740.0011 European War 1939/30942½

Memorandum by the British Delegation1


We have long known that Guerilla bands, particularly those of the organisation known as E.A.M., which is Communist-run, and the Politicians in Athens, are predominantly Republican and opposed to the return of the King before a plebiscite has been held to decide the future form of the régime. This view has now been reiterated by Representatives of the E.A.M. and the Liberal politicians recently arrived in Cairo without knowledge of Greek Government or H.M. Ambassador,2 and their arrival has led to strong pressure being put on the King in this sense. M. Tsouderos himself is in favour of the King giving such a pledge on the grounds that a refusal would result in the resignation of his colleagues and in antagonising opinion in Greece. The King is being told that if he agrees all parties would unite to form a coalition Government which would include representatives of the Guerillas and of the politicians in Athens. But such a coalition Government would not necessarily include representatives of the Royalist elements in Greece.

It has been pointed out to H.M. Ambassador to the Greek Government that a government reconstructed on the basis proposed would be almost entirely Republican and on returning to Greece would be more than human if they did not attempt to influence opinion in favour of a Republic. We should therefore be careful before advising the King to place himself at the mercy of an E.A.M. Government on the assumption that it would play straight by him when established in Greece and allow a free plebiscite to be held when the time comes. In our view if the King now undertakes not to return to Greece on liberation he would be practically signing his abdication. Nor could we guarantee to protect the King’s interests during his absence, since after Greece is liberated we shall want law and order maintained and shall therefore have to work with whatever Government is in power. Meanwhile although we felt that the decision must rest with the King, it was still our policy to give him all the support we can with a view to replacing him on his throne.

M. Tsouderos now hopes that it may be possible to defer both the reconstruction of the Government and an immediate decision about [Page 1045] the King’s position, but he may not succeed on the latter point. As a compromise he suggested some days ago that the King should agree to return after the liberation of Greece for a short visit of two or three weeks, after which he should remain outside the country until a plebiscite is held. This is what the King refers to in the last paragraph of his message to the Prime Minister.3 We do not regard this proposal as satisfactory, since there may well be a period of many months between the date of the Government’s return to Greece and the time when a plebiscite could be held. Apart from the short initial period of the King’s visit the Provisional Government would be free during this time to undermine his position if they chose to do so.

H.M. Ambassador reports that he is doing what he can to prevent any hasty and undignified decision.

I4 am not convinced that if the King stands firm he will necessarily find himself isolated particularly if we and the United States Government continue to support him and show clearly that we do so. The opinion of the British officers who have recently returned from Greece is that even the E.A.M. which is the most powerful organisation in the country and most strongly opposed to the King, now realise that only a pro-British policy can gain popular support and that they are not strong enough to stand alone. This estimate is supported by the fact that their representatives have agreed to come to Cairo.

I would therefore suggest that in reply to the King’s message he should be told that in our view the policy outlined in his declaration of July 4th is that best calculated to serve the interests of Greece and that we therefore hope it may be possible for His Majesty to avoid any further statement at this stage about his own position when Greece is liberated. By sending his message the King is evidently trying to strengthen his own hand in dealing with his Government and the Emissaries from Greece. But I do not think this need deter us from giving him the above advice, while repeating to him the assurances that whatever his decision may be we shall continue to give him the maximum support in our power.

[Page 1046]

The British Foreign Secretary (Eden) to the British Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sargent)5

most secret

For Sargent from Foreign Secretary.

Your telegram Concrete 374.

Prime Minister agrees to reply as suggested to message from King of Greece.

Please therefore instruct H.M. Ambassador to the Greek Government to convey the following to His Majesty:

“I have received Your Majesty’s Message.

I venture to suggest that in the view of H.M.G. the policy outlined in Your Majesty’s declaration of July 4th is that best calculated to serve the interests of Greece and they therefore hope that it may be possible for Your Majesty to avoid any further statement at this stage about your own position when Greece is liberated.

I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to assure Your Majesty that whatever your decision may be, H.M.G. will continue to give you the maximum support in their power.”

  1. The source text bears the following typed notation: “(This was handed to me by Sir Alexander Cadogan—J[ames] D[unn])” It is probably the “report on the present political situation of Greece prepared by the British Foreign Office” which Eden read during a Roosevelt-Churchill meeting on August 22, 1943. See ante, p. 933.
  2. Reginald Wildig Allen Leeper.
  3. See Churchill, Closing the Ring, p. 536. Cf. the parallel passage in King George’s message to Roosevelt, ante, p. 915, fn. 8.
  4. The source text gives no indication of the authorship of this paper. The final paragraph, however, contains language so similar to that of Churchill’s reply to King George as to suggest the possibility that this paper may be a copy of telegram No. Concrete 374 from Sir Orme Sargent, Deputy Under Secretary of State in the British Foreign Office, to the British Delegation at Quebec. Cf. post, p. 1040. For Churchill’s minute to Eden on King George’s message, see Churchill, Closing the Ring, pp. 536–537.
  5. The source text indicates that this message was to be sent to the War Cabinet Office in London as a telegram in the Welfare series. Roosevelt’s message to King George, sent from Washington on September 6, 1943, after the close of the First Quebec Conference, read as follows:

    “I hope that in the interest of our common war effort all Greeks will accept the program announced in Your Majesty’s radio address of July 4 as a guarantee that they will have full opportunity freely to express their political will at the earliest practicable moment and that they will meanwhile subordinate other considerations to the urgent necessity of winning the war and liberating their homeland.” (868.01/374)

    The Ambassador to Greece (Kirk) was instructed to inform the King orally that Roosevelt “would find it difficult to advise him as regards the reply to be made to the Greek emissaries” then in Cairo, but that Roosevelt doubted that “any further statement by the King at this time would promote the war effort.” See Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iv, p. 151.

  6. Churchill’s message to King George quoted in this telegram was received in Cairo via London on August 26, 1943. See Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iv, p. 149.