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The Home Front Volume I

CHAPTER 8 — Blood is Spilt

page 286

Blood is Spilt

THE Battle of Britain faded. For security reasons its worst dangers were kept from the public; only when the battle had become history was it known how slender British air defence had become in the August-September crisis of 1940. Accounts vary on just when the battle began, and it did not end distinctly: attacks on shipping and scattered bombings of coastal areas began in July; early in August these were intensified, concentrating on defence aerodromes; late in August and September came the mass raids on London, and in October these settled into the regular nightly bombings of London and other centres that, with varying intensity and sometimes with lulls lasting several weeks, continued till in mid-1941 the main Luftwaffe strength turned to the Russian front.

Newspapers built a picture of German might inflicting woeful losses but impotent before the resolution and superior quality of Spitfires and Hurricanes, ack-ack barrages, fire-fighters, factory workers and the British public. British losses were officially minimised, German losses exaggerated: for instance, in the last great day raids of 15 September 1940 accounts at the time said that 185 German planes were destroyed, while the post-war figure is 56. Indeed, the massive lists of day-by-day German losses published by many New Zealand papers inevitably gave the feeling that the Luftwaffe was being bled white. At the same time RAF bombardment of German targets was given full value—‘blow for blow’ was the note, and British aircraft losses were much lighter. Thus the New Zealand Herald had two large headlines on 9 September: ‘War Comes to London in Earnest’ and ‘Many Fires in Berlin’, and on 12 September, ‘Intensive Bombing of Berlin’ and ‘London again Raided, Damage rather less Severe’. By early October newspapers were giving slightly less space to the raids on Britain though every few days the headlines sprang high: ‘New German Fury’, ‘Bomb on St Paul’s’, ‘Long Night Raid’,1 with balancing prominence to the RAF’s smashing blows on invasion and naval bases, on German industry and oil targets, on Berlin and Italian centres such as Milan and Turin. Despite the bleak monthly statements of thousands of civilians killed and wounded page 287 in the Blitz, it was obvious that England could take it and the RAF was giving it. And still the only New Zealanders actively fighting were the 400 in the RAF2 and those in the Navy. The new tough war was still far away; New Zealand got used to it, excitement ebbed. The conscription issue had been settled, the Home Guard and Emergency Precautions Services formed, absorbing the energy of those most anxious to contribute, and the Industrial Emergency Council was modestly extending working hours ‘as required’. Effort had been increased on farms and in most factories, patriotic giving had drawn in almost everyone, waste materials were being salvaged. There seemed little else immediately to do. The 1940 King’s Birthday holiday, postponed on 3 June amid widespread feeling that this was no time for holidays, was taken on 25 November. Nearly 50 per cent of those in the first Territorial ballot, due for camp from January to March 1941, appealed, many asking merely for postponement during the farming season.3

Local interests and conflicts re-asserted themselves. A five per cent wage increase in August 1940, to meet the rising cost of living, reopened the old issues between employers and workers, the latter finding the rise inadequate, the former deploring the inevitable further pressure on prices, while dairy farmers renewed demands for a rise in the guaranteed price of butterfat.4 Farmers and members of the National party opposed the Small Farms Amendment Bill designed to obtain land for ex-soldiers as altogether too drastic, striking at fundamental rights;5 the government was using the conscription of men as an excuse for the conscription of everything else,6 complained W. S. Goosman MP;7 the Farmers’ Union would oppose it with all its strength.8 The National party, having just acquired a vigorous new leader in S. G. Holland, was looking expectantly to the general election in 1941. New Zealand, said Holland, was fighting on two fronts, overseas for the Empire and for national freedom, and at home for private enterprise and ownership.9

It was, in fact, business as usual in many areas. Fraser’s New Year speech declared that the tide had turned in favour of the Commonwealth. Admittedly, the same papers reported London’s worst page 288 blitz in three weeks, but in other theatres there was positive brightening during the first three months of 1941, in which it could almost be said that the government’s battle with the British Medical Association over Social Security services competed with the war for New Zealand’s attention.

In Somaliland, during August, the capitulation of France had compelled British withdrawal, and in September Italian forces in North Africa had advanced to Sidi Barrani, some 50 miles within the frontier of Egypt. Then, late in October Italy, intending a quick-profit trawl of troubled waters, attacked Greece. The Greeks, however, held their own handsomely, while early in 1941 British forces defeated the Italians in Somaliland and Abyssinia, and drove them back along the Libyan coast to Benghazi, captured on 7 February. New Zealanders were not in these advances, but about 15 February, many newspapers printed in general terms the ‘thrilling story’ of the ‘raiders of the sands’, the Long Range Patrols10 which included some New Zealanders and which for months had harassed the enemy, attacking isolated forts and depots, supply columns and grounded aircraft. Then, on 10 March 1941, the Lend–Lease Agreement promised more and speedier American supplies to Britain.

It was possible for the Bishop of Wellington,11 celebrating the King’s special day of prayer on 23 March, to look over the past few months with reverent awe, recollecting an almost miraculous opening of the door of hope when things seemed desperate: after six months of agony England was adorned with new lustre and glory, there was the miracle of Greek courage, the lightning stroke of the Libyan campaign, and now the strong friendly hand stretching out across the Atlantic, all showing the work of God. The Bishop was not, of course, a strategic commentator, though he perhaps voiced the hopeful views of some men in the street, and he overlooked the portents in both Libya and Greece, areas of combat which at that very moment were giving many New Zealanders painful thought.

The Battle of the Atlantic had had relatively little public notice: there was no advantage in stressing U-boat successes, which rose steeply in June, following the French collapse. The impact of statements of shipping losses was lessened by their irregular appearance, but they were given uncouth reality by the announcement in January 1941 that shortage of refrigerated ships was obliging Britain to buy her meat from across the Atlantic. Some 350 900 tons of meat had been sent from New Zealand in 1939–40,12 but on 20 December page 289 the government was told that in the coming year Britain wanted only 217 650 tons, plus 21 000 tons of bacon; by 5 March another cable reduced this to 180 556 tons in all. Bacon, which had earlier been specially requested and for which there had been a vigorous New Zealand campaign, was now excluded; the government, at first thinking that the cable about this unkindest cut must have been mutilated, withheld the bad news till it was confirmed.13

Thus, while in full cry for more production, New Zealand had an embarrassing food surplus. The glut of apples was met by eating more: they were sold at two shillings a case and were distributed free to school children. The shrinking demand for butter was partly answered by the change to cheese production. But how were New Zealanders to eat 300 000 baconers in place of their usual 150 000,14 or dispose of thousands of tons of unshipped export meat?

Late in March 1941 the government announced that to make the best use of storage space freezing companies should take only lambs, prime beef, porkers of up to 120lb, and ewe mutton of up to 52lb. Farmers were distressed, for although the amount of wool sold had risen, the price had not,15 and there had been an exceptional season for fattening mature sheep. Extensive canning was called for, and it was not forgotten that delays at the wharf had contributed to the length of New Zealand voyages.

Urgently the government negotiated with Britain, built more cool stores and declared that it would not evade its promise to buy all exportable meat in the current season; it was merely delaying the killing.16 The mutton restrictions were gradually eased and the government paid for meat before shipment, while it was still in store.17

The crisis was eased by the British government agreeing, at the end of April, to take 248 000 tons of meat including about 8000 tons of bacon then in store. Actual liftings for the season ending 30 September 1941 were 268 650 tons, leaving 77 902 tons in store.18 The new figure was much less than the 350 900 tons of 1939–40, but much better than the 180 556 of March. During April and later months the ocean battle had more space in public utterances than page 290 before, though Admiralty reports of losses were made only once a month until June,19 and thereafter at selected intervals.

In the midst of the meat worries New Zealand troops, despatched overseas in echelons from January 1940 onwards, came into the fighting, 19 months after the war’s start. German pressure through the Balkans and Britain’s resolve to strengthen support of Greece, victim of Italian aggression since October 1940, led to British, Australian and New Zealand troops being sent to Greece from Egypt during March 1941. This troop movement was not made public. Britain in fact was seeking to create a Balkan front to oppose Hitler and, as well, sought to honour the pledge to Greece renewed in September 1940 of British protection from Axis invasion.20 Meanwhile, since January, control of Axis forces in North Africa had been taken over by Germany, and at the end of March they struck. On 3 April British forces withdrew from Benghazi, their furthest west holding in coastal Cyrenaica, a ‘strategic move’, and a few days later were besieged at Tobruk, about 75 miles west of the Egyptian border. But North Africa was already eclipsed. On 7 April came news that Germany had invaded Greece and Yugoslavia and that New Zealanders, along with British and Australian troops, were in Greece.21

There was scarcely time for editors and office strategists to begin to prophesy before the Germans were winning again. As in France, they struck at a weak point between two commands and had seized Salonika by 10 April, compelling the Allies to shorten their lines. Yugoslavia crumpled in a week. The papers of 19 April told of New Zealanders holding the pass on Olympus; on the 21st they had withdrawn from it, and by 26 April the news was all of rearguard action, orderly embarkation and retreat to Crete.

