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

Attachment of Greek Brigade to 2nd New Zealand Division

page 396

Attachment of Greek Brigade to 2nd New Zealand Division

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

8 August 1944

I have been asked by the Commander-in-Chief, at the request of the Greek Government, if we would be prepared to take the Greek Brigade1 under our wing. The purpose would be first to direct their training and make them battle-worthy, and later, I understand, the intention is that they should fight under our command. I have told the Commander-in-Chief that the matter would have to be referred to the New Zealand War Cabinet.

As you will realise, having the Greeks with us would have certain advantages. It would mean an extra infantry brigade and consequent spreading of casualties. I also believe it would be a great help to the Greeks, who have always shown a desire to serve with the New Zealand Division.

Could you advise whether the proposal meets with the approval of War Cabinet.

1 The 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade under the command of Colonel T. Tsakalotos.

The Minister of Defence to General Freyberg

12 August 1944

Your telegram of 8 August. War Cabinet concur in your advising the Commander-in-Chief that you are prepared to have the Greek Brigade under your command.

page 397

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

13 August 1944

Reference your cable about the Greeks, I note you agree to fall in with the Commander-in-Chief's wishes. I would, however, like to have the following cable from you to safeguard me in the event of political difficulty:

From War Cabinet to General Freyberg:

War Cabinet agree provisionally that you should help train the Greek Brigade and also take them under your command, but in view of the history of this force in the last twelve months with political difficulties and the military mutiny, you are to keep us informed of the situation, and if there is any recurrence of political difficulty you are to report it here and act on our instructions. Will you convey our good wishes to the Commander-in-Chief with this message.1

1 A message in these terms was sent to General Freyberg on 17 Aug by the Prime Minister.

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

21 August 1944

…. On 17 August I travelled by air to Taranto and inspected the Greek Brigade and arranged plans for their battle training. I was much impressed by their bearing. Their keenness to serve with the New Zealand Division was very obvious….2

2 For complete text of this telegram see Maintenance of 2nd New Zealand Division (No. 387). After taking part in the capture of Rimini and the crossing of the Rubicon River, the Brigade left Italy for Greece on 7 Nov 1944.