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What if the British Had Never Went to Greece?

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    Posted: 11 Feb 2011 at 20:35

Early 1941. After weeks of fighting the British XIII Corp Had forced the Italians in North Africa back to El Agheila on the boarder of Libya. Over 130 000 Italian’s had been captured by the British Forces, who had suffered  2000 Casualties during this campaign.  Throughout the campaign the Italians had believed they had been heavily outnumber by the British forces, however the reverse had been true. In January Winton Churchill decided to support the Greeks thus weakening XIII Corp by taking away the experienced 6th Australian Division for the Greek campaign and withdrawing the British 7th Armour Division to refit and re-equip. These experienced troops were replaced with inexperienced formations that had not taken part in O’Connor’s victorious operations against the Italians.

On February 14, 1941 the first elements of what would be known as the Africa Corp arrived in Tripoli. The Italians also sent fresh troops to Africa. On the 24th of March Rommel attacked the British at El Agheila, starting an offensive that by April 15 had forced the British out of Libya, save for the Port of Tobruk, which was to be besieged for the next eight months.

The British Forces that were sent to Greece suffered the losses of 903 dead, 1205 wounded and another 13958 taken prisoner. However 50 000 troops were evacuated. Just for completeness I should mention that the British were also fighting the Vichy French in Syria. That campaign was a victory for the Allies.

However the Middle East Command had two defeats happening more or less at the same time.  In hind sight it seems obvious that at the time the British could not support campaigns in North Africa and the Balkans at the same time. Trying to support both campaigns with limited resources lead to defeat in both campaigns. This leads to many speculations. I think I will start with this broad question and open it up to the forum.

What would have been the effect on the war in the Mediterranean if the British had not supported the Greeks and had instead reinforced its forces at El Agheila before Rommel’s March offensive?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flipper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2011 at 04:20
Without much analysis...Imagine if the AXIS had managed to enter the Balkans and finally Greece as easy as they had hoped... I dunno how things would be in Africa and the middle east?

One should examine the advantages of the Germans if a quick takeover had been done.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2011 at 10:37
On the face of it, it makes military sense not to split up a force in the face of an opponent with military superiority in the field. I am not sure, but i tend to think currently that it still wouldn't have mattered whether the British forces had been diverted to Greece or to North Africa, they would not have changed the outcome of the Axis offensive in 41'?

However, here is something to geopolitically consider. What would have been the effects of the British ignoring their commitments to just another European power, Greece in this case, if they had not sent their  forces to Greece and how would it be perceived by their allies already committed to the fight against the Axis? An insincere power perhaps, i don't know? Further, what role did their contributions have on the political atmosphere in the US? I think it was even more of a further confirmation to the Roosevelt administration that the British intended too fight rather than yield any inch of ground to the Axis, not the same government it was about a year before. Further strengthening the bonds between the British and US governments and even perhaps securing more lend lease aid to the British from the US?

 Also something else that popped into head just now was the importance of and threat to the Suez canal and to the British colonies in the East, especially India, probably meant that the British felt they had no choice but too confront them everywhere by splitting up their forces anywhere in the region by preventing the possible loss of of the Canal.

Of course, none of this does change the fact that of what i ahve come to appreciate that Churchill was not greatly respected or admired in Australia, even to this day, given his past involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2011 at 13:54
One of the major reasons cited for the loss of the campaign against Russia in 41 was the time lost during the Balkans campaign. I doubt the Allied intervention in Greece had much to do with that as the German conquest still only took less than 4 weeks and casualties were pretty minimal.

The intervention in Greece was more or less the only opportunity the British had at the time to establish a beachhead in mainland Europe to open up another front against the Axis. It was an opportunity that had to be taken as a pre-cursor to reclaiming Europe and also as proof to the Soviets and Americans that the Allied cause could achieve concrete goals and reverse the losses it had suffered. Yugoslavia had a perfectly capable army and would reasonably have been expected to hold out for longer. That she did not came as a shock and reduced the time the Allies could prepare for a defence of Greece.

Even if Greece could not be saved, it seemed reasonable to assume that Crete could. This would have been a very valuable gain. But the Allies again underestimated the quality of German training and equipment.

