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To Greece

Suggestion that New Zealand Troops be Sent to Crete

Suggestion that New Zealand Troops be Sent to Crete

Britain also offered to be responsible for the security of Crete, an important strategic point in the Eastern Mediterranean; ‘failure page 90 to hold it would be a military and political disaster of the first order.’1 British troops were already in the Suda Bay area, but if additional battalions were sent the Greeks could transfer their own garrison to the Albanian front. As he was then preparing for the First Libyan Campaign, General Wavell could not withdraw any troops from the Western Desert but he could send over some of the units which had been left in Egypt for purposes of internal security.

Consequently, the New Zealand Government on 8 November was asked if some of the battalions in Maadi Camp could be sent to Crete. As Wavell was working with inadequate resources, General Freyberg considered that the wishes of Britain should willingly be met. The Government thereupon agreed to the proposal, provided the troops were fully equipped and sufficiently trained. But it again reminded the British Government that the New Zealand Division was still split into three groups: 6 Brigade in Maadi Camp, 4 Brigade in the desert and 5 Brigade in Britain. If they were to operate as a complete formation in 1941 they must be brought together for advanced training. This mild protest possibly had some effect for the plan was dropped and United Kingdom troops2 were sent to Crete.

1 Documents, Vol. I, p. 193.

2 2 York and Lancaster Regiment landed on 1 November, HQ 14 Brigade and an anti-aircraft regiment on 6 November and 2 Black Watch on 19 November.