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

Cablegram 197 3 April 1941,


Reference penultimate paragraph my 176 of 27th March. [1] Lengthy appreciation of position has now been received from General Blamey [2] which gives us better understanding of position and makes us more confident of the outcome.

2. We are seriously disturbed however in regard to the air strength available and at discrepancies between information furnished by Blamey and that from yourself and Dominions Office.

3. Dominions Office cable 109 [3] and your 153 of 25th February [4] both stated that air strength would be fourteen squadrons.

Paragraph ii of Dominions Office cable 165 of 14th March [5] states British Air Forces then in Greece were seven squadrons plus certain Greek aircraft with programme of reinforcements increasing total fourteen squadrons by end of March and further two squadrons later, while reinforcements via Takoradi would be 80 to 120 aircraft per month expanding as soon as possible. Against this Blamey states only eight squadrons now in Greece and no indications of immediate increase. In your M.35 of 29th March 6 you state particular attention being paid to aircraft and reinforcements going every week.

4. Blamey lays great emphasis on the necessity for more aircraft and air defences and the following extracts from his cable are quoted:-

BEGINS- The first requirement is the earliest provision of adequate air force and air defence units. Until this is done our Army will be subject to constant low-flying attacks with serious effect on morale and loss of confidence in our own air forces. The only fine of communication available is the railway Athens to Larissa and thenceforward by road. In both cases there are defiles which can be subjected to intense air attacks at vital points. Air and ground anti-aircraft defence hopeless and serious dislocation of lines of communication likely. Can only be met by building up reserves in the forward area.

The German Air Force has almost overwhelming superiority. To meet this we have the most inadequate anti-aircraft defence both ground and air.

Air Force available: Plan for Lustre envisages 23 squadrons R.A.F.

On 1st April only eight squadrons here and no indications of immediate increase. Greek Air Force small and composed of many different types making maintenance difficult. Germany has minimum of 125 dive bombers and 500 other aircraft now in Bulgaria which can be increased when capacity of Bulgarian aerodromes improved.

Yugoslavia attaches importance to Salonika and if security our northern flank assured Australian Corps and New Zealand Division may be required to move forward later when concentration completed to the Lake Doiran-Struma River line. This more than ever demands adequate Air Force. ENDS.

5. Blamey's appeal cannot be allowed to go unheeded and we emphasize as strongly as we can that the greatest possible effort be made to provide immediately the air strength envisaged when we first gave our approval to the venture and for its further expansion and the provision of air defence units at the earliest possible date.

6. ARMY UNITS: We appreciate that you are using your fullest efforts as stated in your M-35 regarding reinforcing the Army strength. In this connection Blamey strongly urges that the Army be increased to the limit of the capacity of Greece to contain and lines of communication from Egypt to Greece to maintain them. He contends it is not sufficient to have reinforcing formations in Egypt or Palestine as invaluable movement experience has illustrated how long it takes to move a small force and all of its equipment over the comparatively short sea route.

7. Blamey's views are passed to you for discussion with authorities in London, together with his suggestion regarding the importance of building up reserves in the forward area in view of his fears that dislocation of lines of communication in Greece by superiority of German air attack is probable.

1 Document 370.

2 General Officer Commanding 2nd A.I.F. in the Middle East. The appreciation (dispatched 1 April) is on file Defence: Special Collection 11, Bundle 5, Middle East and Balkans.

3 Dispatched 25 February. See file AA: A981, War 46, i.

4 Document 321.

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

6 Document 373.

[AA: A3196,1941, 0.4163]