Monday, February 28, 2011


The British delegation to Greece included the CIGS, General Dill, General Wavell, and Anthony Eden. The British and Greeks negotiated most of the night. Finally, at about 3am, the Greeks accepted the British offer of assistance. Oddly, Anthony Eden was said to be "buoyant", after the Greeks accepted. Lt. Col. de Guingand, who accompanied the delegations says that Anthony Eden asked the the number of men be inflated beyond what was possible, presumably to ensure that the Greeks would agree. Considering that there was little possibility of success, Anthony Eden's attitude towards the outcome of the negotiations is telling. He apparently was more interested in having a successful negotiation to his credit than being involved with an operation that had almost no chance of success. The British military understood the situation, but that was ignored by Mr. Eden. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Greek plan

The Greek general Papagos explained the plans to the British delegation about 22 February 1941. There were four Greek divisions east of the Axios River. That is located south of the border with Bulgaria. They formed the Eastern Macedonian Army. If the Yugoslavs decided to fight the Germans, then the Greeks should attempt to hold Salonika. That was the natural supply source for Yugoslavia. If the Yugoslavs stayed neutral, or worse yet, cooperated with the Germans, then the Greeks would leave only fortress troops in Eastern Macedonia and would withdraw to the passes at Olympus, Veria, and Edessa. That withdrawal would take the Greeks up to twenty days. The Greeks calculated that it would take eight divisions, along with a reserve division, to defend that line. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The British force for Greece

The British plan included about 100,000 men for Greece. This would include three infantry divisions and the Polish Carpathian Brigade. There would also be one armoured brigade, with another one a possibility. That would mean a force "with 240 field guns, 202 anti-tank guns, 32 medium guns, 192 anti-aircraft guns and 142 tanks." The intent was to ship the units in three groups. The first group would include one infantry division and an armoured brigade. Each group included one infantry division, with the Polish Carpathian Brigade included in the second shipment. The last might possibly include a second armoured brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Doing the wrong thing for political reasons

Even the CIGS, General Dill, had been involved in the decision to send a force to Greece, but had doubts that doing so would serve any useful purpose. Anthony Eden hoped to pressure the Greeks to take the help immediately, to increase the chance that it could be successful. All Anthony Eden hoped for was to be able to hold a line against the coming German attack. Mr. Eden thought that the lack of air power would preclude holding Salonika, which is what General Wavell wanted to do. They decided to "offer the command" to General Maitland Wilson. At the start of discussions between the Greek government and the British delegation, the Greek prime minister, Alexander Koryzis, expressed his government's intent to fight the Germans when the attacked. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, February 18, 2011

General Wavell in February 1941

General Wavell could see that for the British to hold Salonika and provide an air force to raid Rumanian oil fields would be desirable. He thought, though, that they were likely not to arrive in time to do either. Another possibility was that they could help the Greeks hold the Aliakmon River line. But Wavell had doubts about whether the Greeks would fight the Germans when the time came.

While all this was being discussed, the British air strength in the Middle East was declining. Losses exceeded what was being sent to North Africa. In the first three months of 1941, the British lost 184 aircraft and received 166. Also, there seemed to be no army units available for North Africa. The only division that had arrived from the UK after June 1940 was the 2nd Armoured Division, which was poorly equipped. There was a plan to send the 50th Division around the Cape of Good Hope, but they had not been dispatched as of February. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Australian units in the Middle East

Two Australian brigades arrived in the Middle East from Britain. They were the 18th and 25th Australian brigades. They were diverted to the 7th Australian Division since they were better equipped than other units. They joined the 21st Australian Brigade, which was already part of the 7th Australian Division. The 9th Australian Division was left with the 20th, 24th, and 26th brigades. The 8th Australian Division was in the Far East, in Malaya and Australia.

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, was in Egypt from 5 February to 14 February 1941. He met with General Wavell about the plans for Greece. After the meeting, General Wavell sent a telegram expressing his misgivings about sending a force to Greece when Greece and Turkey were hesitant to accept British aid. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The tentative plan for Greece

The tentative plan was that the experienced 6th Australian Division would be withdrawn from the desert and sent to Greece. They would be replaced in the desert by the 9th Australian Division. The 9th was poorly equipped and lacked combat experience. They gamble was that the Italians were beaten, so the British could afford to strip the desert of experienced troops and the best equipment and they could send them to Greece. The 2nd Armoured Division had just arrived in the desert in January 1941, but they had tanks with worn tracks that could not be replaced with what was available in the desert. Wavell's plan was to send half of the division to Greece and keep half in North Africa. This was a period where an armoured division had two armoured brigades and a support group with infantry and artillery. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Greek commander was pretty savvy

The Greek commander, General Papagos, seemed to have more sense than the British leadership team. His assessment was that to mount a successful defense on the border with Bulgaria would take 9 divisions with air support. He thought that the British offer of three divisions drawn from North Africa was inadequate and was a strategic mistake for the Briitish. General Papagos thought that the three divisions offered should stay in North Africa, where they would have the greatest effect. General Wavell apparently agreed with General Papagos's assessment, because he was quoted as saying that sending three divisions was a "dangerous half-measure". Churchill and the Chiefs of Staff in Britain would hear nothing of it, and were hell-bent on sending the three divisions, even though it was the worst plan. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A forelorn cause: fighting the Germans in Greece in early 1941

The British had opened a successful campaign against the Italians, and by early January 1941, were driving the Italians back to the west. At the same time, Churchill and the Chiefs of Staff concluded that they could not make an effective effort against the Germans in Greece. Perversely, they decided that they had no choice and must send forces to aid the Greeks in the fight. They would be entering the country on what was known to be a lost cause. Despite the continuing successes against the Italians, the army would be stripped of troops to be sent to Greece. The air forces would also be reduced and what was withdrawn would accompany the troops to Greece. A small force was offered immediately: an infantry tank squadron, a cruiser tank regiment, and several artillery regiments. General Wavel and Air Chief Marshal Longmore were sent to inform the Greek General Metaxis of what they could to to help. They told him that they could send two or three divisions in the next two months. General Metaxis declined the offer, as what could be sent seemed inadequate and he did not want to offend the Germans. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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