193 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner in Australia

Cablegram 375 LONDON, 8 November 1940, 1.04 a.m.


Please convey following message to Prime Minister [1] immediately- BEGINS- We have received information that Greeks intend removing six of their nine battalions now at Crete for employment elsewhere. In the circumstances we cannot ask them to reconsider this move, though we have asked them to leave their existing 12 guns at Crete until these are replaced by us. We think it very unlikely that Italians will, in all the circumstances, attack Crete but this island is of highest importance to us for future operations and failure to hold it would be a military and political disaster of the first order. We have therefore informed the Greek authorities that we are ready to assume responsibility for its security.

2. Two British infantry battalions (vide paragraph 1(b) of my Circular telegram Z.345 of 6th November [2]) are an insufficient garrison and Commander in Chief, Middle East [3], has therefore been instructed to despatch additional battalions.

In view of present situation on western desert, it is likely that Commander in Chief, Middle East, will consider it to be in our common interests to select for Crete from those Australian and New Zealand troops now retained in Egypt for internal security duties.

Should Commander-in-Chief so desire, we hope the Commonwealth and New Zealand will be able to give their concurrence. In view of necessity for rapid action, it is requested that a very early reply may be sent to this message and that you will repeat your reply to Commander-in-Chief, Middle East. This message is being sent to His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty's Government in New Zealand. ENDS.

1 R. G. Menzies.

2 On file AA:A1608, E41/1/3, i.

3 General Sir Archibald Wavell.

[AA:A1608, A41/1/1, xv]