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

392 — General Wavell to General Freyberg

page 289

General Wavell to General Freyberg

2 May 1941

With reference to your telegram of 1 May (No. 387).

The Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, and I all consider the War Office scale of attack exaggerated and have so informed them in a telegram which is being repeated to you (No. 393). However, it is quite agreed that a serious scale of attack is likely and the urgent needs of your force are realised. It is possible that recent events in Iraq may divert part of the enemy's air force.

The Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, is prepared to support you if Crete is attacked.

The position regarding air support is difficult. We are going through a lean period as regards fighter aircraft, but every effort is being made from Home to reinforce us as early as possible.

Arrangements are being made to send you artillery, tools, and other requirements as soon as possible. A separate cable is being sent to you in this connection.1

I am most anxious to re-form your Division at the earliest opportunity and am trying to make arrangements, reference my letter,2 to relieve the New Zealand troops from Crete, but at the moment my resources are stretched to the limit. Would you agree, if necessary, to allow New Zealand reinforcements in Egypt to take over the protection of aerodromes and points on Lines of Communication in the Western Desert to relieve British troops for Crete?

I have most definite instructions from the War Cabinet to hold Crete and, even if the question were reconsidered, I am doubtful if the troops could be removed before the enemy attack.

The difficulties and dangers of your situation are fully realised, but I am confident that you and the magnificent troops at your disposal will be equal to the task. We have very anxious times ahead in the Middle East for the next few weeks.

You are of course quite right to inform your Government of the situation.

1 Not published.

2 Not traced.