Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
388 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
General Freyberg to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
I feel it is my duty to report on the military situation in Crete where I am Commander-in-Chief of the British, Australian, and New Zealand troops.page 286
I have just received the following appreciation from the War Office:
A German attack on Crete by simultaneous airborne and seaborne expeditions is believed to be imminent. The scale of airborne attack is estimated at 3000–4000 parachutists or airborne troops in the first sortie. Two or three sorties per day are possible from Greece and three or four from Rhodes if Rhodes is not used as a dive-bomber base. All the above with fighter escort. Heavy bombing attacks are to be expected immediately prior to the arrival of air and seaborne troops. The main fighter and dive-bombing support will probably be based on Rhodes.
The following is our estimate based on the establishment of operational aircraft available in the Balkans for all purposes: 315 long-range bombers, 60 twin-engined fighters, 240 dive bombers, and 270 single-engined fighters. The last two categories would require extra tanks if operated from north of the Corinth Canal.
Only very small attacks can be expected from points south of this owing to the shortage of aerodromes in Morea, but some sixty to ninety dive bombers and a similar number of single-engined fighters could operate from Rhodes, provided that the aerodromes in Rhodes are not required for other operations. It is estimated that both troops and shipping are ample for a seaborne operation and lighters for the transport of tanks are also believed to be available, hence the scale of seaborne attack is dependent on the extent to which the enemy can evade our naval forces. Reinforcements of enemy naval forces and shipping from Italy are possible, but would involve using the hazardous route round Cape Matapan if the Corinth Canal is unusable.
In my opinion Crete can be held only with the full support of the Navy and Air Force. There is no evidence of naval forces capable of guaranteeing us against seaborne invasion, and the air force in the island consists of six Hurricanes and seventeen obsolete aircraft. Troops can and will fight, but as the result of the campaign in Greece are devoid of any artillery and have insufficient tools for digging, little transport, and inadequate war reserves of equipment and ammunition.
I would strongly represent to your Government the grave situation in which the bulk of the Division is placed, and recommend that you bring pressure to bear on the highest plane in London page 287 either to supply us with sufficient means to defend the island or to review the decision that Crete must be held. Official representations upon this matter have of course been made by me to the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East.
1 Joint Intelligence Committee.