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

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

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

19 April 1941

On 18 April at a meeting in Greece with the King and General Papagos, General Wilson was able to reassure His Majesty as to the safety of himself and his Government, and the King decided that page 270 for the present neither he nor any of the Government would move. Last night His Majesty's Minister telegraphed that he did not think that they would leave for at least another week. There is a further conference today at which General Wavell will be present.

Since General Papagos had stated that the report of the intended departure had had a serious effect on the morale of the Greek Army, and as there was other evidence of some deterioration of military and civilian morale fostered by small pro-German elements, His Majesty's Minister welcomes the decision of the King and Government to remain in Greece.

After telling the King that he felt that he had failed him in the task entrusted to him the Greek President of the Council (M. Koritsis)1 committed suicide yesterday evening. His Majesty's Minister reports that Koritsis has always suffered from bad health and that the strain has been too much for him; his action was not due to any immediate deterioration in the military situation. The King has decided to take over the Government himself.

His Majesty's Minister was subsequently informed by the King that he proposed to appoint M. Kotzias2 as Vice-President for the time that the Government would remain in Athens. This appointment occasioned His Majesty's Minister some surprise since Kotzias has been accused of pro-Germanism, but, after talking with the King, His Majesty's Minister received the impression that the King sincerely meant to work for the Anglo-Greek cause. Two Cabinet posts are also being offered by the King to Venizelists.3

1 M. Alexander Korizis, Minister of Social Welfare under General Metaxas; became Prime Minister on the death of Metaxas on 29 Jan 1941; died 18 Apr 1941.

2 At the time of his appointment, Minister-Governor of Athens, the Piraeus, and suburbs. He held office as Vice-President until 20 Apr.

3 Political adherents of the late M. Eleutherios Venizelos. Born near Canea, Crete, in 1864, Venizelos led the Cretan revolt in 1905 and was Prime Minister of Greece 1910–15, 1917–20, 1924, 1928–32 and 1933; died 18 Mar 1936.