New Zealand had been certain that its troops, many of whom had been about a year training overseas, would stand up to the Germans. Then, like the Poles and the French, they had been bombed and strafed from undefended skies, and had retreated, though fighting hard and making the enemy pay. While faith in the troops was not lessened there was feeling that they had been mismanaged, the cold clutch of defeat. But there was also the precedent of Gallipoli,22 page 291 hallowed almost into victory, and prophets of doom were far fewer than those possessed of a vague certainty that things would be better soon. In a mid-April newspaper, a correspondent wrote that in the past few days he had met several people who felt unhappy about events but not one carried foreboding any distance into the future.23

All through the fighting, and for days afterwards, reports of German air mastery were balanced by reports of New Zealand gunners and others exacting a terrific toll. The fighting qualities of the troops, their resistance to the nerve-strain of screaming dive-bombers, the accuracy of the artillery and Maori prowess with the bayonet were all stressed: almost daily there were comments on the splendid hand-to-hand fighters of the Maori Battalion who covered themselves with glory at Olympus and other places. There was ‘sickening sacrifice’ of German troops. They were thrown in wave after wave by the high command, mown down in swathes;24 50 000 were estimated dead by 19 April. The London Times correspondent’s statement that German casualties outnumbered the entire British force was ‘starkly eloquent’.25

As the retreat developed, Australian concern for the Australian Imperial Force in Greece demanded an immediate session of Parliament.26 There was no such move in New Zealand. Here there was widespread editorial endorsement of honour outweighing all, a good deal of silence coupled with interest in other matters, and there were a few questioning articles. The Christchurch Star–Sun found it hard to imagine any good purpose at this stage in criticism or debate; it was easy to say that the Allies should have left Greece and held Cyrenaica, but the Imperial Cabinet, knowing all the facts, judged otherwise, and ‘while the Anzacs are fighting grimly in Greece there is no call for blethering in Canberra.’27 The Dominion called for sober calm and a sense of proportion; there was nothing to be gained by raising doubts and casting aspersions; to have broken the solemn pact with Greece would have been an indelible blot on British honour, and would not have ensured Cyrenaica against later attack.28 The Evening Post said that by hearkening to the call of Greece and page 292 of honour the British government had risked the charge of unduly dispersing its forces, but only ‘unanswerable argument’ should embolden a critic to attack the Churchill leadership at such a time, and ‘picking small holes in vast problems’ was rebuked.29 Those who in 1938 accused Britain of selling the Czechs down the river would, had Britain not sent its army, have said that Greece was thrown to the eagles;30 the worst that could attend the honouring of the pledge to Greece would not outweigh the moral disadvantage of failing to honour it;31 the British Empire had entered into the alliance in much the same way as a man marries, for better or for worse.32

Some papers wanted the ‘full story’ of the campaign, and felt that steadfast British people deserved and could thrive on truth, even harsh truth. The Otago Daily Times on 28 April remarked on a ‘disconcerting lack of definite official information as the situation developed from the perilous to the parlous.’ The New Zealand Herald on 26 April, asking why the key point Salonika had been seized so quickly, called for a clear account of the plans and course of the campaign as soon as possible. It repeated this demand on the 29th, remarking that so far there had been only disconnected reports of resolute stands and grim fights against great odds, and that Greece was a lesson against the dispersion of limited forces on secondary objectives. The Auckland Star probed rather near a tender point, saying that Australia and New Zealand were entitled to know whether their war cabinets had been fully consulted beforehand—consulted not in the sense of being informed of what was about to happen but informed of all the foreseeable dangers and disadvantages of the campaign, as well as of its advantages if successful.33

On 24 April Fraser said that the British government had fully consulted the Dominions concerned, they had consulted each other, and his government fully accepted its share of responsibility for the decision, taken with the best military advice available. While the prospects of effective resistance to German aggression in Greece had been reasonable, though hazardous, every consideration of honour had impelled New Zealand to join in helping the gallant Greeks; he added that in like circumstances he would do the same again, a phrase that did not pass unnoticed. He did not, of course, explain page 293 that his government had believed that Freyberg had been fully consulted by the British command and had actively approved the enterprise; neither of which was true.34

On 27 April Churchill put the Greek affair into perspective. While admitting that in Libya the Germans had advanced sooner and more strongly than expected, he stated that honour must be the only guide for British policy: a pre-war pledge to help the Greeks was binding and they could not be left to their fate: ‘there are rules against that kind of thing’. Though it was known that the forces Britain sent could not stem the tide alone, there was very real hope that intervention might cause neighbour countries to stand with Greece, and ‘how nearly that came off will be known some day’. This campaign was only part of the wider strategy of the Middle East, which in turn was not the decisive area of the war. The war could not be lost while Britain was unconquered, and the recent United States decision to patrol the West Atlantic had vastly improved the life-line to America.35

On 1 May concern about losses was eased by Churchill: only 60 000 Imperial troops had been sent and 45 000 were taken off, there were about 3000 casualties and the rest would be prisoners.36 On 2 May Freyberg’s first report soothed local fears: 100–200 killed, 500–600 wounded and about 800 missing. Newspapers brightened, some citing with minor variations the more savage losses of the last war: Gallipoli’s 2721 dead, 4752 wounded; the Somme, in September 1916, nearly 1100 killed, nearly 5000 wounded; Messines, three days in June 1917, total casualties 3633, with 473 killed, 2726 wounded, 434 missing; Passchendaele, October 1917, 1536 killed, 4309 wounded, 233 missing, total 6078.37

While relieved that losses were not worse several papers noted that air power was crucial. A critic not widely reported was J. A. Lee who said that in view of home defence needs, New Zealand’s manpower was over-committed. It was astounding that while 4 million soldiers were needed to defend Britain, the Allies invaded Europe with four divisions. Fraser’s saying that he would do the same again ‘appalled’ Lee: ‘mistakes are inevitable in war, disasters reparable, but only if we profit by them and not if we insist on a willingness page 294 to repeat them…. It was the “do the same again” strategy that gave us Passchendaele.’38

People were still reading about the Greek campaign and about small parties escaping in fishing boats, were still waiting for casualty lists to be checked, when on 21 May came the first reports of German paratroops attacking Crete, where Freyberg was in command. At first the slaughter of these paratroops seemed to promise victory but by 23 May Churchill had explained that in this ‘most strange and grim battle’ there was no local air support because there were no usable aerodromes nearer than Africa. The picture emerged of New Zealanders and other troops pinned down by dive bombers, trying by desperate sorties, especially at evening when air attack ceased, to check the Germans who from parachutes, gliders and recklessly landed troop-carriers, swarmed from all directions to capture airfields. On these, heavy carriers landed, spilling out more and more men who drove the defenders back to the western end of Crete. The Navy prevented a sea landing, there were reports of beaches littered with drowned Germans, while stubborn rearguard fighting exacted a fearful price for every foot of ground won. Hopes rose a little on 30 May with news of British troops landing on the south side of the island and cutting their way towards Freyberg’s garrison, but continued air attack and the now superior enemy numbers made escape the only success. ‘Battle of Crete Ended’ headlined the papers on 2 June: losses were severe but 15 000 men had got away, after 12 of the war’s fiercest days, having inflicted huge penalties, with the only air support coming from Africa.

In the midst of this debacle came the bill for Greece. On 25 May, in a Sunday evening broadcast, Nash gave the hard news that 2200 men were missing, probably prisoners, and in the next six days just over 2300 names of missing men were printed, along with those of a few wounded and killed and some no longer missing.39 As the Press put it, hitherto most New Zealanders had read about the war, discussed it, understood it in their minds; now, when thousands saw familiar names, they began to feel it.40 ‘Missing’ gave room for both fear and hope: a man might be dead, a prisoner, befriended by Greeks, or somewhere on the way back to Egypt.

