens Merkouris stood up while priests started to chant. People shouted various names but Venizelos had already a name in his mind. He did not choose the name “Greece” because it would have been a disaster for the dignity of the country if it fell, so he baptized it “Dedalos”, the name of the hero in the Greek mythology who flew for the first time with the help of wings made of wax. The second name was “Eagle”, the third and fourth “Vulture” and “Falcon” respectively. Dedalos with pilot lieutenant Kamberos raised about 300 metres and flew over Faliro and Pireus. But at the same time Argiropoulos flew his private plane and annoyed Kamberos. When they both landed Kamberos protested to the Prime Minister Venizelos who reassured Kamberos that both aviators had an excellent flight. Kamberos then went on a second flight which was a better one since there were no other planes. The people went crazy and started to run towards the landing area and the police could not restrain them. There was no room for Kamberos to land so he shouted to the policemen to try and remove the crowds in order to land the biplane. The scene was comical with him fly low shouting at the police force to restrain the enthusiastic crowd. Finally, the police managed to remove the crowds and Kamberos landed safely on the airport area.
In June, Kamberos continued flying with “Dedalos” keeping the crowds excited. When he flew over Faliro and Pireus, people cheered but at the same time were scared in case he fell. Each time he flew, he used to attempt dangerous formations and he was given the nickname “trelokamberos”, “crazy Kamberos”. This expression was adopted in the Greek language ever since describing a person who is fearless and bold.
He became known for his dangerous flights and daily articles were dedicated to his deeds. Despite all this fame, he foresaw the airplane becoming a means of protecting the vast marine area of Greece against its enemies. He wanted to convert the biplane to hydroplane and to make it able to take off and land on the sea. He worked relentlessly with the help of Professor of Engineering Hondros and the French engineer Cheauvau, he finally made it. He added two floaters and a bottle of hydrogen which helped the hydroplane lift it in the air. Previously its weight prevented it because the centre of gravity was forward and by adjusting the hydrogen bottle managed to lift it from the sea.
On 25th June he decided to fly to the island of Hydra, homeland of his family. He adjusted the floaters with some men in the sea of Faliro and took off leaving a frothed up white line behind him. He soon went over the 85 km limit. He passed “Niki” the torpedo boat which escorted him and reached Hydra. In the small harbour there was havoc! Ship sirens, pistol shots, church bells and cheers from the crowds! The Mayor welcomed him with an official speech. The following day he left from Hydra to return to Faliro but the winds were wild helping him to make a world record which he held for two months. His speed was 110 km and he did it in 38 min. The distance of 165 km Faliro-Hydra and back in one hour and twenty one minutes. The next day the newspapers were describing the amazing world record of a Greek hydroplane.