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Appendix 3: Mr Fraser's Questionnaire to the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff on the Campaigns in Greece and Crete



Question 1

What were the grounds for believing that three Divisions and an Armoured Brigade, plus the Greeks, could hold an unlimited number of German divisions, fully mechanised and armoured – plus the Italians?

Question 2

Was an attack against us through the Monastir gap contemplated as a possibility, a probability or a certainty?

Question 3

If so, what confidence could have been placed in the Aliakmon line on which our plan was based and which, in effect, was never fought?

Note: The above questions are asked not by way of criticism, for the operation was necessary (unless militarily quite impossible) for non-military, political and moral reasons, and the New Zealand Government, as they have already stated more than once, would take the same course again in the same circumstances.

Answers to Questions 1, 2 and 3

1. Early in January 1941 information in the possession of His Majesty’s Government seemed to show that the Germans, who were rapidly concentrating large forces in Roumania, intended an early advance through Bulgaria against Greece. It appeared most unlikely that they would move through Yugoslavia, their plan being probably to coerce Yugoslavia into submission by surrounding her. Furthermore, an attack on Yugoslavia would jeopardise the rear of the Italian army facing the Greeks.

2. Operations in Libya were proceeding satisfactorily and the early fall of Tobruk was expected.

3. Accordingly, a telegram was sent on the 10th January, 1941, to the Commanders-in-Chief in the Middle East telling them that everything pointed to an early German advance in the Balkans and that His Majesty’s Government had decided that it was essential to offer the Greeks the maximum possible assistance with the object of ensuring that they would

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resist German demands by force. The giving of assistance to Greece would have to take priority over all operations in the Middle East after the capture of Tobruk, though this need not prevent an advance to Benghazi if the going were good. It was proposed that our assistance to the Greeks should take the form of specialist and mechanised units and air forces to support the Greek divisions, rather than a large expeditionary force, which we could not provide. The Commanders-in-Chief were invited to telegraph their intentions after discussing matters with General Metaxas.

4. General Wavell and Air Marshal Longmore went to Greece and held discussions with the Greek Government and Commander-in-Chief on the 15th and 16th January. In the course of these discussions, General Wavell informed General Metaxas of what His Majesty’s Government proposed, and suggested that the despatch of a number of specialist troops to Salonika would enable the Greeks on that front to offer strong resistance to any German advance which, in view of the nature of the country, would not be in overwhelming numbers, and that the despatch of these troops would convince the Turkish and Yugoslav Governments of our determination to support the Greeks to the utmost and to resist any advance on Salonika. If we did nothing, on the other hand, the enemy, seeing Salonika weakly defended, would be encouraged to attempt a rapid advance to seize the port, and Turkey and Yugoslavia would be discouraged from taking any action.

5. General Metaxas did not accept this view. He thought that the despatch of these troops, while not sufficient to ensure the safety of Salonika, would provoke Germany into attack. He thought that we should postpone sending assistance to the Greeks until we could land in sufficient numbers to act offensively as well as defensively. General Metaxas also refused an offer of assistance against the Italians.

6. In view of the Greek attitude, the Commanders-in-Chief were instructed on the 21st January that our future policy should be:

(a) To complete the capture of Cyrenaica.

(b) To capture the Dodecanese.

(c) To form a strong reserve in Egypt, with particular reference to the rendering of assistance to Turkey or Greece, within the next two months.

7. His Majesty’s Government were still very much impressed with the urgent need of taking action –

(a) To stiffen the attitude of the Balkan countries, particularly Turkey.

(b) To threaten Germany in Roumania, and to prevent the Germans gaining control of the Balkans without firing a shot.

8. Accordingly, on 31st January, 1941, the Prime Minister addressed a personal telegram to the President of the Turkish Republic urging him to agree to allow us to infiltrate considerable air forces into Turkey, by the same method that the Germans were employing in Bulgaria. By so doing we should enable the Turks to deter Germany from overrunning Bulgaria and quelling Greece, and we should counterbalance the Russian fear of the German armies. On the 7th February, a reply was received from the President of the Turkish Republic refusing this proposal but pressing for further supplies of armaments for the Turkish army.

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9. The situation in the Balkans continued to develop in such a way [as] to show that a German attack on Greece could not be long delayed. Following on the capture of Benghazi, anxious discussion took place as to whether it would be better to continue the advance on the North African shore in an attempt to take Tripoli or whether surplus forces should be got ready for use in the Balkans. It was felt that if Greece were attacked by the Germans and decided to resist, we could not possibly refuse to help her. It was therefore thought to be essential to find out what the Greek plan would be in the event of a German threat, so that we could see how best to help. It was not thought to be impossible for the Greeks and ourselves to hold up a German advance down the Struma Valley, provided the Greeks were able to disengage a few divisions from the Albanian front in time, and if we could support them with air and mechanised forces. A successful resistance might encourage the Turks, and possibly the Yugoslavs, to join in the battle. When the matter came under consideration on the 11th February, an assessment was made of the possible course of the German campaign. On the assumption that they would cross the Bulgarian frontier on the 17th February, it was thought they might arrive on the Greek frontier by the 12th March with five divisions, including one armoured division. Other forces would be retained to watch the Turks and the Yugoslavs. The state of the communications in Bulgaria at that time of year would not permit of larger forces being maintained forward. It was thought that the Greeks, supported by the forces we could get there by that date, might well be able to hold up this advance.

10. In order to examine thoroughly the possibilities, and to try and bind together the Balkan front, it was decided to send the Foreign Secretary and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff out to the Middle East. They left on 12th February.

11. This was the background of the situation which confronted the Foreign Secretary, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and the three Commanders-in-Chief when the former arrived in Cairo on the 19th February.

12. On the 20th February a brief appreciation of the German threat through Bulgaria was received in Cairo from General Papagos. He thought that, if Yugoslavia were to collaborate with the Greeks, the Germans would probably not make serious efforts down the Struma Valley, owing to the vulnerability of this line to attack from Yugoslavia. Under these conditions the possibility of holding the Greek-Bulgarian frontier might be seriously considered. On the other hand, if Yugoslavia remained neutral, Salonika would have to be abandoned. Within 10 or 15 days of crossing the Danube the Germans could have 8 or 9 divisions on the Greek frontier, of which three might be in the area of the Rupel Pass. The Germans might even violate Yugoslav territory and move down the Vardar Valley as well. The success of a German thrust in this area would cut off all troops in Eastern Macedonia. For these reasons he had seriously to consider the necessity of withdrawing Greek divisions now from Eastern Macedonia to the Aliakmon position. He hoped that before the German offensive began he would have reached in Albania the line Berat–Valona. He would then be able to economise troops and make more available for the defence of North-East

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Greece. In the meanwhile, he was concentrating two newly-formed divisions in the Florina–Edessa–Veria area. Under no circumstances would Greece make a separate peace with Germany.

