Tuesday, July 28, 2020

New Zealand and the Greek operation

After the fact, the New Zealand prime minister learned that General Freyberg "never considered the Greek operation to be feasible." The prime minister replied that Freyberg's communications to the government never informed them of this opinion. Freyberg's excuse was that it is difficult for a subordinate commander to be criticizing his superiors. The prime minister informed Freyberg that if this situation were to arise again, it was incumbent on Freyberg to keep the government informed of his concerns.
The Australian and New Zealand governments both agreed that they could not abandon the Greeks in the face of a German attack. The New Zealand government lobbied for a strong escort for the troop convoys to Greece and asked that "provision be provided for subsquently withdrawing the troops from Greece, if necessary, Given what was now known, it was very likely that the troops sent to Greece would have to be withdrawn, given that the chances of success were slim. The "British Chiefs of Staff were reluctant to send such a messsage because they did not want a copy to end up in Greek hands."
The Chiefs of Staff would send a "personal telegram to Admiral Cunningham" about the possibility of withdrawing the troops, so that the admiral could reassure the Australian and New Zealand governments.
Admiral Cunningham replied that he had been concerned about the need to withdraw the troops by sea. He thought that what they needed to do was to retain many ships in the Mediterranean so that they would have the means to conduct a withdrawal. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, July 27, 2020

British bad faith with respect to the Greek Operation

We find that Blamey had been told that Menzies had been informed about the Greek operation and had agreed to it. Menzies, on the other hand, was told that Blamey had endorsed the operation when he had not in fact been given an opportunity to offer his opinion. When Mr. Menzies had inquired about a "reasonable chance of success", we found that was not considered and that the "Moral and political importance of supporting Greece". Which means that Anthony Eden's influence is what was driving the Greek operation. There was not a "reasonable chance of success" and it was not even a consideration. General Blamey told Mr. Menzies that he accepted the view that they needed to support Greece. General Blamey was unhappy with the plan that was being executed, because it was a "piecemeal" approach that reduced the chances of success. General Blamey though said that they would do well, we would guess that because the Australians and New Zealand troops were fine men and were well-led. He didn't exactly say that, but that was the implication.Part of the problem was that when Blamey met with General Wavell, he didn't present a strong-enough statement of his concerns.
The New Zealand government had concerns and wanted to know that "the full British forces could be made available. They also wanted to know that provision had been made to withdraw the forces that were being sent to Greece. The British government didn't want to risk sending a withdrawal message, because they did not want one to end up in the hands of the Greek Goverment. This is base on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

"A piece-meal dispatch of troops to Europe"

After they had talked with General Blamey, General Dill, the CIGS, said that "General Wavell had told Generals Blamey and Freyberg (the New Zealand General) about the 'additional risks involved'. General Dill wrote that the Dominion Generals had agreed, in spite of the additional risks to undertake the operation". The truth was that neither General Blamey or General Freyberg thought that General Wavell had asked their opinion of the Greek operation. One complicating factor for the Australians was that Wavell claimed to have informed the Australian Prime Minister, who he said had agreed to the operation, while General Blamey disagreed with the Greek operation, but did not want to disagree with his superior. The Australian War Cabinet was aware of General Blamey's concerns about the Greek operation and "were disturbed". Mr. Fadden asked the Advisory War Council in Australia for their input. Mr. Curtin, the Labour party leader of the Opposition declined to make a comment.
Mr. Fadden wrote that General Blamey, as the GOC of the Australian force, should have been consulted on the Greek Operation, but was not. What was obvious was that the foundation for the Greek Operation was the desire by Anthony Eden for the British to be seen as supporting Greece against an attack by Germany. In part, the reason was to affect American and Spanish public opinion. The military capabilities were not the issue. Based on the military capabilities, the chances for success were minimal. It was Churchill's message to Mr. Menzies that the political issue was driving the operation. Mr. Menzies wrote to his colleagues in Australia that General Blamey was aware of this "powers" as the GOC of the A.I.F. and should have communicated his opinion. Mr. Menzies wrote to his colleagues that he felt that the powers that be in Britain had tried to "suppress Blamey's critical views about the Greek Operation. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Dominion input to Greek operation

On 6 March 1941, Anthony Eden met with the CIGS, General Dill, and with the theater commander, General Wavell, right after receiving a letter from Churchill. It was Anthony Eden who said "a disturbing question" was the possibility that the "Dominions might be reluctant to participate in the Greek Operation. Wavell told them that he had raised the question with the New Zealand General Freyberg and that Freyberg had told him that he was prepared to go ahead". They had not talked with the Australian General Blamey yet. "Later in the day" they called General Blamey to a meeting. Blamey had reported later that his opinion on the Greek Operation was not requested. "He felt like he was receiving instructions". General Blamey asked what more units were available, and they suggested that they might be able to add on another armored division. General Blamey later commented that "they had apparently decided that the operation must take place". General Blamey wrote later that he had asked vigorously that more units be added to the operation. They also had told Blamey that they would have 23 air squadrons to support the operation, It turns out that the high command in London had told the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, that there was only room in Greece for 13 squadrons. There were only seven squadrons actually in Greece in early March 1941. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Misinformation about the Greek campaign in March 1941

