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

The Significance of Cos

The Significance of Cos

We occupied the airfield on Cos on 15 September, and it thus became the key to the whole situation in the Aegean. The continued possession of Cos would have enabled us to provide effective page 316 short-range fighter cover in the Aegean within a radius of about 100 miles of Cos, including the sea approaches from the Eastern Mediterranean and to Leros and Samos. A reasonable degree of security against air attacks for our shipping and naval forces could be provided under this fighter cover. There was, however, only one good airfield—Antimachia—at Cos, and though preparation and improvement of two additional strips was immediately undertaken, General Headquarters, Middle East were, owing to restricted space and shortage of supplies in Cos, able to base only one and a half squadrons of Spitfires there before the enemy assault began; and apart from Cos, our nearest airfield was in Cyprus, about 350 miles away.

Besides, the requirements of the vital assault on Italy prohibited the diversion of any considerable part of the North-West African Air Force's striking power and thus prevented during this phase of the Aegean operations the use of the North African Air Force's heavy and medium bombers against the enemy's Greek and Aegean airfields. It is in this and all other respects essential, if the Aegean operations are to be fairly and impartially judged, that the Mediterranean should be seen as one closely interwoven strategic theatre.