As much consolation as possible was wrung from another Middle East theatre. In Iraq, main source of British oil in the Mediterranean, page 295 a pro-Nazi, Raschid Ali,41 had seized power at the beginning of April. Early in May, attacks on British forces were seen as the start of an Axis drive on Egypt and Suez. British aircraft and troops moved in, Raschid Ali fled and the rebellion ended at the same time as the last ships left Crete. It was clear, and it was stated on all sides, that the defence of Greece and Crete had delayed Hitler’s strike towards Suez, so that the Iraqi rebellion was premature and, without German aid, could be suppressed, while Egypt’s defences were improved. Nash, as Acting Prime Minister, explained this on 3 June; he also explained that only by magnificent effort had the men who had lost so much in Greece been re-equipped; that Crete was part of a wider struggle, that there were other advantages which would later be revealed. He quoted a cable from Fraser about the overwhelming odds, with German troop-carriers coming in ‘like trams’ every five minutes.42

Newspaper editorials played the theme of Iraq saved and time gained, with minor variations, and sometimes fingered the darker theme of Germanic air mastery. The Dominion was cheerful throughout. After initial optimism, it dwelt on the Navy’s success in preventing a sea-borne landing, even at the price of two cruisers and four destroyers.43 Thereafter it discoursed on the heavy losses of German aircraft and highly trained men, on the delay in Hitler’s timetable, on Raschid Ali, oil and Egypt. Hasty criticism and unsound conclusions were to be avoided; there was ample evidence that the reasons for defending Crete were strong enough to justify the known risks.44

The Otago Daily Times news reports on 30 May stressed the fierceness of the fighting, Maori valour and German losses; a Cairo report told of beaches thick with washed-up dead, and the slaughter of parachutists who were splendidly equipped but ‘rotten marksmen, and all mongrels when our chaps get among them.’ The editorial on that day stated, in leisurely phrases, that the Allied air disadvantage ‘is so considerable as to have what may prove to be a decisive effect on the outcome.’

The Press, dignified, almost academic in its few remarks on the campaign, concluded that Crete should not be too readily written off as a military failure; its tenacious defence must be related to the page 296 absence of German aid in the Iraqi rebellion and to the Suez timetable. But it criticised the ground defences of the aerodromes, saying that the British had held the island for six months, and it must have been obvious that if Germany invaded the Balkans, Crete’s aerodromes would be a target.45

The Evening Post, which as early as 22 May had seen the Crete attack as part of the drive on Iraq and Syria, gave little more editorial comment till 2 June, when it spoke of evidence ‘that probably will be amplified later’, that the 12 to 14 day delay would be of great time value in the battle for the east Mediterranean as a whole. Its war news column of that day found the ‘conclusion inevitable’ that Crete was ‘inadequately equipped’ against air invasion; whether such overwhelming attack was or could have been foreseen by British High Command was uncertain and would probably always be a matter of opinion.

The strongest immediate criticism came from Auckland. The New Zealand Herald was sharp about the lack of air strength, particularly the inadequate ground defence that made Crete’s three airfields unusable from the outset, even though the British had occupied the island for more than six months. It was a fortnight since Churchill had said that Crete would be defended to the death—‘This default is inexplicable’. None but the best troops could have withstood such an ordeal and ‘none should ever again be left to do so. Air support must be assured in advance of commitments’.46 Next day it deplored the lack of tanks which might have compensated for weakness in the air, while praising the stubborn resistance which by deranging Hitler’s timetable might still defeat his wider aims. Wavell47 was gaining time to finish off the Italians in east Africa, organise an outpost in Cyprus, take a firm hold in Iraq;and build up the defences of Suez in Palestine and the Western Desert. Also, highly trained airborne divisions, men not easily replaced, had been smashed on the rock defences of Crete; ‘Hitler’s wings have been clipped before he can spread them for the flight to the Levant’.48 The Auckland Star went even further: if Crete’s airfields could not be used by the RAF, the next best thing was to be sure that they did not come page 297 into enemy hands, yet it seemed that the Germans gained control of Maleme airfield in half a day, from which moment nearly everything became possible to them. The men who had fought so magnificently had a right to ask, and those safe at home had a duty to ask for them, ‘Why, in Crete, so soon after the experience of Greece, have they been sent into battle without adequate protection from the Luftwaffe?’49 A few days later it pressed the attack: ‘Machines against men. How often have we heard of that before? How often are we to hear of it again? How long before it will be possible to say that British soldiers are being sent into battle on even terms with the enemy? That is the question for British people to ask their leaders, and it is for the leaders to give a straight answer, or be replaced.’ It was impossible to say, went on the Star, whether the dogged delaying action in Crete and the surrender of rebel forces in Iraq were connected, but it was clear that the magnificent defenders would have been successful had they been adequately armed. There must be no repining, but insistence that the sacrifice should not be in vain and should not be repeated. The Australians were still in Tobruk, holding up the whole German advance, because they had something like parity in the air.50 Later again the Star noted a British tendency to treat Crete as a glorious episode, but to New Zealand losing one-third of its division was of more than episodic importance. Though used to accepting losses, New Zealand should be assured beyond any doubt against a repetition.51

On 4 June, when it was announced that 2800 New Zealanders were missing from Crete, and that 768 wounded had reached Egypt, the cable pages told that the British public and press were asking questions more widespread and heart-searching than on any previous withdrawal. The general conclusion was in line with an Australian war correspondent who wrote: ‘A brutal fact, proved in two campaigns, is that the Allied Forces were without hope from the beginning, because it is admitted that there was no chance of adequate air support…. no commander should still be allowed to nurture the delusion that… his men can hope to avert defeat from the sky by hiding in holes or relying on ground defences.’ ‘We cannot afford in Cyprus a repetition of the events of Crete’, pronounced The Times. ‘Mr Churchill declined to believe that there was uneasiness about Greece. Perhaps he can be persuaded that the people are deeply page 298 disturbed about Crete’, said the Daily Mail.52 Other overseas criticisms appeared during the next week or so: Hore-Belisha’s53 complaints about the repeated immolation of the Empire’s best fighting material through lack of foresight and through misjudgments,54 the American Naval Secretary’s comments on the ‘appalling’ lack of unified command which had led to the defeat in Crete.55 At home Truth on 11 June, under headlines ‘There must be no more Cretes, Tell the Nation the Facts’, stressed the failure to protect Crete’s air fields with anti-aircraft guns or to mine them against German use, blunders through which thousands of New Zealanders were sacrificed. Speaking for Lee’s Democratic Labour Party, W. E. Barnard asked questions: was the New Zealand government consulted over sending troops to Greece and Crete? Would it require assurance from Britain that in future they would have better air support? Was not the Division, having lost half its strength in eight weeks, due for a rest? He was concerned about New Zealand being undefended against a possible aggressor, and warned against smashing the industrial front by putting too much into the fighting forces.56

From Cairo on 9 June came reports of Fraser telling the troops that the government would make sure—‘we must and we will see to it’—that when they next went into action they would have the air support and ground equipment that would give them crushing victory. This won brief approving comment from several newspapers which did not often approve of the Prime Minister. Years later Freyberg revealed that Fraser had bluntly told him that in future operations he must personally find out in advance about air cover and tank support, and tell his government if he were satisfied or not.57 This, of course, was between the Prime Minister and the General. Fraser’s public pledge to the troops was tacit admission that they had been wrongly used without such support, but it was tacit only. In the House on 12 June Nash stoutly maintained that the campaigns in Greece and Crete had been essential to Commonwealth war plans; strategically they had had splendid results, not as good as they could have been, but justifying the sacrifice, and he thought that the men if asked would want to go again. He also thought that an official statement on the campaigns should be given to the page 299 people, and meanwhile he assured them that no action taken by the government was not fully justified by facts.58

On 11 June came Churchill’s authoritative statement that Crete, that ‘sombre and ferocious battle’, was only one part of an important, complicated campaign. The decision to hold it with minimal air defence had been made in the expectation of air-borne invasion. What would have been said if the enemy had advanced unopposed, overrunning any place that could not be held for certain? Might not the Germans already be masters in Syria and Iraq? Aircraft had been withdrawn from Crete by the Middle East Command, on the recommendation of Freyberg. Anti-aircraft guns were needed in many places, needed by Britain and by merchant ships. Killed, wounded and missing totalled 15 000, and 17 000 had been retrieved; the Navy had lost more than 500 men. The Germans lost at least 12 000 killed and wounded, and about 5000 drowned, plus 180 fighters and bombers, and at least 250 troop-carriers.59

