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

394 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

2 May 1941

I have been advised by the General Officer Commanding the New Zealand Division that he is now in command in Crete. He is of the opinion that the island can be held only with full support from the Navy and Air Force, and he has set out the main points of a new appreciation of the scale of attack now believed imminent. As a result of the campaign in Greece our troops are devoid of any artillery, have insufficient tools for digging, little transport, and inadequate war reserves of equipment and ammunition. It is apparent also that the enemy can bring to bear upwards of 800 planes, whereas we are advised that the British air force on the island consists of only six Hurricanes and seventeen obsolete aircraft. These facts, taken together with the absence of naval forces capable of guaranteeing against seaborne invasion, lead us to feel that the situation is one of the utmost gravity. The considerations upon which a decision must be based are fully realised by His Majesty's Government in New Zealand, and they recognise the strategic importance of Crete, particularly in its proximity to Alexandria, Tobruk, and the North African coast. With this knowledge my Government is of the page 291 opinion that our troops should either be supplied with sufficient means to defend the island, or that the decision to hold Crete at all costs should be reviewed. I should be extremely grateful if you would give this matter your urgent and personal attention.