13. On the 21st February the Foreign Secretary telegraphed from Cairo, after full discussions with the three Commanders-in-Chief. He said that all were agreed that we should do everything in our power to bring the fullest measure of help to the Greeks at the earliest possible moment. If our help was accepted by the Greeks, it was believed that there was a fair chance of halting a German advance and preventing Greece from being overrun. The present limited air forces available made it doubtful whether we could hold a line covering Salonika, but the position to be held would be discussed with the Greeks. In reply, the Prime Minister telegraphed:

‘Do not consider yourselves obligated to a Greek enterprise if in your hearts you feel it will only be another Norwegian fiasco. If no good plan can be made, please say so. But, of course, you know how valuable success would be.’

On the same day the Foreign Secretary telegraphed again as follows:

‘It is, of course, a gamble to send forces to the mainland of Europe to fight Germany at this time. No one can give a guarantee of success, but when we discussed this matter in London we were prepared to run the risk of failure, thinking it better to suffer with the Greeks than to make no attempt to help them. That is the conviction we all hold here. Moreover, though the campaign is a daring venture, we are not without hope that it might succeed to the extent of halting the Germans before they overrun all Greece. It has to be remembered that the stakes are big. If we fail to help the Greeks, there is no hope of action by Yugoslavia, and the future of Turkey may easily be compromised. Though, therefore, none of us can guarantee that we may not have to play trump cards of our bare strong suit, we believe that this attempt to help Greece should be made.’

14. Full discussions were then held with the Greeks. These were recorded by the Foreign Secretary in a telegram, of which the following is an extract:

‘3. ... The President of Council, after reaffirming the determination of Greece to defend herself against Germany, reiterated the misgivings of the Greek Government lest insufficient British help should merely precipitate German attack, and stated that it was essential to determine whether available Greek forces and forces which we could provide would suffice to constitute efficacious resistance to the Germans, taking into account the doubtful attitude of Turkey and Yugoslavia. Before the Greek Government committed themselves, the President of Council therefore wished the military experts to consider the situation in the light of the British offer. I made plain the logical conclusion of the attitude taken up by the President of Council. If we were to delay action for fear of provoking the Germans, such action must inevitably be too late.

‘4. From the ensuing discussion between the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and Air Officer Commanding, on the one hand, and General Papagos, on the other hand, it emerged that, in view of the doubtful attitude of Yugoslavia, the only

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line that could be held and would give time for withdrawal of troops from Albania would be a line west of the Vardar, Olympus–Veria–Edessa–Kajmakcalan. If we could be sure of Yugoslav moves, it should be possible to hold a line further north from the mouth of the Nestos to Beles, covering Salonika. It would be impracticable, unless Yugoslavia came in, to hold a line covering Salonika in view of exposure of Greek left flank to German attack.

‘5. In full agreement with the Greek Government, the following detailed decisions were reached:

(a) In view of the importance of the Yugoslav attitude as affecting the deployment of troops in Greece, it was agreed that I should make a further effort to attempt to persuade the Yugoslav Government to play their part (see my telegrams Nos. 68 and 69).

(b) That the Greeks should at once make, and begin the execution of, preparations to withdraw the advanced troops to the line which we should have to hold if the Yugoslavs were not willing to come in.

(c) That work should immediately be started on improving communications in Greece to facilitate the occupation of this line.

(d) That the movement of British troops should begin forthwith, time being the main essence of the problem. The utmost secrecy to be preserved and deceptive stratagem devised.’

These proposals were approved by the War Cabinet on the 24th February, Mr Menzies being present.

15. The Foreign Secretary and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff then visited Turkey, returning to Greece on the 4th March just as the first flight of British troops was sailing from Egypt for Greece. The Germans had in the meanwhile entered Bulgaria (1st March, 1941). They found a changed and disturbing situation. General Papagos had not withdrawn any of his forces from Eastern Macedonia to the Aliakmon line, as agreed upon at the previous meeting, and now stated that, in view of the German entry into Bulgaria, a withdrawal was no longer possible, since his troops would risk being caught on the move. He also said that it was quite impossible to make any withdrawals from the Albanian front, since his troops there were all exhausted and greatly outnumbered. Very serious discussions then took place as to what should be done. It was eventually agreed as follows:

(i) The Greek army will leave in Macedonia three divisions to defend the prepared position on the Nestos-Rupel line.

(ii) The Greek army will concentrate with all possible speed on the position Mount Olympus-Veria-Edessa–Kajmakcalan (called the Aliakmon position) the following forces:

12th Division from Western Thrace.

20th Division from Florina.

19th Motorised Division from Larissa.

7 battalions from Western Thrace.

(iii) The British forces will be despatched as rapidly as shipping will permit to Piraeus and Volos. They will concentrate on the Aliakmon position on which it is intended that Graeco-British forces should be able to battle.

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The view taken in these discussions of the Military problem is shown by the following telegram which was sent home by the Foreign Secretary on the 5th March:

‘1. Military problem is essentially one of time and space.

‘2. Reports from Bulgaria suggest that the Germans may arrive on the Greek frontier in sufficient strength to deliver an attack during the next six or seven days. Rate of German advance will of course depend on the weather, and the date of attack may also be affected by need of building up dumps of supplies and ammunition near the Greek frontier.

‘3. Resistance which Greek divisions can be expected to put up in prepared positions on Nestos-Rupel line should delay the Germans for some days. There will then be further advance of 100 miles from Rupel Pass before contact is made on Aliakmon position. Time required for this advance should be considerably increased by demolitions which Wilson will prepare as rapidly as possible.

‘4. Concentration of three Greek divisions on Aliakmon position should be complete within five days. The seven battalions from Thrace require a further five or six days to complete concentration. Aliakmon position itself needs considerable work on communications and defences.

‘5. Concentration of British forces on Aliakmon position will be as follows:

Bulk of one armoured brigade and one New Zealand infantry brigade between the 16th and 19th March. Bulk of a second New Zealand infantry brigade about the 26th March. New Zealand infantry division should be complete in essential men and weapons by the end of March. Subsequent programme is not yet arranged.