The defence of Greece seemed like a good idea on the face of it. But the Allies underestimated the quality of their German opponents and also the ability of the Yugoslavs to hold out. The first error they deserve the full blame for, the second error is understandable enough.

Quote Of course, none of this does change the fact that of what i ahve come to appreciate that Churchill was not greatly respected or admired in Australia, even to this day, given his past involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.


Well, not really true. There is the fact that the operations he ordered saw one catastrophic defeat after another for Australia (Gallipoli, Singapore). Then there is the fact that after Singapore, when Australia itself came under threat for the first time in its history, Winston insisted Australian troops be send to the other side of the planet for operations rather than be allowed to defend their homeland.

But frankly, it is the British and Americans who are wrong in their esteem for the man, not the Antipodeans. The guy was a disgraceful drunk, usually pissed before noon. He could give a rousing speech, sure, but what else was the man good for? He wasn't a detailed and masterful planner, and was regularly trumped by the far more careful attention to detail that his Nazi opponents engaged in. He was borderline mentally ill, vascillating between languid depression and passionate euphoria. War requires a calm and level headed thinker and leader, not some manic depressive. Why do you guys idolise him? I mean, come on! The man was worse than mediocre.

Compare that to our own wartime Prime Minister, John Curtin, who engaged in meticulous planning to the extent he subordinated the nation's entire economy to the war effort and was able to provide troops to fight on a variety of fronts even though the country he governed was a small agricultural country of barely 8 million. He was teetotal and throughout provided calm and levelheaded leadership. An absolute workaholic throughout the war, the strain of it eventually killed him at the age of just 60 as the war drew to a victorious close. Churchill has nothing on this guy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2011 at 14:13
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Originally posted by Panther Panther wrote:

Of course, none of this does change the fact that of what i ahve come to appreciate that Churchill was not greatly respected or admired in Australia, even to this day, given his past involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.


Well, not really true. There is the fact that the operations he ordered saw one catastrophic defeat after another for Australia (Gallipoli, Singapore). Then there is the fact that after Singapore, when Australia itself came under threat for the first time in its history, Winston insisted Australian troops be send to the other side of the planet for operations rather than be allowed to defend their homeland.

But frankly, it is the British and Americans who are wrong in their esteem for the man, not the Antipodeans. The guy was a disgraceful drunk, usually pissed before noon. He could give a rousing speech, sure, but what else was the man good for? He wasn't a detailed and masterful planner, and was regularly trumped by the far more careful attention to detail that his Nazi opponents engaged in. He was borderline mentally ill, vascillating between languid depression and passionate euphoria. War requires a calm and level headed thinker and leader, not some manic depressive. Why do you guys idolise him? I mean, come on! The man was worse than mediocre.

Compare that to our own wartime Prime Minister, John Curtin, who engaged in meticulous planning to the extent he subordinated the nation's entire economy to the war effort and was able to provide troops to fight on a variety of fronts even though the country he governed was a small agricultural country of barely 8 million. He was teetotal and throughout provided calm and levelheaded leadership. An absolute workaholic throughout the war, the strain of it eventually killed him at the age of just 60 as the war drew to a victorious close. Churchill has nothing on this guy.


My apologies, but i thought i had made that clear in the closing of my post? Perhaps i failed. However, i see your point still pretty much epitomizes mine about Australian feelings for the man. Again, something that i have been aware of for sometime.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2011 at 14:22
Originally posted by Panther Panther wrote:

Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Originally posted by Panther Panther wrote:

Of course, none of this does change the fact that of what i ahve come to appreciate that Churchill was not greatly respected or admired in Australia, even to this day, given his past involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.


Well, not really true. There is the fact that the operations he ordered saw one catastrophic defeat after another for Australia (Gallipoli, Singapore). Then there is the fact that after Singapore, when Australia itself came under threat for the first time in its history, Winston insisted Australian troops be send to the other side of the planet for operations rather than be allowed to defend their homeland.

