327 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister

Cablegram 165 LONDON, 1 March 1941, 4.05 p.m.

FOR THE ACTING PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

Your telegram No. 82 [1] was conveyed by me to the Prime Minister [2] and fully discussed at the War Cabinet. The Government here recognizes that the size of the force must seem relatively small.

Nevertheless their advisers in the Middle East having taken into account- (a) the forces at present available from the Middle East, (b) the size of the Greek army and plans for its employment and (c) the likely scale of German attack having regard to difficulties of terrain, have advised in favour of enterprise.

This advice was given notwithstanding that Churchill definitely instructed both Eden [3] and Dill [4] not to consider themselves bound to a Greek enterprise if in their hearts they felt that it would be another Norway. With regard to reinforcements, they have here in mind the despatch of a British division, already in the Middle East, to be followed possibly by another British division from the United Kingdom if shipping is available. In addition, further forces will become available as soon as the situation in Italian East Africa has been cleared up. They have given me a firm assurance that no Dominion troops will be sent to Greece unless and until they [are] equipped to establishment in all essentials and specific instructions on this point are being issued to Commander-in-Chief of Middle East. [5]

With regard to your point 3, I am informed that while move is in progress shipping will always be available should a withdrawal become necessary. After forces are established in Greece there will be no lack of shipping to carry out a withdrawal if such a course is forced upon us. It is impossible to prepare in advance detailed plans for a withdrawal because these must be finally dependent on developments in theatre of operations. But abundance of local shipping and proximity of Greek Islands should facilitate the withdrawal if it became necessary. [6]

MENZIES

BALKANS]

1 Document 322.

2 Winston S. Churchill.

2 Winston S. Churchill.

3 U.K. Foreign Secretary.

4 Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

5 General Sir Archibald Wavell.

6 Fadden replied on 2 March: 'Colleagues and I appreciate further information you have given and are re-assured.' See Cablegram 90 on file AA:CP290/9, ii.

[DEFENCE: SPECIAL COLLECTION II, BUNDLE 5, MIDDLE EAST AND