‘6. All possible measures are being examined to speed up the programme, including the use of Greek ships for transport of British forces from Egypt.

‘7. The question of bombing German communications in Bulgaria was discussed yesterday with the Greeks. Their attitude is that, to avoid retaliation, no attack should be made during concentration of Anglo-Greek forces. If, however, Germany attacks Greece by land or air during this concentration, bombing will begin at once.

‘8. Thus the margin is narrow and the risk is considerable. Nevertheless, as we stated in our telegram No. 313 of the 4th March, this risk appears to us the least dangerous of the three possibilities with which we were faced.’*

16. Anxious consideration was given to these telegrams when they were received in London, and the Chiefs of Staff prepared a commentary which is given in full below:

* The other two possibilities referred to were:

(a) To dribble forces up to the Eastern Macedonian frontier, which Papagos suggested should be done.

(b) To withdraw our offer of military support altogether.

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‘The following appear to us to be the principal changes in the situation since the decision was taken to go full speed ahead with the Greek enterprise:

‘1. Our envoys, at their first interview with the King of Greece and General Papagos, reported that they were “greatly impressed by the attitude and spirit” of Papagos. At their recent interview they found him “unaccommodating and defeatist,” though he appears to have cheered up towards the end. This change of attitude on the part of Papagos was perhaps only to be expected in view of the German arrival on the Graeco–Bulgar frontier and of the failure of any support from Yugoslavia or Turkey. Nevertheless, it is bound to react unfavourably on the fighting spirit of his army.

‘2. The Greeks undertook on the 21st February to begin withdrawing their advance troops to the line which we should have to hold if the Yugoslavs were not willing to come in, and to start work immediately on improving communications in Greece to facilitate the occupation of this line. To-day (twelve days later) we learn that no withdrawal has commenced, and we gather that no work has been done. In view of the paramount importance of the time factor, this is serious.

‘3. We were to have had 35 Greek Battalions to help us to hold the line. We are now told that we are to have three Greek divisions and seven battalions from Western Thrace, but that these only amount to 23 battalions at most. With the exception of the 12th Division these are all newly formed and have not yet fought. One of the divisions can hardly have any guns, while the remainder can only have captured Italian material. But, in addition to the 35 battalions for which we had hoped, we had contemplated that the Greeks would be able to withdraw some divisions from their Albanian front. General Papagos now says that this cannot be done as they are “exhausted and outnumbered.”

‘4. We have always contemplated that Mandibles1 would be captured before – or at least simultaneously with – the move to Greece. It now appears that Mandibles cannot be undertaken until the movement to Greece has been completed. This means that instead of being able to concentrate all available air forces against the German advance, considerable air operations will have to be conducted against Mandibles in order to protect our lines of communication to Greece.

‘5. The mining of the Suez Canal has become a more acute handicap. It was to have been open on the 3rd March, but the Germans put in ten more mines that day. The Canal is now completely closed, and on past form may not be clear until the 11th March. Only half of the M.T. ships required for the movement to Greece are North of the Canal, and all personnel ships are South of it. Even if the personnel for Greece are carried in men-of-war, the whole force cannot be dealt with in this manner.

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‘The Time Factor.

‘6. We have estimated that one armoured and three motorised divisions could reach the Bulgar-Greek frontier on the 5th March, and, in addition, an infantry division by the 11th March. We further estimate that, assuming weak delaying action by the Greeks in the Rupel area, the Germans could have two divisions on the Aliakmon line by about the 15th March, and concentrate the whole five divisions there by the 22nd March.

‘7. We are now told that General Papagos intends to fight in the Rupel area with three divisions. Until we receive an answer to our telegram No. 64* we have no means of knowing how much delay will be imposed on a German advance, since much will depend on the strength of the position, the equipment and morale of the Greek troops, and on whether an effective scheme of demolitions has been prepared and can be executed. If the delay imposed is short, we should at the best have one armoured brigade and one New Zealand brigade to oppose the first two German divisions on the Aliakmon line.


‘8. Our conclusion is that the hazards of the enterprise have considerably increased. Nevertheless, despite our misgivings and our recognition of a worsening of the general situation, we are not as yet in a position to question the military advice of those on the spot, who, in their latest telegram, describe the enterprise as not by any means hopeless.’

17. The above commentary was telegraphed out to the Middle East by the Prime Minister, who indicated to the Foreign Secretary that, in the light of the new information from Athens, it was unlikely that the War Cabinet would sanction the Greek enterprise. However, on the following day, the Foreign Secretary telegraphed in reply as follows:

‘The Chief of the Imperial General Staff and I, in consultation with three Commanders-in-Chief, have this afternoon re-examined the question. We are unanimously agreed that, despite the heavy commitments and great risks which are undoubtedly involved, especially in view of our limited naval and air resources, the right decision was taken in Athens.’

Later the same day the Chief of the Imperial General Staff telegraphed:

‘General Wavell has explained to Generals Blamey and Freyberg additional risks involved in venture in Greece under existing situation. Both have expressed their willingness to undertake operations under new conditions.’

18. On the following day the matter was reviewed again by the Foreign Secretary, the Commanders-in-Chief and General Smuts, who was in Cairo. The Foreign Secretary telegraphed:

‘While we are all conscious of the gravity of the decision, we can find no reason to vary our proposed judgment. ... The collapse of Greece

* A telegram asking whether Commanders-in-Chief agreed with the estimate time table given in paragraph 6, and for information about Greek positions and intentions and whether Allied forces would arrive on the Aliakmon line in time to hold it.

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without further effort on our part to save her by intervention on land after the Libyan victories, which had, as all the world knows, made forces available, would be the greatest calamity. Yugoslavia would then certainly be lost, nor could we feel confident that even Turkey would have the strength to remain steadfast if the Germans and Italians were established in Greece, without the effort on our part to resist them. ... Longmore points out that he is very short of aircraft, particularly fighters, and is by no means confident he can give adequate air support to the operation. ... The struggle in the air in this theatre will be a serious one. Longmore requires all the help that can be given. If he can hold his own, most of the dangers and difficulties of this enterprise will disappear.’

19. In the light of these telegrams, the Prime Minister telegraphed on the 7th March to the Foreign Secretary that the Cabinet had considered the projects in the light of the above telegrams. He said that the Chiefs of Staff advised that, in view of the steadfastly expressed opinion of Commanders-in-Chief on the spot, of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and Commanders of the forces to be employed, it would be right to go on. The Cabinet accordingly had decided to authorise the operation to proceed.

