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To Greece

Mr Churchill and the Dominions

Mr Churchill and the Dominions

The importance of the coup d'état in Yugoslavia can also be noted in Churchill's subsequent correspondence with the Dominions. On 30 March, with his gift for lifting a subject out of the commonplace, he summed up the situation for Mr Fadden, the acting Prime Minister of Australia:

page 116

When a month ago we decided upon sending an army to Greece it looked rather a blank military adventure dictated by noblesse oblige. Thursday's events in Belgrade show far-reaching effects of this and other measures we have taken on whole Balkan situation. German plans have been upset, and we may cherish renewed hopes of forming a Balkan front with Turkey, comprising about seventy Allied divisions from the four Powers concerned. This is of course by no means certain yet. But even now it puts Lustre in its true setting, not as an isolated military act, but as a prime mover in a large design. Whatever the outcome may be, everything that has happened since our decision was taken justifies it. Delay will also enable full concentration to be made on the Greek front instead of piecemeal engagement of our forces. Result unknowable, but prize has increased and risks have somewhat lessened.1

To reduce these risks still further the Dominion Governments had already made it quite clear that, if the expedition was fraught with so many dangers, every care must be taken to prevent a complete disaster. On 24 March Admiral Cunningham was advised that both Dominions when agreeing to the plan had asked that arrangements be prepared for the possible evacuation of the troops. To reassure them he was asked to state that he already had such preparations under way. His reply was that ever since the decision to despatch the expedition the problem of evacuation had never been far from his thoughts.2 The final arrangements must depend upon the course of the campaign, the place of evacuation and type of ship that could be used, but he did guarantee that everything possible would be done ‘to withdraw the Dominion Troops with British.’

1 Churchill, Vol. III, p. 152.

2 Cunningham, p. 315. ‘Indeed, when the decision to send troops was finally taken, we started at once to think of how we should bring them out.’