Churchill’s words, as usual, carried weight; but the Auckland Star on 12 June still doubted whether there was soundness in hoping that an army on the ground without air support could destroy an air-borne attack, and said that stubborn resistance quickly overwhelmed had a bad effect, not on British troops, but on British prestige abroad. Also on the 12th, J. A. Lee criticised both Greece and Crete, his speech being off the air at his own request. Lee repeated that New Zealand must not consent to the Division being again in a situation where it had not a chance of winning, and must be ready to recognise mistakes quickly, not deny them because such admissions would be politically disadvantageous. Against the argument that sending troops to Greece was a matter of honour, Lee said that to send them where they could not possibly win was to pay debts of honour with other men’s lives; he did not believe that ‘our fellows’ had had a chance in Greece, and he believed that most of the House thought likewise.60

Sir Apirana Ngata,61 taking Lee’s speech as claiming that New Zealand should be able to choose what battles its troops took part page 300 in, said that very soon after the evacuation of Greece all the tribes on the East Coast had something to say on similar lines and after Crete still more. They complained that the authorities in Egypt and Britain, with the consent of the Dominion prime ministers, ‘had agreed that with all the risks, even to the extent of it being a forlorn hope, the Forces of the Empire should take part in the fighting in Greece and Crete. What they resented most of all was the lack of air support. And they singled me out as the representative of the combined intelligence of the Empire authorities—military and Civil—to be battered over the telephone.’ Their attitude, said Ngata, amounted to saying to Wavell and Churchill, ‘All right, we will pick and choose where the fight shall take place. We will go in for safe battles, but if there is a risk, for God’s sake do not send any New Zealanders there.’62

In all, there was little public outcry over Greece and Crete. Awareness that such outcry might reach and hearten the enemy made for silence, especially in the newspapers. The heavy losses of 1914–18, the retreat from glorious Gallipoli, were precedents. Easy victory was not really expected and there were not enough details known to sustain questioning. There was widespread feeling that New Zealand men were good soldiers, better man-to-man than the Germans, but the Germans were fighting from aeroplanes. Churchill, on 10 June, said: ‘I have been asked a lot of questions about the Battle of Crete. Why for instance were the air fields not mined beforehand or commanded by long range gunfire, or why were not more tanks allotted to their defence. I could answer all those questions but I do not propose to do so here. If defeat is bitter, there is no use trying to explain defeat. People do not like defeat or its explanation. There is only one answer to defeat and that is victory.’63

This probably voiced the feelings of many New Zealanders, who linked it with Fraser’s statement that next time there would be the tanks and aircraft needed for success. Neither government nor public wished faith in ultimate victory to be disturbed by carping at the high command. Criticism of criticism may be instanced at two levels. First, at grassroots, a writer to the New Zealand Herald on 23 May who questioned the optimism of early reports and whether it was worth while ‘for our boys to fight to the death for Crete’ was bitterly answered by others. One said that nothing could be more cruel, or crippling of effort, than raising doubts about the truth of the news; another said that, as the war developed, the buzz of mosquito-like, page 301 uninformed criticism, if not voluntarily withheld, must be suppressed: what leaders, military or other, could function healthily when exposed to numberless, fierce little suggestions from interested but irresponsible spectators?64

Secondly, in the House, on 12 June, J. A. Lee, on behalf of Barnard and backed by Holland, pointed to debates on Greece and Crete in the Commons and called for open discussion.65 Nash replied that the government would allow and welcome criticism of generals or decisions when it would help win the war. But if criticism became factious, fed the enemy with the idea that this country was discontented with the decisions of its own government or with Imperial arrangements, and tending therefore to pull out of the war effort, it ought to be silenced, as should any criticism likely to retard effort. He explained that in the Commons much could be said without harming the war effort, but if similar things were said here Goebbels66 could claim that the Commonwealth was disintegrating; there was no difference in the standard of freedom, but there was difference in the effect of words spoken here and the same words spoken in London.67

New Zealand Army officers assumed that the campaigns were valuable, while admitting defects. On 13 June the cable pages bore a message from Freyberg: our troops had done everything that they could do and, though eventually forced to withdraw, they had the satisfaction of knowing that their fight was not in vain. Colonel R. A. Row,68 who had left Crete on 11 May, had already stated that the Allies had the better men but needed more tanks and aircraft; that attack from the air, while a great strain on the nerves, caused fewer casualties than the old style of war; that the defence of Crete had been vital, giving time to clear up Iraq and killing the cream of the Nazi army.69 Towards the end of June, Brigadier L. M. Inglis,70 commander of 4 NZ Brigade, in London to report on Crete, said that lack of air support was the chief reason for its loss. He explained other difficulties more fully, such as that equipment lost in Greece could not be made up because shipping and page 302 the harbour were damaged by regular heavy bombing long before the attack; that vehicles were hard to land and many were affected by sea-water in half-sunken ships. An air force sufficient to cope with the attack could not have been based on Crete’s small airfields; it would have been blitzed out of existence very soon. Narrow, hilly roads made transport difficult, and attack had to be expected all over the island.71

Overseas news continued to produce scattered items on aspects of the Greece and Crete disasters. In the Auckland Star of 10 July a Fleet Air Arm lieutenant was reported from the House of Commons as speaking of almost chronic lack of weapons; of no heavy anti-aircraft guns at Maleme airfield and of many British tanks in Greece breaking down before they saw the enemy. The more informed and critical readers added up credit and loss as these emerged, while admitting that much was still obscure. For instance, early in July, when Wavell was replaced as commander by Auchinleck,72 the Press remarked: ‘Whether or not the campaign in Greece was a blunder is a question on which there must be two opinions, and for the present so little is known of the reasons behind the decision to intervene in Greece that it would be unwise to attempt a final judgment ….The failure to provide more adequately for the defence of Crete, and the painfully slow progress of the campaign in Syria, are evidence of bad organisation….’73

The Evening Post, on the same day, in its notes on the war news, said that in Greece the ‘corporal’s guard’, hopelessly outnumbered and out-munitioned, suffered disaster relieved only by prodigies of valour, then continued: ‘It is believed in some quarters now that Crete even at the eleventh hour might have been held, if one last effort could have been made at all costs to recapture the lost Malemi [sic] airfield. The Germans had by that time exhausted their supply of parachute troops and were loth to attempt air-borne landings on an insecure airfield. Sea-landings had failed. But the moment passed, and Malemi was secured by the Germans, and the rest of the story is known. The loss of Crete, however minimised, was a terrible blow to Britain and in the Middle East.’74 This perception of the airfield situation came very close to that of historians.75

page 303

Continued discussion, although low-keyed, caused Major-General E. Puttick76 to state on 3 September: ‘I do not agree with those who imagine those campaigns were a waste of men and material. The defence of Crete in particular has had far reaching consequences, and was, in my opinion, a necessary operation.’ The Germans, he said, lost practically all their best parachute troops, hundreds of aircraft, and ten critical days, giving the Allies time to consolidate their hold in Iraq and prepare to advance in Syria; otherwise the Germans would have moved into Syria and Iraq, captured Tobruk and threatened the Suez Canal. Greece and Crete were, in military language, ‘a tactical defeat and a strategic victory’.77 In response, a correspondent wrote: ‘… few of us object to the undertaking of the Cretan defence, but to a man we do object to its pitiful muddlement.’ Generals on the spot must have known the importance of Crete, but let months go by without adequate preparation.78

Early in June casualty lists began to appear. The names of killed and wounded were carefully checked and issued in small groups. Lists of missing were longer and were revised repeatedly as scattered men rejoined their units, or it became known, through Red Cross headquarters at Geneva, that they were prisoners-of-war. On 11 June, using the latest available figures (which failed to check in totals), Nash reported that of 16 530 New Zealanders who went to Greece, 7100 were in Crete when ‘fighting began there. From Crete, 4650 were taken off, some wounded; 87 were set down as killed, 671 were wounded, 2450 not accounted for, a total of 3208 casualties, though figures were subject to correction. From Greece the lists so far were 126 killed, 516 wounded, 41 known prisoners, 1892 missing, making 2575 in all. Thus the total casualties of the two battles were 5783 men.79

Later reckonings would show that in Greece, from a total strength of 16 720, there were 261 killed, 387 wounded, 1856 prisoners including 212 wounded and 30 who died of wounds, 2504 in all. In Crete, out of 7702 New Zealanders, there were 671 killed, 967 wounded, 2180 prisoners, 488 of them wounded, 3818 casualties in all. The grand total was 6322 or 37 per cent of the original force.80

page 304

Inevitably in these months the friends and kindred of the Division knew grief, anxiety, hope, fear and long-drawn uncertainty. For those less close, aware how units were jumbled in the exodus, it was easy for a while to hope vaguely that all would be well for particular people, that they would turn up safe in Egypt, or at worst be prisoners. Occasional stories of arduous escapes, of sheltering Greeks and helpful fishing boats, nourished hopes.