The above summary of the events leading up to the arrival of British and Imperial forces in Greece shows that there was full discussion of military plans between our Commanders and General Papagos, and that the dispositions taken up were based on an early advance, probably about the middle of March, by the Germans directed on Salonika, Yugoslavia at first remaining neutral. Under these conditions and in the weather likely to be experienced in March in that part of the world, it was felt that the Allied forces on the Aliakmon line would have a good chance of withstanding the German attack. It was felt that, if the Germans decided to violate the neutrality of Yugoslavia, the latter would be able to hold the difficult passes in the South-east of the country and would be able to complete the destruction of the Italian Army in Albania; no early attack through the Monastir Gap was therefore thought to be likely.

20. The situation was somewhat changed by the coup d’Etat which took place in Yugoslavia on the 27th March and which caused a postponement in the German attack. It was still felt that the Yugoslavs would be able to hold a German advance from Bulgaria through the narrow valleys eminently suitable for anti-tank defence. Every effort was made to induce the Yugoslavs to take the initiative against the Italians before the Germans were ready to launch their attack and thus enable the Greeks, the Yugoslavs and ourselves to form a combined front against the Germans. These efforts failed; the Germans attacked Yugoslavia on the 7th April and rapidly broke through to the head of the Monastir Gap. The Yugoslavs proved incapable of any action against the Italians and, in consequence, there were not sufficient forces to close the gap in the Allied line.

21. It is worth remembering that, owing to the necessity for meeting the German advance in Cyrenaica, the forces which actually went to Greece consisted of only two Divisions and an Armoured Brigade. The whole of the 7th Australian Division and the Polish Brigade had to be kept back. The Aliakmon position was extremely strong and, on the assumption that

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either the Germans did not go through Yugoslavia or that the Yugoslavs would succeed in holding their advance through the mountainous country, there is nothing to show that the forces originally planned to hold the Line would not have been able to do so. The number of German Divisions which could be maintained for an invasion of Greece from Bulgaria was by no means unlimited, and the successful defence put up by weak Greek forces in the Rupel area shows what can be done by determined men in strong natural positions.

Question 4

Was sufficient consideration given to the adequacy of our Air Force in Greece?


1. Much anxious consideration was given to the question of air support for the operations in Greece. It was fully realised that, with the resources available, the R.A.F. would be hard put to it to hold their own against the Germans, who would not only be able to operate the full number of squadrons that could be accommodated in the aerodromes in Bulgaria and around Salonika after they had captured this place, but would be able to keep up a steady supply of replacements. The most that could be hoped was that we should be able to keep the effects of the enemy’s air superiority to a minimum and to prevent them becoming such as to prejudice the holding of our positions.

2. We were not, of course, in a position to send forces at will. It was rather a case of considering how much must be retained for the protection of the Suez Canal and Fleet base and for operations in the Western Desert, where a German threat was developing. Having decided upon the minimum for these purposes, the remainder could go to Greece.

3. As it turned out, by the middle of April we had in Greece –

1 Heavy Bomber Squadron,

5 Medium Bomber Squadrons,

3 Fighter Squadrons, and

1 Army Co-operation Squadron.

Total, 10 Squadrons.

Our air forces in Egypt at that time consisted of only 12 Squadrons, including 2 Sunderland Flying Boat Squadrons. It will be seen, therefore, that to all intents and purposes our air forces in the Eastern Mediterranean were equally divided between Greece and Egypt.

4. We had been much hampered in preparing for air operations in Greece by lack of aerodromes. The Greeks were slow to realise the necessity to develop aerodromes and to provide facilities. We were not in a position to conscript labour and the work had to be done throughout the winter, when the weather was extremely adverse. The only aerodromes worthy of the name were Jannina and Paramythra on the Albanian front, and six in Macedonia, of which Trikala and Larissa were the best. The Germans were not handicapped in the same way after our withdrawal because, with the improvement in the weather, a number of other aerodromes became fit for use.

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5. Taking into account all these factors, it was clear that the air situation in Greece in the event of a German attack would be most unsatisfactory, but could not by any means be improved. Having in mind the moral necessity of helping the Greeks to the utmost, the great prize at stake if the Germans could be held in the Balkans and the favourable nature of the country for military defence, it was felt by all in authority that the air situation must be accepted as part of the general risks of the campaign.

6. Viewing the campaign in retrospect, it must be remembered that the German advance through the Monastir Gap and the turning of the Aliakmon line led to a retreat in the course of which aerodromes had to be hurriedly abandoned, the operations of our air forces in consequence being gravely handicapped. Moreover, the failure of the Yugoslavs to take any effective action against the Italians made it impossible for our forces to concentrate entirely against the Germans. In spite of these adverse factors, it was not until the closing stages that air attack on the troops began to cause serious results, and the successful evacuation shows that it was never decisive.

Question 5

Could not and should not aerodromes in Greece have been destroyed prior to evacuation?


1. At the time of the German attack, the Royal Air Force were using six main aerodromes in Greece, plus some advanced landing grounds and satellites. This number does not include aerodromes in the Salonika area, which we were never able to occupy, but it includes two which were used in support of the Albanian front. There seems to be considerable misapprehension as to what is involved in the ‘destruction’ of an aerodrome. A note on the subject has been included in the answer to Question 10 on Crete. The main points affecting the situation in Greece are that –

(a) An aerodrome cannot be prepared for demolition while it is still in use;

(b) A large number of technical troops, complete with equipment and explosives, are required to deal with one aerodrome, and the work takes considerable time;

(c) The results of even a carefully planned and thoroughly executed demolition of the aerodrome surface are purely temporary;

(d) The available Engineers were fully occupied on the vital work of delaying the advance of the German forces – a matter of much more immediate importance than the doing of what, in the circumstances, could only be comparatively ineffective damage to aerodromes.

2. In actual fact, the aerodromes in Greece were utilised by our own Air Forces right up to the time that they had to be abandoned to the enemy. It is doubtful whether more than 24 hours elapsed between the ending of our aerial activity at an aerodrome and the arrival of enemy forces. An exception is possibly the aerodromes behind the Albanian front, but in that area we had no forces who could have done the work.

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Part II. Crete

Question 1

When was it decided that Crete must be held?

Question 2

After that decision, what steps were taken, and when, to render the Island defensible?

