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from Greece, if necessary, Given what was now known, it was very likely that the troops sent to Greece would have to be withdrawn, given that the chances of success were slim.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.

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