Monday, July 09, 2012
The Greek Campaign: was it necessary?
A claim was made that Great Britain was obligated by treaty to defend Greece against a German attack. Certainly, Anthony Eden, Churchill's foreign minister took that obligation seriously. He apparently convinced the prime minister of the necessity to put troops into Greece. General Metaxas, the Greek dictator thought that the British expedition would be a strategic blunder, which it turned out to be. General Metaxas died suddenly, so he was not able to influence the decision. The Australian government and senior commanders were opposed to the operation. The decision to go into Greece had grave consequences. First, an approximately 50,000 man force was expended. They withdrew most of the men from Greece, many going to the island of Crete. Crete was soon invaded and there were further losses. The most damage was done to the navy. From April 1941 until late June, there were heavy losses in cruisers and destroyers. These losses came at a time when they were very damaging. This was at a point when Churchill wanted to run the Tiger Convoy to Egypt with tanks. There was an escalating need to keep Malta supplied, and convoys run through the Mediterranean were still more efficient than running then around the Cape of Good Hope. So yes, the campaign in Greece was a mistake. The mistake was compounded by putting General Wilson and his staff in charge, as neither was up to the task they were given. The operation could have been better executed if as requested, the Australians had been given control with General Blamey in charge.