Question 3

(a) What consideration was given, and

(b) What steps were taken for providing the troops charged with the defence of Crete with the necessary equipment

(i) Artillery;

(ii) Anti-aircraft artillery;

(iii) Ammunition of all types;

(iv) Rifles and automatic rifles;

(v) Transport;

(vi) Tanks;

(vii) Medical supplies and equipment;

(viii) Picks and shovels for digging in self-defence?

Note: To some extent no doubt these questions are answered by a report* on the matter supplied to me in the Middle East.

Answers to Questions 1, 2 and 3.

1. The importance of Crete as a naval base for our own use and as a point which should be denied to the enemy was realised before Italy came into the war, and forces were held ready in the Middle East to go there should Greece become involved. Consequently, as soon as Italy attacked Greece, we occupied the Island. On the 1st November, 1940, the Secretary of State for War, who was then in the Middle East, telegraphed home giving details of the forces which were being sent to Crete, and said: ‘A further difficulty in basing aircraft in Crete is that Crete at present possesses only one aerodrome which can be made serviceable. Crete is very vulnerable to air attack not only from Italian bombers from Libya but also from fighters operating from the Dodecanese. If British squadrons are based on Crete, vulnerability of aerodrome must result in high percentage of losses on the ground.’

2. While the evacuation of Greece was still proceeding, General Wavell was informed from home that a heavy air-borne attack by German troops and bombers appeared likely to be made soon upon Crete. He was told that the Island was to be stubbornly defended. It was realised that, with the Germans in Greece and the Dodecanese, it might not be possible to use Suda Bay as a naval base on account of the scale of air attack which could be brought to bear, and because of the difficulty of operating sufficient fighters

* Annex to C.O.S. (41) 405.

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from the three landing grounds which by then were available. Moreover, the resources of the Middle East, especially after the losses which had occurred in Greece, did not permit of the allocation of that scale of anti-aircraft defence which experience in Malta showed would be necessary to provide reasonable security for the harbour and aerodromes. It was, however, judged essential, if by any means it could be achieved, to deny the use of Crete to the Germans.

3. A full account of the steps taken to make the Island defensible can only be given in the Middle East. The Commanders-in-Chief had been urged, ever since the first occupation, to strengthen the Island as much as possible, but it must be borne in mind that their resources were strained to the utmost by the campaigns in Cyrenaica and Greece, and while these campaigns were going on it was difficult for them to lock up tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, transport, &c., on an Island which, at that time, was not a scene of active operations.

4. The situation in Libya was causing much anxiety during the period between the evacuation of Greece and the German attack on Crete. Great efforts were being made to build up sufficient forces to turn the tables on the Germans before they should become too strong and no doubt this hampered the Commander-in-Chief in his efforts to provide the large amount of equipment required to re-arm the troops which had arrived in Crete from Greece. Much of what was sent was sunk en route or in Suda Bay before it could be unloaded.

5. Little or nothing could be done from home to assist. The pipeline of aircraft, guns and equipment of all kinds flowing from the United Kingdom to the Middle East round the Cape was kept full and a number of hazardous operations were carried out to pass aircraft and tanks through the Mediterranean. General Wavell was urged to send as many tanks and artillery as he could spare to Crete, but, for the reasons mentioned above, the amount actually sent was small. Full details will only be available when reports from the Middle East are received.

6. When weighing up the results of an operation such as the defence of Crete, it must be remembered that war cannot be conducted on the principle that only those enterprises in which success is certain should be undertaken. When the enemy holds the initiative, the pressure of events inevitably compels us from time to time to fight in positions and under conditions which are not in our favour. The alternative is to abandon, without a struggle, friends and allies, and to hand over important positions to the enemy without making him pay the price.

7. In the case of Crete, even if it had been decided to abandon the Island without fighting, it would hardly have been possible to do it. The large number of troops could not have been evacuated in the face of the enemy without losses almost as great as those sustained in the actual battle. It did not prove possible, in fact, to withdraw from the Island the 10,000 or so unarmed men who could contribute little or nothing to the defence. As will be seen from the answer to Question 7, good hopes were, in fact, entertained of being able to beat off the attack.

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Question 4

In particular, was the question of air support adequately studied and what conclusions were come to?

Note: It seems to be generally accepted now in the Middle East that infantry and artillery exposed to unrestricted air attack are in an impossible position; if this is an accepted fact now, it is difficult to understand (and the New Zealand Government and people would wish to understand it) why, in the light of operations in Poland, France and Greece, it was not an accepted fact before the decision to defend Crete was taken?


1. The question of air support for Crete was fully studied. It was clearly realised by all the Commanders concerned and by the authorities at home that fighter aircraft could not be maintained on the Island in face of the scale of air attack which would be experienced. The Germans could concentrate against the Island the whole of the air forces, short-range as well as long-range, which they could base in Greece and the Dodecanese. To deal with a really determined effort by these forces to dominate the air over Crete would have required a force of 15–20 Fighter Squadrons in Crete – a figure quite beyond our resources to provide or to operate. Even if such a force had been available, there would have been no possibility of making, even with years of labour, the aerodromes necessary to enable it to operate in a mountainous country like Crete. Still less would it have been possible to provide the vast number of anti-aircraft guns necessary for the defence of these aerodromes. To have maintained a token force of, say, 5 squadrons, would have been worse than useless; they would have been overwhelmed both in the air and on the ground, and would merely have added to our losses without result.

2. The Commanders in the Middle East decided that, as there was no possibility of establishing in Crete a fighter force of the size necessary to be effective, the proper course was to withdraw the small force of fighters stationed there and so save them from useless destruction. This decision was taken on the advice of General Freyberg and Group Captain Beamish, the local R.A.F. Commander, and no responsible authority has questioned its wisdom.

Question 5

Was the scale of attack sufficiently appreciated –

(a) in the United Kingdom;

(b) in the Middle East?


1. The scale of attack on Crete was fully appreciated in the United Kingdom, as can be seen from the following telegram which was sent to the Middle East on the 28th April:

‘German attack Crete by simultaneous airborne and seaborne expedition believed imminent.

‘Scale of airborne attack estimated 3,000/4,000 parachutists or airborne troops in first sortie. Two or three sorties per day possible from Greece

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and three or four from Rhodes, if Rhodes not used as dive-bomber base. All above with fighter escort.

