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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I

365 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

page 268

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

17 April 1941

Information was received very late last night that General Papagos, the Greek Commander-in-Chief, had represented to General Wilson that the Greek Army was being severely pressed and was in administrative difficulties owing to air action. Papagos considered that a further withdrawal was necessary, particularly in view of the enemy thrust into the Grevena area, i.e., on the left of General Wilson's forces. He also suggested that, as the situation might take a critical turn, we should re-embark the forces of the Empire to save Greece from devastation.

To cover such an evacuation a position farther back should be held. In these circumstances we have no alternative but to make immediate preparation for the evacuation of our forces, but before a final decision regarding evacuation is taken the British Commander-in-Chief, or His Majesty's Minister at Athens, has been instructed to obtain the Greek Government's endorsement of General Papagos's request.

In any case, Crete will be held in force, and instructions have been issued to the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, to provide for this in the re-distribution of his forces. We consider it important that strong elements of the Greek Army should establish themselves at Crete, together with the King and the Government, and we propose to aid and maintain the defence of Crete to the utmost.

The necessity for complete secrecy as to the above cannot be impressed too strongly.