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To Greece

Cautious Attitude of British Government

Cautious Attitude of British Government

At the same time every care was taken to give the Greeks no reason to hope for immediate relief. The staff officer sent over as an observer was warned that he must not make any promises or give any undertakings to the Greek General Staff. No. 27 Military Mission to Greece, established by the Chiefs of Staff, Middle East, which had to report upon the situation was given similar instructions: ‘You will not commit His Majesty's Government even by implication to the provision of any such requirements as may be referred to you by the Greek Government. Nor will you encourage any expectation of specific support without prior sanction in order that false hopes may not be raised.’3 An inter-services mission to Greece from London was instructed that the policy was to sustain Greek resistance without committing forces in Greece which were vital for security elsewhere.

After 11 November there was some improvement in the situation, for the naval aircraft which attacked the Italian warships in Taranto harbour decisively altered the balance of power in the page 91 Mediterranean. More convoys could sail through the Straits of Gibraltar, the Navy had greater security along the North African coast and the protection of convoys to Malta and to Greece had been simplified. As an Italian army had still to be dealt with in North Africa, this increased security did not mean that greater assistance could now be offered to Greece, but it did mean that a campaign in Greece in 1941 was not impossible.

Nevertheless the British Government, unwilling to open another front and anxious to respect the wishes of the Greeks, still acted very cautiously. The base for Barbarity Force had to be capable of expansion to accommodate two divisions, but the Greeks were on no account to be informed of this possibility. The best site for it, strategically, was the flat country near Salonika, but as aircraft from that area could bomb the Rumanian oilfields the Greeks feared that its establishment would provoke direct action by Germany. The force after it reached Greece on 16 November was accordingly dispersed, the bombers to airfields near Athens and the fighters to whatever grounds could be found near the fighting line.

3 Rich, Vol. I, Ch. I, p. 16, para. 26.