345 Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister (in London)

Cablegram 123 10 March 1941,

MOST SECRET

War Cabinet has given close consideration to your cable M.13 [1] together with copy of telegrams which have been passing on the question of aid to Greece. [2]

The grave risk which is involved in the adventure is fully recognised.

The factors to be weighed are- 1. The effect of failure on our part to assist Greece on public opinion in Turkey, Yugo-Slavia, Greece and America against 2. The effect of a disastrous defeat and evacuation, assuming the latter proves possible, on opinion and action of Japan-in particular of Japan-and of the same countries above-mentioned.

We assume that full consideration has been given to the extremely hazardous nature of the operation in view of the disparity between opposing forces both in number and training. We cannot help but feel that the attitude of General Papagos [3] which at one stage of discussions was described as unaccommodating and defeatist may possibly reflect a substantial body of opinion in Greece and may indicate a lowering of the morale of the Greek Forces. We are informed by General Blamey, General Officer Commanding A.I.F., Middle East, that the British Forces immediately available consist of the 6th Australian Division, the 7th Australian Division, New Zealand Division, one armoured brigade and ancillary troops. The 7th Australian Division and the New Zealand Division have not been trained as complete divisions and there are practically no other troops in the Middle East not fully engaged. Copy of his cable was directed by the Minister for the Army [4] to be sent to you simultaneously with despatch to himself and we think it advisable that you draw the attention of the United Kingdom Government and its advisers to the observations made by him.

There can be no doubt that the landing of British troops in Greece will result in every effort being made by Germany with large available forces to inflict an overwhelming defeat particularly upon the British Forces engaged. The aid which the Empire can give is limited by the available troops in the Middle East and the flow of reinforcements which is able to be maintained.

The difficulties with respect to maintenance of supplies, munitions and equipment, are sufficiently obvious to you not to require recapitulation in this cable. The mining of the Suez we regard as most significant and as probably not unrelated to German plans in the Balkans. The ability of Germany substantially to impede the traffic via the Suez cannot we feel be over-estimated.

Notwithstanding these considerations War Cabinet is undivided in its view that if the military advisers, having properly evaluated the risks which must be run the large fully equipped and numerically superior German Forces which can be directed to these operations to the adequacy in numbers and equipment of the Greeks to deal with the first eruption of the German Forces advise the adventure that they should agree, in the high cause to which they will be dedicated, to make the troops required available for this adventure with the profound conviction that they will worthily uphold the glorious traditions of the A.I.F. fighting side by side with so gallant an ally. [5] The Australian Government steadfastly stands beside the United Kingdom Government in this high enterprise should it be now decided to embark upon the same.

The decision having once been taken we believe should be implemented with the greatest despatch and we stress the importance not only of pressing on the adventure with full forces available and with the greatest of resolution but the wise and full provision against the possibility of a forced evacuation.

We require however the assurance that the projected operations have a reasonable chance of success and in view of the great disparity of forces to which we have drawn attention and our feeling that this is a desperate venture, desire that you should inform yourself fully of the grounds upon which any such evaluation of the chance is based and in turn acquaint us with the same.

In view of the uncertain military bearing of General Papagos we place the greatest importance upon General Wilson [6] being available to assume command at the earliest possible moment.

Finally we strongly support your view with regard to the action of the Secretary of State for F.A. [7] entering into an agreement affecting Dominion troops without prior consultation. Whilst appreciating the difficult circumstances in which he was placed we feel nevertheless the repetition of such an action might well have far reaching and unfortunate imperial repercussions.

FADDEN

1 Document 344.

2 See Document 344, note 1.

3 Commander-in-Chief of the Greek Army.

4 P. C. Spender. Blamey's cablegram of 10 March is on file Defence: Special Collection II, Bundle 5, Middle East and Balkans.

5 This sentence is clearly incorrectly expressed. It has been reproduced exactly as in the original.

6 See Document 335, note 2.

7 Anthony Eden.

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.3037]