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Appendix 4: Directive to the Air Officer Commanding, British Air Forces in Greece

(See page 233)

To:– Air Commodore J. H. D’Albiac, DSO

1. The Cabinet have decided to give Greece the greatest possible material support at the earliest moment. In consequence the British Air Forces now in Greece are to be strengthened.

2. You have been selected to act as representative of the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief and to command all Royal Air Force Units and ancillary British Army Units supporting them in Greece. You will take over command from Wing Commander A. H. Willetts on arrival in Athens.

3. The Air Forces under your command will be known as ‘British Air Forces in Greece’.

4. In addition to No. 30 Blenheim Squadron—composite fighter-bomber squadron already established in Greece—the following Units will join your Command at an early date:-

2 Blenheim Bomber Squadrons

1 Gladiator Fighter Squadron

A second Gladiator Fighter Squadron will follow later.

5. It is further intended to use Eleusis Aerodrome as a refuelling and rearming base for Wellington bombers operating against suitable strategic objectives in the Adriatic and, subject to general directives issued by the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, these bombers will also operate under your Command while in Greece.

6. The necessary Royal Air Force administrative and maintenance units will accompany the above units and you are aware generally of their composition.

7. The Greeks are being asked, through the British Minister, Athens, to provide anti-aircraft defence for the aerodromes used by the Royal Air Force. In addition one battery of H.A.A. guns (8) and one battery of L.A.A. guns (12) are being despatched forthwith from Egypt to supplement what the Greeks are able to supply. You will be responsible for the siting of the A.A. Defences and should signal your decisions as soon as possible.

8. The Army are responsible for establishing the normal ancillary services. Appropriate military advisers will be added to your staff.

9. On arrival at Athens you will report to the British Minister by arrangement with the Assistant Air Attaché, Wing Commander R. I. Legg (whose office is in the British Embassy).

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10. You will have the status of an independent Air Force Commander but, although not under the control of the Greek General Staff, the conduct of air operations by the Royal Air Force should, as far as practicable and subject to the general instructions issued in para. 11, conform as closely as possible to the Greek plan for the defence of the country.

11. Wing Commander Willetts has had preliminary discussions with the Greek General Staff on the general conduct of operations and the manner in which the Royal Air Force can most profitably assist the Greek military plan and a copy of his report is attached.

In general, the fighters are being provided primarily for the defence of your aerodromes and vulnerable objectives in the rear area. The attacking of selected points in the enemy lines of communication and his concentrations in the rear areas appear to be suitable tasks for the Blenheim bombers. You are not to allow bombers to be used as artillery or to participate in the actual land operations unless the military situation becomes so critical as to justify the temporary diversion of our bombers from strategic bombing to support of the Greek land forces. Appropriate objectives for the Wellington bombers are the points of disembarkation and concentration areas on the Albanian coast, but further guidance on these operations will be signalled to you from time to time.

12. Bombing is to be confined to military objectives and must be subjected to the following general principles:–

(a) Intentional bombardment of civil population as such is illegal.

(b) It must be possible to identify the objective.

(c) The attack must be made with reasonable care to avoid undue loss of civil life in the vicinity of the target.

(d) The provisions of the Red Cross conventions are to be observed.

The term ‘Military’ may be interpreted in its widest sense and includes all enemy merchant shipping whether in port or on the high seas. Provided the principles set out above are observed, all objectives, the destruction of which is of immediate military necessity, may be attacked for particular reasons. For the present, targets in Rome may not be attacked unless special instructions are issued. For special reasons also, targets in Taranto should not be attacked until after the 11th November.

In the event of it being decided to carry out attacks against targets on the Italian mainland you should, whenever possible, give prior warning to Air Officer Commanding Mediterranean, repeated this Headquarters, as aircraft from Malta are also operating against these targets and, on occasion, it may be necessary for you to co-ordinate bombing operations with Air Officer Commanding Mediterranean.

13. You are empowered to refuse to undertake any operation which, in your opinion, would jeopardize the security of the air forces under your Command. In such an event you are to report the circumstances direct to this Headquarters.

14. You should signal the results of any important discussions with the Greek General Staff and keep the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief informed from time to time of your general intentions and progress of operations.

15. You are to refrain from committing the Royal Air Force to any

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further assistance, but you will naturally be in a position to advise the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief as to the form any air reinforcements should take in the event of further assistance being forthcoming at a later date.

16. A British Liaison Mission will be formed in Greece at an early date and you are also to keep the air representative, Wing Commander Forbes, fully informed of the conduct of operations.

17. The future trend of events in Greece cannot be appreciated, but the possibility of a sudden and complete collapse of Greece must not be lost sight of when making your decisions on the location of the squadrons. If time does not permit prior reference to the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief you are to use your discretion as to the appropriate moment to evacuate the Royal Air Force from Greece, and, in the absence of any further instructions from this Headquarters, you are to retire to Crete.

18. You are to deal solely with this Headquarters in all matters concerning the Royal Air Force in Greece.

(Sgd.) R. M. DRUMMOND,

Air Vice-Marshal

for Air Chief Marshal Commanding-in-Chief

Royal Air Force, Middle East.

5th November 1940.