Prisoners-of-war were a new feature. Amid the trenches and machine guns of 1914–18 only a few hundred New Zealanders were captured. In this war, a few flying with the RAF had already come down in German territory but now, in the first few weeks of its fighting, the Division had lost 4030 men as prisoners, of whom 700 were wounded and 30 others had died of wounds,81 although the full number was not known for months; thus the New Zealand Herald on 13 October 1941 noted that some 2000 New Zealanders were definitely reported to be prisoners. In April newspapers began printing information on international conventions governing prisoners-of-war, allaying confusion between their camps and concentration camps. There were reassuring reports from Red Cross officials82 and some photographs of hearty-looking captured airmen.83 There were directions to next-of-kin about sending letters and parcels, and appeals for helpers to pack the Red Cross parcels, one per man per week, that were to prove their mainstay for so long.

On 10 July the hospital ship Maunganui brought home the first 338 invalids from Greece and Crete.84 The papers bloomed briefly with photographs and with stories of bravery against great odds, and there were heroes’ welcomes in Wellington and the home towns. This was repeated when more came back on 10 September in the Oranje. Fraser’s return at about the same time led Nash to tell how in Egypt Fraser, pointing out that each man lost to our small country would be more serious than forty times the loss to Britain, had helped to persuade Admiral Cunningham85 to send a ‘suicide ship’ back to Crete after all chance of rescue seemed gone, a ship that managed to bring off a further 2000 men, mainly New Zealanders.86

On 9 October 1941, under headlines stressing the value of the campaigns, newspapers quoted large portions of a short, unofficial page 305 account of the fighting in Greece and Crete, prepared by Freyberg for the Minister of Defence, and now presented to Parliament. The concluding paragraph was given prominence:

In Crete the enemy underestimated our strength and expected to capture the island with parachutists alone. He failed and had to lay on a full scale attack which used up in all 35 000 highly-trained and perfectly-equipped troops. Although successful, his losses were great and he was severely mauled. He lost at least 4000 killed, 2000 drowned and 11 000 wounded. By having to fight he was delayed a month in his plans, and, when the time came, he had neither material nor the troops nor the inclination to face further air landings in either the Western Desert or in Syria. What is even more important, he has now no illusions about the fate which awaits any attempt at air-borne operations against Great Britain.87

The figures for German wounded and drowned were too high, but this evaluation, straight from Freyberg, had the ring of authority. A few days later came the proud news that Lieutenant C. H. Upham88 and Sergeants A. C. Hulme89 and J. D. Hinton90 had each been awarded the Victoria Cross, which so far in this war had come to only one other New Zealander, J. A. Ward.91 Their impressive citations reinforced the sense that New Zealanders had fought well and proved their quality.92 A year later Air Commodore R. V. Goddard93 was to say that the defence of Greece and Crete had delayed the German attack on Russia by a month.94 Both Churchill and Halder,95 Chief of the German General Staff, have agreed.96

Throughout the campaigns New Zealanders, apart from the friends and kindred of the Division, kept the even tenor of their ways. There were a few public marks of concern, mainly in religious services and page 306 the chiming of Big Ben. England had lately, with the approval of the King and of Churchill, taken to a minute’s silent prayer during the broadcast striking of Westminster’s great clock at 9 in the evening. On 8 April, the Bishop of Wellington suggested that now, with New Zealand troops in the front line, was the ‘psychological’ moment to introduce this practice to New Zealand.97 He was supported by other church leaders, the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. The noble Empire-binding boom of Big Ben striking nine was heard on 13 April, and on every evening of the war thereafter, heralding the news from Daventry.

Another attitude in the post-Crete days was indicated by a large advertisement by the Paramount, a small Wellington cinema. ‘A monster cheer-up week, Just the kind of show you want right now … Wholesome, Real, Human, Happy, Entertainment. It doesn’t attempt to solve World Problems or propound an Important Message—unless it be that a good laugh and a good time is what we all need right now.’ The films were My Love Come Back, with Geoffry Lynn, Olivia de Havilland, Jane Wyman and Charles Winn, all freshness, gaiety and music; Desire, with Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich—‘a boy, holiday-bent, thinking of gay senoritas and romance—a girl, expert jewel thief, exquisitely beautiful…losing her own heart’.98 Other Wellington cinemas were offering various escapes from the war: Gone with the Wind; A Despatch from Reuters; Goodbye Mr Chips; Wuthering Heights; Pride and Prejudice; The Invisible Woman; Son of Monte Cristo; Gene Stratton-Porter’s Laddie; The Thief of Baghdad; The Tree of Liberty (in Virginia); Dark Streets of Cairo (jewel mysteries); A Date with Destiny (mystery); and Give us Wings starring the Dead End Kids.99

A similar note was sounded in another advertisement:

Life must go on! In times of stress and strain it is well to give some attention to those things from which we can draw new inspiration, and keep up our morale.

Here, then, James Smith’s present for your inspection an arresting array of spring Fashions in Frocks, Suits, Coats and Millinery.100

Greece and Crete sent some ripples of uneasiness over the large area of New Zealand life devoted to racing, which had been almost untroubled during the crisis of mid-1940. In April 1941 a few page 307 newspaper correspondents thought that race meetings, drinking etc, were now unsuitable pleasures: Greece was lost through lack of aircraft while thousands were spent on liquor and the ‘tote’.101 These killjoy sentiments, ‘the last thing that the boys at the front would wish’, were deplored by another correspondent who wrote that hanging round the radio with gloomy faces would not win the war, while racing kept up morale, filled the Treasury, gave to patriotic funds and employed hundreds.102 The day after the capitulation on Crete, 2 June, was King’s Birthday observance day. In 1940 the holiday had been postponed because of the French crisis. In 1941 the New Zealand Herald remarked that the mines were working, though with some absentees, but elsewhere leisure and pleasure held sway. At Ellerslie, 31 500 people put £ 106,283 through the tote. On the second day of the meeting, when 15 000 people bet £73,097, about 150 Westfield butchers stopped storage killing in the afternoon to see the Great Northern Steeplechase. ‘You’d never think there was a war,’ lamented a Westfield official,103 and disapproving comment appeared in many papers. Alone on 2 June the Auckland Star said that mid-week meetings should be banned during the war. But a day later A. S. Elworthy,104 chairman of the Canterbury Jockey Club and president of the New Zealand Racing Conference, spoke out his private thoughts without consulting his committees. For some time, he said, he had been troubled; there were 240 racing days in New Zealand and 80 for trotting. His confreres should set an example and refuse to cater for a public that seemed unaware of the war. Could those at home, with the troops facing death and worse, really make themselves believe that they were facing up to their responsibilities? He knew the arguments of revenue, and necessary relaxation, but he doubted if those most in need of relaxation, the friends and relatives of the fighting men, sought peace of mind at the races; they were more likely to achieve it by work. He urged not a stop to racing, but reduction of the days given to it.105

These views were hailed as wise and courageous by several leading papers106 and a few racing men, while the Waimate Farmers’ Union hastened to pass a supporting resolution.107 Trotting authorities, however, did not follow Elworthy’s lead. The president of the New page 308 Zealand Trotting Conference, H. F. Nicoll,108 would not comment without consulting his Executive except to say that in England, with suffering and bereavement the daily lot and every ounce of effort demanded, there were races three days a week: New Zealand racing authorities had already declared that they would, if it could be shown that their sport was interfering with the war effort, be the first to reduce it.109 The Wellington president, J. E. August, said bluntly that less racing would not make things any better for the boys overseas, and while people would cheerfully pay revenue through gambling, they hated paying taxes.110

Elworthy’s argument that in seeking relaxation people were not facing up to their responsibilities applied equally to other amusements.111 In the House W. J. Polson, complaining of wasted petrol, said that Elworthy’s proposal should have come from the government; Webb, Minister of Labour, said that Elworthy should first have consulted his Conference and the Minister of Internal Affairs; S. G. Holland called Webb’s remarks ‘colossal cheek’.112

The New Zealand Racing Conference on 11 July, while not endorsing Elworthy’s proposals on curtailment, unanimously reelected him president. The Press and the Evening Post on the 12th joined the Auckland Star in criticising unlimited racing. But support by a large sector of the community merely proved that New Zealanders were content to leave judgment to the government and the racing clubs: while taking what was offered, not all would think it wisely offered, and reduction would be accepted either approvingly or with grumbling resignation.113

Racing officials and some newspaper letter writers still spoke of the relaxation of races, their part in the social structure and their large contributions to war funds, painlessly extracted, in contrast to raffles and national savings campaigns.114 Polson repeated his complaint of time, energy and petrol wasted;115 a few critics wrote to newspapers.116 There were some military encroachments on race courses (notably at Trentham when an outbreak of measles and mumps coincided with the winter meeting of 8, 10 and 12 July 1941),117 which amounted to twelve days in the 1940–1 season. page 309 Otherwise the sport of kings continued substantially unchanged till the Japanese war checked mid-week racing.