‘Heavy bombing attacks to be expected immediately prior to arrival of air and seaborne troops. Main fighter and dive-bombing support probably based Rhodes. Following is our estimate based on establishment of operational aircraft available in Balkans for all purposes: 315 long-range bombers, 60 twin-engined fighters, 240 dive-bombers, 270 single-engined fighters. Last two categories would require extra tanks if operated from north of Corinth Canal. Only very small attacks from points south of this owing to aerodrome shortage in Morea, but some 60/90 dive-bombers and similar number single-engined fighters could operate from Rhodes provided aerodromes in Rhodes not required for other operations.

‘Estimated that both troops and shipping ample for seaborne operation, and lighters for transport of tanks also believed available, hence scale of seaborne attack dependent on extent to which enemy can evade our naval forces. Reinforcements enemy naval forces and shipping from Italy possible, but involve hazardous route round Cape Matapan, if Corinth Canal unusable.’

2. The Commanders-in-Chief were under no illusions as to the difficulty of meeting this scale of attack, though they questioned whether it could, in fact, be achieved with the forces the Germans, according to their information, had in the Balkans.

Question 6

Was the anticipated scale of attack achieved or exceeded?


1. The scale of attack which actually took place was approximately equal to that which had been foreseen. The Germans showed, however, an ability to keep it going for a longer period than was expected.

Question 7

What were the views on the possibility of defending Crete of –

(a) His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom;

(b) The United Kingdom’s Chiefs of Staff individually;

(c) General Wavell;

(d) Admiral Cunningham;

(e) Air-Marshal Longmore;

(f) Air-Marshal Tedder;

(g) General Freyberg?


1. A true appreciation of the chances of defending Crete could only be formed in the Middle East. However, the great importance of the island to our position in the Mediterranean was clear, and there was never any question of abandoning it without a struggle. On the 29th April the Chiefs of Staff telegraphed to the Commanders-in-Chief asking for an appreciation of the defence of Crete from General Weston, who was at that time commanding on the island. The Chiefs of Staff also enquired when the mobile

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Naval base defence organisation would arrive and how soon the defences would be installed, and requested a report on the state of troops, and of the arms possessed by those who had been evacuated from Greece.

2. The views expressed and the attitude of the various authorities concerned are best shown in the telegrams exchanged between the United Kingdom and the Middle East. These are reproduced in Annex I.2 His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, advised by the Chiefs of Staff, were satisfied that there was a reasonable chance of success in the light of the telegrams received.

Question 8

Did the responsible officers of the Air Force at any time call attention to the fact that they would be unable to provide air protection?

Question 9

If so, did they then call attention to the risks involved in undertaking the operations without such protection?

Question 10

Could not and should not the aerodromes in Crete (two out of three of which, including Maleme, we ourselves apparently constructed) have been rendered unusable prior to the German invasion and after we had flown off our aeroplanes and apparently decided we would not use the landing grounds?

Question 11

Was it sufficiently appreciated that the bulk of the troops available for the defence of Crete were –

(a) to some degree exhausted after the Greek campaign;

(b) to some extent disorganised;

(c) inadequately supplied with practically everything but rifles, i.e., transport, artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, means of communication, and even tools for digging;

(d) embarrassed by considerable numbers of refugees?

Answers to Questions 8, 9, 10 and 11

1. As explained in the answer to Question 4, the air situation was fully appreciated, both at home and in the Middle East. It was always realised that the defence of Crete would be a struggle between sea and land forces on the one hand and air and airborne forces on the other. Experience in the evacuation from Greece, which had been successfully carried out by the Royal Navy in face of heavy air attack, seemed to show that the fleet would be able to prevent any seaborne landing without undue loss. As it turned out the landing was prevented, though heavy losses were sustained.

2. It was also thought that the army would be able to cope with an airborne landing about which ample warning had been obtained. The island was known to be very mountainous with only one good aerodrome and two

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landing grounds, and it was thought that, if these latter could be held and if no seaborne expedition could land, the troops in possession of the island could not be dislodged by parachute troops alone. This expectation might well have been fulfilled but for two circumstances: First, the inevitable disorganisation resulting from the evacuation from Greece led to a lack of equipment for the troops in the island and to the presence of large numbers of ‘useless mouths.’ This situation, which was not fully realised at home, was aggravated by the sinking of ships carrying equipment and tools to the island. Secondly, Maleme aerodrome was lost, and this allowed the enemy to land a continuous stream of fresh troops in troop carriers.

3. It still seems reasonable to suppose that troops well dug in and provided with mobile reserves and adequate artillery would not have been dislodged by parachutists and dive bombers.

4. As to the ‘destruction’ of the aerodromes, it should be realised that they were in use by our own forces right up to the day before the attack took place. This was most necessary as great efforts were being made to protect the harbours on the North coast at which equipment, transport, stores, &c., were being unloaded for the garrison. It was only when it was known with certainty that the attack was imminent that the remnants of the Air Force were withdrawn.

5. The significance of this fact will appear from consideration of what is involved in making an aerodrome unserviceable. It should be made quite clear that to ‘destroy’ an aerodrome is virtually impossible. All that can be done is to render it unusable for a limited period. How difficult a task this is can be shown from our own experiences in South-east England last autumn. For example, 280 bombs were dropped on Biggin Hill Aerodrome on one day, including a number of delayed-action bombs. In spite of this, the fighter squadrons continued to operate, without interruption, from the aerodrome.

6. Blocking expedients with surface obstacles are generally ineffective. The maximum delay that can be imposed on the use of the aerodrome is by the production of a large number of craters over nearly all the surface. Trenching with mechanical diggers is effective but rarely possible in the field.

7. The speed of production of craters depends upon the nature of the subsoil. For example, a possible landing ground at Portland took a Field Company, R.E., with three compressors, 10 days to crater. Gravel subsoil is exceptionally difficult to deal with, as the explosive chambers keep falling in. Water near the surface creates obvious difficulties. (A number of aerodromes in Greece, for example, were water-logged almost up to the date of the German attack.)

8. The preparation of a large number of charges, ready in position beneath the surface of the aerodrome in anticipation of demolition, has been suggested, and the question was fully investigated in the case of Manston Aerodrome in Kent. The R.A.F., however, are quite definite that they cannot conduct operations from an aerodrome in which charges have been laid. There is not only the risk of contact detonation in a crash landing, but also the more serious one of the destruction of the whole surface due to sympathetic detonation of all the charges initiated perhaps by one bomb.

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The preparation of charges must, therefore, take place after we ourselves have ceased to use the aerodrome.

