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

399 — General Freyberg to General Wavell

General Freyberg to General Wavell

5 May 1941

There are some 10,000 other ranks here without arms and with little or no employment other than getting into trouble with the civil population. Can these men be evacuated as soon as possible? Between the Greeks and ourselves an excellent relationship exists, but it will be imperilled unless we can quickly get rid of our surplus personnel.

By Royal proclamation of the King of Greece what remains of the Greek Army are now placed under my command. Sooner or later the question of feeding, clothing, and equipment will become a problem that must be considered. Am I right to take over the remnants of the Greek Army and re-form them and are we to accept the responsibility of their administration by helping them should it be necessary with food, clothing, and equipment?

page 294

Meanwhile, I am proceeding with the job of reorganisation. I have asked the Prime Minister to pick a young Commander and work through him. I am going to pick a small staff of officers to administer the eight battalions that exist. I intend putting in Brigadier Salisbury-Jones1 and a number of British officers to help them with their training. What I am doing is, I know, very irregular but action was necessary to keep the Greek authorities in good heart.

I would now be glad if guidance can be given me before I embark upon a full-scale policy. Can I also be told what arms can be spared and when I can expect them for the eight existing Greek battalions?

1 Major-General A. G. Salisbury-Jones, CBE, MC; head of British Military Mission in Syria 1939–40, South Africa 1941–44; Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, 1944–45; Head of British Military Mission to France and Military Attaché, Paris, since 1946.