The 40-hour week was again challenged. The usual advocates for longer hours, the Chambers of Commerce, Farmers’ Unions, employers and newspaper editors, raised their voices. The Lakes County Council circulated other local bodies advocating a petition to the government for cessation of the 40-hour week. Only by increased effort could the war be fought and paid for; as it was not going well, current effort was clearly not enough.118 However, rank and file Labour defended the status quo, the Wellington Trades Council calling on its 36 000 unionists to defend hard-won living standards and working conditions against unscrupulous attack.119

On 9 May, attacks by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce on the Industrial Efficiency Act and import control120 were answered by Sullivan,121 Minister of Industries and Commerce, who charged all Chambers of Commerce with indiscriminate opposition to the government. This became linked with the question of lengthening hours,122 but there was much less noise than in May–June 1940. Perhaps the meat and butter piling up in the cool stores dulled it, while many realised that the Industrial Emergency Council was extending hours where necessary. The Wellington Trades Council and the secretary of the Coal Mine Owners Association (T. O. Bishop)123 both said that this Council, on which workers and employers were equally represented, was dealing harmoniously with applications for extended hours when these proved necessary for the war effort or where the burden of overtime would be too heavy.124

The issue was smoothed down with great amiability on 18 June. To a large deputation of employers’ representatives Webb, Minister of Labour, said that the bogey of the 40-hour week had been raised where no law prevented 80 or even 100 hours being worked; it was a question not of hours but of overtime. The Industrial Emergency page 310 Council, and the fairness of the workers on it, were commended by the Coal Mine Owners Association (and coal mines were notorious for hold-ups in 1941). The president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Gordon Fraser,125 said that the 40-hour issue had been raised by the counties, whose agitation had received more notice than it warranted, and that his body was resolute against political propaganda, though some local Chambers had been less careful. Webb admitted that some Wellington speakers had excited his ire, but the Wellington president had been very fair and Labour irritation was passing. The Wellington president, R. H. Nimmo,126 said that people in public places were too reticent in giving credit where deserved to the government, and urged the clearing out of prejudice in labour-employer relations.127

The contrast, the gap between the few thousand men who were losing their lives, limbs and liberty in Greece and Crete and the rest of New Zealand which in the main worked its 40 hours, was disturbing, even though in many areas at this stage more effort could not be effectively directed into the war. Several advocates of all-round longer hours seemed as much concerned with moral aspects as with practical issues. As the Evening Post of 4 June put it ‘Over and above the economic argument there is the great and important consideration of what is fitting and seemly. It is not seemly that we should retain all our plenitude of welfare, all our leisure, and all our relaxation while overseas there is blood, and in bereaved and anxious homes, tears.’

On 30 June Webb, stressing that working hours were increased where necessary without overtime payment, surveyed the more important adjustments made by the Industrial Emergency Council. Already 14 labour legislation suspension orders had, in certain industries or factories, lengthened hours on ordinary pay, permitted shift work, slackened apprenticeship conditions and increased the overtime permitted for women and boys.128 A recent order, on 25 June, had prescribed 48 hours at ordinary time rates in cheese factories during 43 weeks of the year (Regulation 1941/100). Another (1941/99) on the same day permitted shift work up to 1 am for women and boys in biscuit factories, now busy with big British service contracts; on 7 July a further order (1941/110) extended page 311 the overtime that these women and boys could work, including Saturdays and holidays.

The other long-standing anti-Labour theme, the need for coalition government, was also sounded firmly. The election due late in 1941 seemed untimely in the steepening war, and to Nationalists the alternative was coalition. The National party, with S. G. Holland its leader since November 1940, had renewed criticism of the government’s continuing ‘socialization’ policies such as the Small Farms Amendment Act and the Industrial Efficiency Act.129 In February Holland, backed by caucus, had proposed that members returned at the next election should hold office for the duration of the war, and that both parties should undertake to form a national government regardless of which held the majority.130 Fraser had declined public comment on this proposal,131 whereupon Holland called for elections later in the year to last for the duration.132

On 16 April the National party caucus unanimously held that the gravity of the situation could be met only by a truly national government; mere inclusion of the Opposition’s leader in the War Cabinet could not be sufficient. Next day Fraser stated that he had already discussed with Holland the war situation and his own projected visit to the United Kingdom, inviting Holland to join the War Cabinet in order to reduce public controversy as much as possible in his absence. Now, on the eve of his departure, it was not possible to form a national government; he would decide on the proposal when he returned, in the light of circumstances then prevailing. He added that as the war developed, postponement of the election might be advisable, even inevitable, and this would necessarily involve the question of forming a national government— ‘neither I nor my colleagues would even suggest postponement if its only effect was to retain the Government in office’—and he hoped for a party truce in his absence.133

This statement was later taken in some quarters as clear indication that if the election were postponed in November a national government would be formed. Said the Press on 18 April:

Mr Fraser says one thing very plainly and usefully. If it is… undesirable or impossible to hold a General Election, he will regard this as a decisive factor. The present Government will not carry on without a further mandate; and a national Government page 312 will be formed. In the meantime—and if this is not political astuteness it is candour which deserves a candid response—Mr Fraser suggests that party campaigning should cease. The National Party need not hesitate to agree and to look to the Labour Party for equal forbearance.

In the Standard of 24 April, Fraser repeated that if the war situation made elections difficult he would consult Cabinet, caucus, and the executives of the Labour party and the Federation of Labour, ‘and if it seems then that the formation of a National Cabinet is the only hope for the Dominion we will not hesitate. We will summon the conference together and tell you what the situation is.’ Further, he would not tie the hands of his trusted colleagues in his absence: if national danger developed or if he were cut off by an extension of hostilities, they would act on their own initiative.134

Newspaper editorials, as usual, advocated coalition as the only road to the unity still more necessary now that New Zealand troops were fighting and as the alternative to a divisive election. The Evening Post on 4 June quoted several widely scattered speakers calling for national unity.135 Among other advocates, the South Island Dairy Association, focusing on economic rather than military issues, on 5 June called not only for a truly national non-party government but also for a council competent to advise government on economic, financial and other matters.136 At Hawera 400 residents, drawn from the farming and business communities, returned soldiers and Maoris, adopted a resolution calling for a non-party cabinet, not necessarily limited to members of Parliament, on lines already taken by Churchill.137 The secretary of the Farmers’ Union, A. P. O’Shea,138 said that only a national government, devoted to New Zealand but not to any party, could deal with sectional difficulties such as apprentices and watersiders getting too high wages while excess profits tax pressed hard on other sections.139 The Farmers’ Union Dominion conference in July called for unity and a national government.140

Holland pressed hard against delaying the election. In the House on 12 June he said that a national government was long overdue, and if the government would not establish it, people should be told that there was going to be an election; he personally could see no page 313 reason for postponing it.141 Possibly many advocates for coalition took Fraser’s words as indication that coalition would come out of the war situation without political uproar, and there was nothing like the clamour for it that had been raised in May 1940.

The Westland Labour Representation Committee early in June, writing to other Labour committees, was ‘gravely perturbed’ by the possibility that the Prime Minister, after consulting the national Labour executives, might form a coalition. That would be the ‘greatest disaster’ for Labour. It would be better to face the polls and be defeated, thus retaining ‘our national organisation, our enthusiasm, our fighting spirit and our souls’, than to form such an unholy alliance.142

Most papers advocating coalition spoke of current lack of decision, uncertainty of function, devotion to party and excessive officialism, without relating these sins to Greece and Crete,143 but the Auckland Star on 26 April held that ‘we shall not, by a re-shuffle of the Cabinet in which a number of National Smiths will replace a number of Labour Browns, gain the kind of administration that is needed’. Getting things done was slow and difficult even when there was agreement on what should be done. There was need at the top for a small executive with the will and power to act swiftly and decisively, to cut through the meshes of bureaucracy which, with the mass of war regulations, at present gave New Zealand the disadvantages of a totalitarian regime without the advantages.

