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To Greece

Collapse of Greek Resistance

Collapse of Greek Resistance

By then the Greeks had ceased to make any serious efforts to halt the German columns. On 15 April, after his failure to find the Greek commander at Kalabaka, Wilson had returned to his headquarters which were now south of Larisa. There he received a message to meet Papagos next morning at Lamia. Outside the town they met2 and discussed the situation. The Germans were through the Klisoura Pass and the Greeks were taking to the western hills; in Albania the Italians were pressing forward along the whole front. Wilson mentioned his decision to withdraw to Thermopylae, and Papagos, who does not seem to have known that the move was already under way, expressed his approval. To avoid further devastation Papagos also suggested that the British forces should be withdrawn from Greece. General Wilson immediately arranged that General Wavell in Cairo should be informed of the proposal.

The same morning Brigadier Savige was able to meet General Tsolakoglou in Kalabaka. As the straggling Greek troops were still hampering the efforts of the Australians to prepare defences, the Brigadier suggested that the Greeks should be organised and marched outside the areas in which fighting might take place. The General agreed but his vigorous objections to Australian engineers page 234 preparing demolitions on the road across the Pindhos Mountains to Ioannina suggested that he was ‘double-crossing’.1 The Australians were not surprised when half an hour later the General and his staff left for Ioannina, the headquarters of the Army of Epirus.

That army, not greatly harassed by the Italians, had been steadily withdrawing but the senior commanders had shown no desire to make any heroic stands, particularly against the German columns. Convinced that their cause was hopeless, they had already on 14 April petitioned the High Command and the Greek Government to end the war. In the Athens area Greek troops were now for some unknown reason enjoying general leave and wandering aimlessly about the streets. And the day that General Tsolakogloa left Kalabaka the Metropolitan Bishop of Ioannina, who was pro-German in his sympathies and anxious to save his country from the Italians, was urging the Prime Minister, M. Koryzis, to end the war.

2 Papagos, The Battle of Greece 1940–41, pp. 379–80: ‘On the morning of April 16th I met Gen Wilson outside Lamia and after a review of the situation it was decided to order the withdrawal of the British forces to the Thermopylae position.’ The written order confirming this was issued in Athens on 17 April.

1 Long, p. 92. These were the words used by Savige.