The Australian government thought that they could not refuse to participate in "a good cause" while taking a "great risk". It turns out that Churchill claimed that generals Blamey, the Australian, and General Freyberg had been consulted about the Greek operation, in fact they were never asked for their opinion. Churchill misrepresented the facts to get the Australians to agree. One argument was that the Americans did not want to "abandon Greece" who "had been good Allies". What undercut Churchill was that on 9 March, General Blamey asked for permission from the Minister for the Army to submit his opinion on the Greek operation, The Australian cabinet knew that they were already committed and that they had been told that Blamey "was agreeable". General Blamey thought that there were reasons to agree to the Greek Campaign: Failure to support Greece would be to opinion in Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Turkey. The reasons to not proceed with the Greek operation included: the effect of a defeat, the need for an evacuation of British and Commonwealth forces, and the effect on opinion in Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey, as well as on Japan. Blamey thought that the military operation was "extremely hazardous" because of the greater German forces and the relatively untrained British and Commonwealth troops.
When General Wavell had told Blamey about the plans for the Greek operation, he told Blamey that he had already talked with the Australian government. Wavell did not ask for Blamey's opinion, probably because he thought he would disagree. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Anthony Eden is insistent on going into Greece in March 1941

After Churchill sent a message to Anthony Eden suggesting that it would be a mistake to go into Greece, Anthony Eden replied that "In the existing situation we are all agreed that the course advocated should be followed and help given to Greece. We devoutly trust that difficulties will arise with regard to the dispatch of dominion forces as arranged." General Wavell was very aware that the troop convoys at sea were a commitment that would be difficult to withdraw.
Anthony Eden was the one person who had insisted that they were obligated to go into Greece to try and stop the expected German attack. In retrospect, we have no confidence in Anthony Eden's judgment. He was the architect of the disastrous response to the Suez Crisis, although the British, French, and Israeli plan was torpedoed by Eisenhower. We don't know his reasoning, but he comes across as anti-colonialist and possibly anti-Israeli. Eisenhower seems to have been a liberal globalist, although I have no proof.
On 7 March 1941, Wavell was informed by the Chiefs of Staff that the Cabinet had decided to proceed with the Greek Operation. "The Cabinet accepts full responsibility", which seems meaningless. They would send messages to Australia and New Zealand accordingly. The Australian prime minster, Mr. Menzies informed Mr. Fadden "about the changed and disturbing situation" in Greece. Anthony Eden and General Dill, the CIGS, had just returned from visiting Turkey. It says something about the Greek operation that it was described as an "adventure" that had a "reasonable prospect of success", which seems to not be true. The Australians at least understood the truth. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

What the "Dominion Office" told Mr. Fadden, in Australia, is that they decided on the Greek operation as their only chance at forming a "Balkan Front". They still had hopes of persuading Turkey and Yugoslavia to join the Allies. The same message was sent to the government of New Zealand, as well. In the following week, events in the Middle East were causing unease in "London". The situation with the Greek government and their unwillingness to follow the British plan were one thing. Another event was that enemy aircraft dropped mines in the Suez Canal, necessitating its closure. A British attack on the Dodecanese island of Castellorizo failed. They also received an report that indicated that the Germans had transported armored forces to Tripoli. On 4 March, Mr. Menzies requested that the Greek operation be reconsidered. An Australian component of the force for Greece were planned to sail on 6 March. Churchill sent Anthony Eden a message on 6 March that was pessimistic about their chances of success in Greece. Churchill was concerned that they were asking Australia and New Zealand to send troops on what was likely to fail. They only reason that Churchill might think that there was any chance of success was if Generals Dill and Wavell thought that there was. Churchill mentioned that he was thinking that they should be planning on an attack on Tripoli. Anthony Eden responded that "they were all agreed that they should continue with the move into Greece. General Wavell felt that there were problems with any attempt to cancel the move into Greece, if only because of the troop convoys at sea. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Consultations prior to the operation in Greece in February to March 1941

A Greek politician wrote "an open letter to Hitler" in which he wrote that he understood that Greece would be invaded. He asked why the Axis powers would want to invade Greece? Of course, the British hoped to pull Yugoslavia and Turkey into the war on the Allied side. He says that the Italian attack was what brought the British into the war in Greece. He says that the Greek army will stand and fight in Thrace.
One question was what the British government was doing to consult and inform the goverments of Australia and New Zealand? As we mentioned, this was a period of political turmoil in Australian. Back in February 1941, Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister of Australia. Mr. Fadden was going to be Prime Minster later in 1941, and he was involved, as he was in the War Cabinet. Churchill was arguing that losses would be "mostly material", not men. He told them that the men could be evacuated back to Egypt, if they were forced to withdraw. Generals Wavell and Dill were quoted as saying that "able and cautious". There was concern that if this was a "forlorn hope" that the operation would not be executed. The problem was that with convoys of men and equipment heading for Greece, the British were committed to the operation in Greece, regardless of the wisdom of doing so. Churchill told the Australians that if the Japanese attacked, they would send "naval reinforcements", which Mr. Menzies thought "must be a little discounted". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

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