In the decision to send troops to Greece, Holland had been consulted,144 and there was no suggestion that a national government would have acted otherwise. After the first shock, stirring the sense that bad times required more unity and effort, the reverses had little direct political effect, but coming just as the election tide was about to rise they promoted feeling that an election was now an untimely diversion. Growing tension in the Pacific consolidated this, although the parties announced candidates and made other preparations.145 After Fraser’s return on 13 September deputations and discussion led, on 15 October, to the unopposed Act that prolonged the current parliament for one year.146

1 Evening Post, 10, 11, 19 Oct 40

2 See Thompson

3 Press, 8 Nov 40, p. 10

4 Point Blank, 15 Nov 40, p. 3

5 Press, 26 Nov 40, p. 10

6 Ibid., 28 Nov 40, p. 8; NZPD, vol 258, p. 315

7 Goosman, Hon Sir William, KCMG(’65) (1890–1969): MP (Nat) Waikato, Piako, Waipa 1938–69; Min Works, Electricity 1949–60

8 Point Blank, 15 Nov 40, p. 5, 14 Dec 40, pp. 3, 14, 17; Evening Post, 22 Nov 40, p. 8

9 Press, 19 Dec 40, p. 8

10 Later renowned as the Long Range Desert Group

11 Owen, Rt Rev Reginald Herbert (1887–1961): b UK; chaplain RNVR 1939–45; Bishop Wellington 1947–60, Archbishop NZ 1952–60

12 NZ Herald, 24 Mar 41, p. 6

13 Ibid., 26 Mar 41, p. 9; NZPD, vol 259, pp. 181, 182

14 Wanganui Herald, 9 May 41, p. 8

15 The wool cheque for 1940–1 was nearly £14 million, for a record 798 365 bales, average price 12.222d per lb. This had been exceeded only by that of 1936–7, of £15,344,231 for 686 994 bales. NZ Herald, 29 May 41, p. 8

16 Ibid., 22 Feb, 26 Mar 41, pp. 8, 9

17 Evening Post, 7 Apr, 4 Jul 41, pp. 4, 6; Otago Daily Times, 21 Apr 41, p. 4

18 Evening Post, 21 May 41, p. 8; Press, 27 Jun 41, p. 6; A to J1943, H–30, p. 10

19 April, 488 000 tons, Evening Post, 10 May 41, p. 9; May, 461 330 tons, Dominion, 23 Jun 41, p. 8; June, 329 300 tons, Evening Post, 16 Jul 41, p. 7

20 See McClymont, W. G., To Greece, chap 6

21 Evening Post 7 Apr 41, p. 8

22 eg, ‘The engagement in Greece was foredestined to be as hard, as cruel, and perhaps in material ways as unrewarded as the adventure of Anzac.’ Otago Daily Times, 24 Apr 41

23 NZ Herald, 16 Apr 41, p. 10

24 Ibid., 21, 22 Apr 41, pp. 7, 7; Evening Post, 23 Apr 41, p. 10

25 Otago Daily Times, 28 Apr 41. Post-war casualty figures: German official sources gave their Greek campaign losses as 1160 killed, 3755 wounded, 365 missing. British losses, out of a total presence in Greece of 62 612, were 903 killed, 1250 wounded, and 13 958 prisoners. Of 16 720 New Zealanders there, 291 were killed, 599 wounded and 1614 prisoners, ie, 2504 in all; while of 17 125 Australians, 320 were killed, 494 wounded, and 2030 prisoners. McClymont, p. 486

26 Star–Sun, 22 Apr 41, p. 7

27 Ibid., 23 Apr 41

28 Dominion, 19 Apr 41

29 Evening Post, 22 Apr 41

30 Ibid., 23 Apr 41

31 Ibid., 24 Apr 41

32 Ibid., 26 Apr 41

33 Auckland Star, 23 Apr 41

34 Wood, pp. 182–6; McClymont, pp. 103–4; Murphy, W. E., ‘Blamey’s and Freyberg’s “Charters” a study in civil-military and Commonwealth relations’ (hereinafter ‘Charters’), pp. 10–12

35 Dominion, 29 Apr 41, p. 7

36 By the final UK figures, the Allied force in Greece was 62 612 and had 16 111 casualties, 13 958 being prisoners; included were 4670 Palestinians and Cypriots, of whom 36 were killed, 25 wounded and 3806 prisoners. See p. 291, fn 25

37 eg,NZ Herald, 26 May 41, p. 6; Evening Post, 7 Jun 41, p. 8

38 Auckland Star, 1 May 41, p. 5

39 NZ Herald, 31 May 41, p. 11

40 Press, 27 May 41

41 Raschid Ali (b 1892): PM (Iraq) 1933, 1940–41; fled after unsuccessful coup d’etat 1941

42 Evening Post, 3 Jun 41, p. 6

43 Dominion, 23, 28, 29, 30 May 41. Total naval losses for Crete were: 2 battleships and 1 aircraft-carrier damaged; 3 cruisers and 6 destroyers sunk; 6 cruisers and 7 destroyers damaged. Roskill, vol I, p. 446

44 Dominion, 30 May, 2, 4 Jun 41

45 Press, 2 Jun 41. This point was again made in a Sydney article reprinted in ibid., 10 Jun 41, p. 6

46 NZ Herald, 30 May 41

47 Wavell, Field Marshal Archibald, PC, GCB, 1st Earl (’47), Viscount Wavell of Cyrenaica & Winchester (’43), Viscount Keren of Eritrea & Winchester (’43) (1883–1950): C-in-C Middle East 1939–41, India 1941–3; Supreme Commander SW Pac 1942; Viceroy & Gov Gen India 1943–7

48 NZ Herald, 31 May 41

49 Auckland Star, 30 May 41

50 Ibid., 2 Jun 41

51 Ibid., 6 Jun 41

52 All quoted in Evening Post, NZ Herald etc, 4 Jun 41

53 Hore-Belisha, Leslie, 1st Baron of Devonport (’54) (1893–1957): Sec State War 1937–40; War Cab 1939–40

54 Evening Post, 7 Jun 41, p. 10

55 Ibid., 13 Jun 41, p. 7

56 Ibid., 10 Jun 41, p. 8

57 Wood, pp. 188–90; speech by Freyberg in House of Lords, 1953, quoted in Murphy, ‘Charters’, p. 11

58 Evening Post, 13 Jun 41, p. 6; NZPD, vol 259, p. 297

59 Press, 12 Jun 41, p. 5. Davin, D. M., Crete, p. 486, remarks that British reports of German losses were exaggerated. From German army records it appears that about 4000 Germans were killed attacking Crete, and about 2700 wounded; probably 324 were drowned, certainly not more than 600. British casualties totalled 15 743, of whom 12 254 were prisoners, 1728 wounded and 1751 dead. The final Royal Navy losses were 1828 killed and 183 wounded. Playfair, I. S. O., The Mediterranean and Middle East, vol II, p. 147

60 NZPD, vol 259, pp. 292–4

61 Ngata, Hon Sir Apirana Turupa, Kt(’27) (1874–1950): MP (Lib) Eastern Maori from 1906; Min Native Affairs, Cook Is, i/c Govt Insurance depts etc 1928–34

62 NZPD, vol 259, pp. 294–6

63 Auckland Star, 6 Aug 41, p. 13

64 NZ Herald, 27 May 41, p. 12, also 24 May 41, p. 12

65 NZPD, vol 259, pp. 285, 286–7

66 Goebbels, Dr Joseph Paul (1897–1945): Nazi Min Propaganda & Nat Enlightenment from 1933; committed suicide 1945

67 NZPD, vol 259, pp. 288, 297

68 Row, Colonel Robert Adams, DSO (1888–1959): OC Central Military District 1940

69 Dominion, 9 Jun 41, p. 6

70 Inglis, Major-General Lindsay Merritt, CB, CBE, DSO, MC, VD, ED (1894–1966): barrister & solicitor; INZEF 1915–19; cmdr 4 Inf Bde 1941–2, 4 Armd Bde 1942–4; temp cmdr 2 NZ Div twice during 1942–3; Dep Dir Military Govt Courts, British Zone of Occupation, Germany 1945, Dir 1946; Chief Judge Control Cmssn Supreme Court, Pres Court of Appeal 1947–50; SM Hamilton from 1953

