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

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

page 275

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

22 April 1941

Further to my telegram of 20 April (No. 369), the latest developments in Greece are as follows:

After a meeting on 21 April between Wavell, Wilson, and Palairet with the King of Greece and Tsouderos,1 the President of the Council later in the day communicated to Palairet a document which, after expressing to the British Government and to the gallant Imperial troops gratitude for the aid extended to Greece, stated that it was impossible for the Greeks to continue the struggle with any chance of success. The document added that in the opinion of the Greek Government further sacrifices by the British Expeditionary Force would be in vain, and that its withdrawal in time seemed to be rendered necessary by circumstances and by interests common to the struggle.

The position of the Greek forces in Epirus and Southern Albania is confused and obscure, but it appears that already, and without authority, one of the local commanders has entered into negotiations with the German authorities for an armistice. There is no question of the Greek Government giving this action their approval, and indeed steps have been taken by them to repudiate any such arrangements, which they hope to keep secret.

Nevertheless, in the existing conditions, it has been thought safer that the King and the President should leave for Crete immediately, and they are doing so this morning. An assurance has been given to General Wilson by the President of the Council that order will be completely maintained in Athens as long as the Government remains, and, when it leaves, a strong military commission will be set up to ensure General Wilson's operations.

Palairet is evacuating as many as possible of the British colony from Athens and will himself probably leave shortly for Crete with a skeleton staff.

Meanwhile our forces have withdrawn to a defensive line in the region of Thermopylae, and our commanders have full authority to take all steps necessary in their judgment for the safety of the forces. They have very fully in mind the considerations which you have advanced concerning the Australian and New Zealand troops.

1 M. Emmanuel Tsouderos, a Venizelist, ex-Minister of Finance; appointed Prime Minister and President of the Council, 21 Apr 1941; Prime Minister of the Greek Government in exile (London).