740.0011 European War 1939/9964: Telegram

The Minister in Greece ( MacVeagh ) to the Secretary of State

229. The following are the main points of a long conversation I have just had with the King.

King Peter of Yugoslavia is expected here at 5:00 by plane from Paramythia where he arrived this morning. It is not known who may be coming with him.
General Simovitch3a is reported to have ordered all Yugoslav commanders henceforth to act on their own initiative.
Greek reconnaissance planes have failed to detect Yugoslav troops in the vicinity of Durazzo.
The Greek right has been withdrawn from the Pogradetz region and has been seeking to consolidate a line with the British south of Fiorina. The Italians have not seriously interfered with this movement.
This morning General Wilson3b withdrew his armored brigade from the regions south of Fiorina for reasons which the King has yet to learn and German mechanized forces penetrated between the Greeks and the British, the former losing a full regiment. The Germans have reached Ptolemais and may now be near Kozani.
The Germans are using heavy tanks. The British have anti-tank guns capable of dealing with them but the Greeks have not.
General Wavell3c told the King that he thought the Germans could be held up here at best “for 2 or 4 weeks” by purely defensive operations. Further success would depend on whether the Greeks and British could capture the initiative.
The King is having difficulty with panicky and defeatist officials. He has forbidden the Cabinet to haunt general headquarters and has summarily dismissed them to their offices with the order to spread optimism.
He himself is ready to leave but only if and when it becomes impossible to function efficiently in Athens. He believes Crete too exposed to air attack from many directions and has asked the British Government to cede a portion of Cyprus for the present, the object being to remain technically on Greek soil.
As to whether I should accompany him I said I thought my Government would desire to know his wishes and he replied that he thinks it “vital” that I should do so.

Baker requests War be informed.

  1. Gen. Dushan Simovitch, Prime Minister of Yugoslavia.
  2. Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, General Officer Commanding British Forces in Greece.
  3. Gen. Sir Archibald P. Wavell, Commanding General of the British Forces in the Middle East.