9. To take the case of Maleme Aerodrome, which had a clay surface from which a quantity of large stones had been removed. The subsoil is believed to have been clay mixed with large stones and boulders. The only methods of immobilising the aerodrome were by trenching or by the production of craters, using camouflet equipment. Mechanical equipment for trenching was not available, and, in any case, is a slow process.

10. If the Field Companies on Crete had had their full equipment (which they had not, due to the evacuation from Greece), each would have had 3 Light camouflet sets and 13 Hand Earth Augurs. The number of craters which would have been required is approximately 300, not more than 30 yards apart. Working at full strength and without enemy interference, a fresh Field Company could produce these in 24–30 hours’ work, provided the subsoil was not found to be more difficult than stated in paragraph 3 [ sic]. At the end of this task they would be exhausted. Enemy interference would probably restrict the work to the hours of darkness, and, if this were so, the work would have taken 5 nights to complete. The dilution of the Company with unskilled labour would not materially assist.

11. The quantity of explosive required would be approximately 7½ tons of Ammonol or Gelignite with corresponding accessories, such as fuse, primers, detonators, &c.

12. It remains to consider what would be the resulting delay caused by this great work. The evidence of Biggin Hill shows how small a part of an aerodrome is required to maintain operations from it. Unless all the debris from the craters were removed from the field – a colossal task without mechanical equipment – there would be very little work required to provide a usable landing strip for troop-carriers. Something in the nature of 100 men working 6–10 hours with shovels could prepare a 700-yard strip on which the landing and taking off of troop-carriers could proceed.

Question 12

Was there any difference of opinion amongst the responsible officers as to the feasibility of the operation or the adequacy of the steps taken; if so, what were those differences?


1. An answer to this question could only be given by a detailed enquiry in the Middle East. In the United Kingdom, as the telegrams show, there was a keen desire that every possible step should be taken in the time available to strengthen the defences and to provide reinforcements in tanks, artillery and equipment. While no one could give a guarantee of success, there was no shadow of doubt but that the defence must be attempted.

Question 13

What was the degree of co-operation between those responsible for the three armed Services in the Middle East –

(a) before and

(b) during

the Crete operations?

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1. The detailed plans made in the Middle East are not at present available. There is no reason to suppose, however, that there was not a full degree of co-operation between the three Commanders-in-Chief and the three Services as a whole, both before and during the operations. More light will be thrown on this matter when reports are received from the Middle East.

Question 14

Is a system of co-operation satisfactory under which two of the three responsible officers concerned are located at Cairo and the third at Alexandria – 150 miles away?


1. It has always been recognised that the arrangement referred to is not entirely satisfactory, and from time to time there have been discussions as to how to improve matters. It goes without saying that the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, must go to sea with his fleet and can hardly have his headquarters when ashore anywhere but at Alexandria. It might be proposed that Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Middle East, should make their headquarters also at Alexandria, but there are a number of objections to this course. As the capital of Egypt and the seat of the Government, and the centre of communications throughout the Middle East, there is much to be said for the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, being in Cairo.

2. The matter is, however, now under investigation, and it is hoped that a better arrangement will be found practicable.

Question 15

What steps are being taken to avoid a recurrence of a situation under which well-trained and courageous troops find themselves battered to pieces from the air without means of defence or retaliation?


1. As explained in the answer to Question 4, the giving of adequate air support to the army is very largely a question of geography. The side which has its air bases nearer the scene of land operations is placed at a great advantage. The only places in the Middle East theatre of war in which the enemy can develop overwhelming air strength from positions more favourable than our own are in Malta and possibly Cyprus, which are dealt with in the answer to Question 17.

Question 16

What are considered to be the net results of the Crete operation –

(a) the disadvantages to us by the loss of the Island;

(b) the advantages to us in losses by the enemy of men and equipment and the delay imposed upon him?

Note: This is of academic interest only, as the operation was not entered upon as a desperate adventure in order to obtain a corresponding advantage, but was apparently conceived as an ordinary operation of war with the probability of successful defence.

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(a) Disadvantages to us by the loss of Crete.

1. The loss of Crete deprives us of the use of Suda Bay as a Naval anchorage. While we held Greece, this anchorage was of considerable value. The loss of Greece meant that Suda Bay came within range of very heavy air attack and, in consequence, it could only have been used for short periods by a small number of ships, so that its value was in any case much reduced.

2. The next and by far the most important disadvantage of losing Crete was that enemy short-range fighters and dive bombers, with operational radii of action of 150 miles and 117 miles respectively, can now operate from bases in Crete and Western Libya against all ships sailing through the channel between Crete and Libya. Our own short-range fighters, operating from bases on the Western Desert coast, have not the range to cover this channel. The enemy can therefore use his fighters to contain Fleet Air Arm fighters operating from carriers, while his bombers attack His Majesty’s ships or convoys unmolested except by anti-aircraft fire. Long-range fighters have not the necessary performance to engage short-range fighters with any hope of success. The result of this situation is that sailing convoys to Malta can be made most hazardous, if not impracticable, and unless and until the enemy can be driven from the coast of Cyrenaica, the Mediterranean Fleet is virtually confined to the Eastern Mediterranean.

3. The same situation could not have been produced by the enemy using the southern Greece aerodromes. The distance from southern Greece to Cyrenaica is too great for the water in between to be completely covered by bombers and fighters working from the two opposite coasts. Moreover, our own fighters from Crete could have given a small degree of cover.

4. Now that they are established in Crete, the Germans can work a line of communications from Athens to Benghazi which it will be extremely difficult for us to molest, except with submarines.

5. Although the aerodromes in Crete are the same distance from objectives in Alexandria and the Delta as the aerodromes in Cyrenaica, they are nevertheless nearer to the German main European supply organisation, and are therefore easier to maintain. An increased effort against Egypt can therefore be exerted more easily by operating from Crete than by developing more aerodromes in Libya.

(b) Advantages to us in losses by the enemy of men and equipment and the delay imposed upon him.

6. It is estimated that the Germans lost 250 aircraft, including 150 troop carriers, in the operations over Crete. This figure does not include aircraft which were damaged. His losses in men amounted to between 10 and 15 thousand. This figure is trifling when compared with the great numbers of the German Army, but it includes a large number of highly-trained parachute troops.

7. The battle in Crete was, however, most valuable, occurring as it did just at the time when Rashid Ali had declared his hostility and matters in Iraq were trembling in the balance.