71 NZ Herald, 25 Jun 41, p. 8

72 Auchinleck, Field Marshal Sir Claude John Eyre, GCB, GCIE, CSI, DSO, OBE (1884-): C-in-C Northern Norway 1940, Southern Command England 1940, India 1941, 1943–7, Middle East 1941–2

73 Press, 3 Jul 41

74 Evening Post,3 Jul 41, p. 8

75 Davin, pp. 114–5, 134–8, 180–2, 462–4; Murphy, W. E., ‘Crete: a Command Failure’, in Comment, Dec 63, pp. 28–30

76 Puttick, Lieutenant-General Sir Edward, KCB(’46), DSO and bar, MC(Greek), Legion of Merit(US) (1890–1976): 1NZEF 1914–19; cmdr 4 Inf Bde Egypt, Greece 1941, 2 NZ Div Crete; CGS and GOC NZ Military Forces 1941–5

77 Auckland Star, 3 Sep 41, p. 6

78 Ibid., 11 Sep 41, p. 6

79 NZPD, vol 259, p. 285–6

80 Davin, p. 486; McClymont, p. 486; Kay, Robin, Chronology, New Zealand in the War, 1939–1946 (hereinafter Chronology), pp. 25, 29

81 Kay, Chronology, pp. 25, 29

82 eg, Auckland Star, 10 May (supplement), 20 Jun 41, pp. 6, 6; Evening Post, 2 Jul 41, p. 6; NZ Listener, 13 Jun 41, p. 3

83 Auckland Star, 13 May 41, p. 6

84 Stout, T. D. M., Medical Services in New Zealand and the Pacific, p. 300

85 Cunningham, Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne, 1st Viscount (46), 1st Baron of Kirkhope (’45), Kt, GCB, OM (1883–1963): Dep CNS 1938–9; C-in-C Mediterranean Fleet 1939–43; 1st Sea Lord & CNS 1943–6

86 Evening Post, 15 Sep 41, p. 9

87 Ibid., 9 Oct 41, p. 11; A to J1941, H-19A, p. 4

88 Upham, Charles Hazlitt, VC & bar (1908–): sheepfarmer; won VC, Crete 1941, bar, Ruweisat 1943; POW 1943–5

89 Hulme, Alfred Clive, VC (1911–): company dir; VC, Crete 1941

90 Hinton, John Daniel, VC (1909–): former Works Dept employee; VC, Greece 1941; wounded & taken POW

91 Ward, James Allen, VC (1909–1941): school teacher; served RNZAF, won VC returning from German bombing raid 2 Jul 1941; killed on air operations Sep 1941

92 Evening Post, 15, 16, 18 Oct 41, pp. 8, 7, 10

93 Goddard, Air Marshal Sir Victor, KCB, CBE, DSM(US), RAF (1897–): b UK; Royal Navy 1910–15; RNAS 1915–18; RAF 1918; Dep Dir Intelligence Air Ministry 1937–9; Dir Military Co-operation 1941; CAS RNZAF 1941–3; AOC i/c Administration, SE Asia 1943–6; British Joint Services Mission USA 1946–8; Air Council Member for Technical Services and Commandant Empire Flying School 1948–51; Principal College of Aeronautics 1951–4

94 Otago Daily Times, 29 Jun 41, p. 4

95 Halder, General Franz (1884–1971): CGS Germany 1939–42

96 McClymont, p. 484

97 Evening Post, 8 Apr 41, p. 8

98 Ibid., 19 Jun 41, p. 3

99 Ibid., 20 Jun 41, pp. 2, 3

100 Dominion, 25 Jun 41, p. 4

101 NZ Herald, 17, 21, 24 Apr 41, pp. 13, 10, 12

102 Ibid., 24 Apr 41, p. 12

103 Ibid., 5 Jun 41, p. 6

104 Elworthy, Arthur Stanley (1874–1962): farmer; Pres NZ Racing Conf 1939–42; chmn Canty Jockey Club 1945–58

105 Evening Post, 4 Jun 41, p. 8. See also p. 321

106 Star–Sun, Auckland Star, Press, 4 Jun 41; Otago Daily Times, Evening Post, 5 Jun 41

107 Evening Post, 4, 6, 11 Jun 41, pp. 11, 9, 6; Press, 9 Jun 41, p. 6

108 Nicoll, Harry Frederick (d 1955 aet 86): Pres NZ Trotting Conf 1922–47

109 NZ Herald, 5 Jun 41, p. 6

110 Evening Post, 4 Jun 41, p. 8

111 Auckland Star, 5 Jun 41, p. 9

112 NZPD, vol 259, pp. 309, 313, 322–3

113 Press, 19 Jul 41

114 Evening Post, 7 Jul 41, p. 6; Press, 18, 23 Jul 41, pp.6, 6; also letters in Press, 10, 12, 14, 18, 27 Nov 41

115 Evening Post, 1 Aug 41, p. 6; Press, 17 Nov 41, p. 6

116 Press, 4, 7, 10, 14 Nov 41, pp. 10, 10, 9, 10

117 Evening Post, 2 Jul, 10, 16 Sep 41, pp. 8, 9, 6

118 eg, NZ Herald, 31 May 41, p. 12, letter; Auckland Star, 3 Jun 41, Evening Post, 4 Jun 41, editorials; Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Evening Post, 4 Jun 41, p. 8; Auckland Primary Production Council, ibid., 10 Jun 41, p. 5; Bureau of Importers, ibid., 11 Jun 41, p. 4; Otago Farmers’ Union, Otago Daily Times, 4 Jun 41, p. 4; Lakes and Riccarton County Councils, Press, 10 Jun 41, p. 6; Foxton Harbour Board, Evening Post, 4 Jun 41, p. 8; Hamilton Borough Council, NZ Herald, 5 Jun 41, p. 3

119 Evening Post, 10 Jun 41, p. 8

120 Dominion, 9 May 41, p. 6

121 Sullivan, Hon Daniel Giles (1882–1947): MP (Lab) Avon, Bay of Plenty from 1919; Mayor Chch 1931–5; Min Rlwys 1935–41, Industries & Commerce from 1935, Supply & Munitions 1939; Acting PM 1942, 1944

122 Evening Post, 10, 21 May, 4 Jun 41, pp. 14, 10, 5 & 8

123 Bishop, Hon Thomas Otto (1878–1952): MLC from 1943; Speaker Legislative Council 1950; Acting Under-Secretary Mines 1918–20; Sec Employers Fed 1922–40, NZ Coal Mine Owners Assn 1921–47; chmn Industrial Emergency Council 1940–45

124 Evening Post, 10, 18 Jun 41, pp. 8, 9

125 Fraser, Gordon Mackintosh (1888–1958): Pres Taranaki Chamber of Commerce four times, of Assoc Chambers of Commerce 1940–1; sometime chmn, Managing Dir Taranaki Daily News, exec Racing Conf

126 Nimmo, Robert Hamilton, OBE(’46) (1892–1965): b Scotland; past Pres Wgtn Chamber of Commerce, nat exec Assoc Chambers of Commerce; Wgtn city councillor from 1944; YMCA work from 1926

127 Evening Post, 18 Jun 41, pp. 6, 9

128 Ibid., 30 Jun 41, p. 8

129 eg, Star-Sun, 26 Feb 41, p. 8; Press, 14 Feb 41; Dominion, 28 Feb 41, p. 8; NZPD, vol 259, p. 68

130 Dominion, 20 Feb, 1, 3 Mar 41, pp. 8, 12, 9

131 Ibid., 21 Feb 41, p. 8

132 Ibid., 4 Mar 41, p. 8

133 Press, 18 Apr 41, p. 6

134 Standard, 24 Apr 41, p. 10

135 Evening Post, 4 Jun 41, p. 8

136 Ibid., 6 Jun 41, p. 9

137 Dominion, 14 Jun 41, p. 10

138 O’Shea, Hon Alexander Paterson, CMG(’62) (1902-): Dom Sec NZ Farmers’ Union 1935–45, Fed Farmers 1946–64; MLC 1950

139 Dominion, 14 Jun 41, p. 10

140 Ibid., 17 Jul 41, p. 8

141 NZPD, vol 259, p. 326; Evening Post, 13 Jun 41, p. 6

142 Press, 2 Jun 41, p. 4; Evening Post, 6 Jun 41, p. 8

143 eg, Press, Evening Post, 7 Jun 41

144 Auckland Star, 24 Apr 41, p. 8

145 Standard, 28 Aug 41, p. 8

146 Wood, pp. 170–1