8. The attack on Habbaniya started on the 30th April. The advance party of the relieving force from Palestine reached Habbaniya on the 15th May

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and Baghdad on the 30th, and on the latter date Rashid Ali fled and the Iraqi Government asked for an armistice. The attack on Crete began on the 20th May and lasted until the 1st June.

9. There is no doubt that if the Germans had not been fully occupied with the battle in Crete during the critical ten days while the small relieving force was struggling to reach Baghdad, Axis forces would have been flown in increasing strength to Iraq and the outcome of events in that country might have been very different. As it was, they were only able to send a very few aeroplanes which could not affect the issue. Their failure to back up Rashid Ali had a notable effect throughout the whole of the Middle East.

10. Furthermore, if the Germans had been free to reinforce Iraq in considerable strength, they would at the same time have established themselves securely in Northern Syria. The defence of Crete was certainly not undertaken with the object of achieving these results, but nevertheless we have here another instance of stubborn action reaping unforeseen rewards.

Question 17

What effect have the operations in Crete had upon the possibility of defending Malta, Cyprus, &c.?



1. The geographical situation of Cyprus is not so unfavourable as that of Crete since, if we hold Syria and Palestine, we can operate air forces over the island with greater facility than can the enemy from his base at Rhodes. An early attack on Cyprus was considered quite probable soon after the end of the battle in Crete, and the policy laid down by His Majesty’s Government was that no serious attempt to defeat a heavy attack should be made. A small garrison was to be maintained, so that the enemy could not walk in unopposed, but in face of a serious attack this garrison was to take [to] the mountains and operate as guerrillas. Preparations for this were put in hand.

2. As soon as we have completed the occupation of Syria, the policy for the defence of Cyprus will have to be reconsidered.


3. The situation in Malta is, of course, very different to that of either Crete or Cyprus. Malta is a fortress which has been in our possession for over 100 years and has powerful defences which are constantly being augmented. A great deal of underground accommodation is available, so that, although there have been almost incessant air raids for a year, the casualties have been trifling. There is a completely equipped and efficient garrison; the air defences consist of fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft guns, the strength of which at the end of June was –

Serviceable Hurricanes – 50

Heavy Anti-aircraft guns – 112

Light Anti-aircraft guns – 72

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It is hoped, before the end of this month, to increase the number of anti-aircraft guns to –

Heavy Anti-aircraft guns – 112

Light Anti-aircraft guns – 120

A good system of R.D.F. has been installed.

4. Nevertheless, the lessons of Crete are being thoroughly studied in Malta, and no stone will be left unturned to prepare the Island for heavy attack. A word of warning must, however, be sounded. The ability of any island to withstand a heavy air and seaborne attack must be limited unless air bases exist on the mainland nearby, from which additional cover can be provided, and unless a fleet can operate in the surrounding waters. At present no such air bases exist, nor could surface forces remain in the vicinity.

5. If, therefore, the Germans decide to attempt to capture Malta, the success of their enterprise will depend upon the amount of force they are prepared to expend on it. They could undoubtedly mount an attack from Sicily and Southern Italy of the same type as they launched against Crete from Rhodes and Greece. Their losses would be a good deal heavier than they sustained at Crete, but if they decided to maintain their attack day after day regardless of loss for perhaps a period of several weeks, they would probably in the end be successful. There is good reason to suppose, however, that the cost of this success might be the crippling of a large portion of the German short-range air force. Conversely, the losses which the Germans would sustain in the attack might be so great that they could not face them. It is this thought which may have deterred them from making the effort before now.

Question 18

Should arrangements not be made to place certain adequate Air Forces under direct Army control?


1. It has always been recognised that a proportion of the air forces operating in an overseas theatre of war must be under the direct control of the Army. This proportion consists of the Army Co-operation Squadrons whose primary task is reconnaissance and whose personnel are specially trained for the purpose. In addition to the Army Co-operation Squadrons, an Expeditionary Force is accompanied by an air component which contains a proportion of fighter and bomber squadrons for the immediate support of the Army. When important operations are impending, the action of the whole of the air forces in the theatre of war is closely co-ordinated by the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief with the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, so that the whole of the combined resources of the Army and the Air Force will be used to the best advantage at the time.

2. Recent operations in the Middle East have shown that the machinery for co-ordinating the work of the land and air forces leaves something to be desired. The method of communication from ground to air; the training of soldiers and airmen in close co-operation; and the avoidance

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of the wasteful use of air power, are matters which require more attention. This attention is now being given both at home and in the Middle East and it is hoped to achieve better results in future.

3. It should not be thought, however, either that the Germans employ a different system to our own or that the control of air forces in the Middle East by the Army would have led to any different results in Crete. Apart from the Army Co-operation Squadrons, which are similar to our own, the Germans employ their air force in accordance with their general strategical plan, either on independent means or in support of the Army, as the case may be. A great deal of the apparently superior results which they have achieved have been due to the enormous superiority in numbers which they have been able to employ at the decisive point and this, in turn, has been due to their central position on the Continent, which has enabled them to transfer air forces rapidly from one theatre to another. The reasons for the lack of air support at Crete have already been dealt with in the answer to Question 4.

Question 19

Has the possibility (or probability) of a similar air-borne attack on other parts of the Middle East (including the Canal and Egypt itself) been considered and are the necessary steps being taken?


1. Except at Malta and Cyprus, which have been dealt with in the reply to Question 17, there is no part of the Middle East ... [where] an attack similar to that on Crete could be staged by the enemy. There is nowhere where he could attain the complete air superiority which would enable him to land large numbers of parachutists and air-borne troops in daylight.

2. There is, of course, the obvious possibility that, when he has built up his forces, he may attempt large-scale operations against Egypt and the Canal zone, as part of which he may attempt to drop air-borne troops, and everyone is fully alive to this possibility. If, however, he attains the complete air superiority necessary to give him freedom of action in daytime over our back areas, the situation will indeed be serious. All our efforts must, therefore, be directed to ensuring that such a state of affairs cannot occur.

Question 20

Is the vital importance of air and armoured reinforcement of the Middle East fully recognised and are the necessary steps being taken?


1. The vital importance of air and armoured reinforcement of the Middle East has always been fully recognised and the only limits placed on what is sent by every available route are:

(a) the transport facilities available;

(b) in the case of tanks, the maintenance of bare security in the United Kingdom. Annex II3 shows the present rate at which air and tank reinforcements are being despatched from the United Kingdom and the U.S.A.

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