But frankly, it is the British and Americans who are wrong in their esteem for the man, not the Antipodeans. The guy was a disgraceful drunk, usually pissed before noon. He could give a rousing speech, sure, but what else was the man good for? He wasn't a detailed and masterful planner, and was regularly trumped by the far more careful attention to detail that his Nazi opponents engaged in. He was borderline mentally ill, vascillating between languid depression and passionate euphoria. War requires a calm and level headed thinker and leader, not some manic depressive. Why do you guys idolise him? I mean, come on! The man was worse than mediocre.

Compare that to our own wartime Prime Minister, John Curtin, who engaged in meticulous planning to the extent he subordinated the nation's entire economy to the war effort and was able to provide troops to fight on a variety of fronts even though the country he governed was a small agricultural country of barely 8 million. He was teetotal and throughout provided calm and levelheaded leadership. An absolute workaholic throughout the war, the strain of it eventually killed him at the age of just 60 as the war drew to a victorious close. Churchill has nothing on this guy.


My apologies, but i thought i had made that clear in the closing of my post? Perhaps i failed. However, i see your point still pretty much epitomizes mine about Australian feelings for the man. Again, something that i have been aware of for sometime.


Oh Panther, my little rant was not directed at you personally Smile

I do find it slightly exasperating at how nearly no one takes a critical look at the man and thus he is idolised on both sides of the pond. It is not merely an Australian standpoint that I represent, it is simply one that engages in honest critical thinking as opposed to unthinking worship and idolatry.

Why is it that no one else seems to acknowledge that the greatest empire on the planet had their arses handed to them by an upstart nation and that perhaps part of the reason why might lie with the fact they were led by a mentally unstable drunk?

Anyway, we are diverging from the topic. I am sure birddog would appreciate if we opened another thread on Churchill rather than commandeer this one Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2011 at 14:52
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


Anyway, we are diverging from the topic. I am sure birddog would appreciate if we opened another thread on Churchill rather than commandeer this one Smile


I agree and it is done!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Feb 2011 at 02:15
Admittedly, I was more amused than Queen Victoria upon encountering the juxtaposition of Curtin with Churchill at the expense of the latter. Politicians may be forgiven much but never dullness and often at critical times it is charisma and not bureaucratic efficiency that carries the day. I mentioned Victoria because as a "symbol" for an age she experienced both in her encounters with Disraeli and Gladstone and no one even bats an eyelash over her preference for the former over the latter. The sanguine in our own day would be hard put to deny that popular whim itself establishes the most outlandish of idols and no one could mistake Bieber Fever as an example of music appreciation among the general population.
 
And here I would like to ask CIX a question: What's the difference between a social drinker and an alcoholic? A sodden Churchill would perhaps show no sympathy for full dependance upon the bottle as exhibited by Curtin for quite a long time. Wink With respect to war strategy in 1941 and the Balkans, the question presented here is an unfair one and to blame Churchill for either Crete or Singapore (as foolish strategical decisions) totally denies the reality of politics in war where defeat is just as important for mobilization and morale in underscoring the limitations of a supposedly "invincible" enemy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Feb 2011 at 07:29
I'm not sure Panther of the lack of effect on Rommels campaign if the Greek intervention had not happened. When Rommel launched his offensive in March he had only one German Division with Italian support against a unexperianced and under equiped enemy. When the 9th Australian Division retreated to Tobruk it's battalion had to leap frog each other due to not enough transport to move a division as a whole, also alot of the equipment for that division had been striped and sent to Greece. Just the precence of another Australian Division, like the 6th could have at least made Rommel delay his offensive until the Africa Corp was at full strength.
 
Constantine, like the Churchill thread idea.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Feb 2011 at 10:58
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:


With respect to war strategy in 1941 and the Balkans, the question presented here is an unfair one and to blame Churchill for either Crete or Singapore (as foolish strategical decisions) totally denies the reality of politics in war where defeat is just as important for mobilization and morale in underscoring the limitations of a supposedly "invincible" enemy.


I left a reply to you in the Churchill thread.

Originally posted by birddog birddog wrote:


I'm not sure Panther of the lack of effect on Rommels campaign if the Greek intervention had not happened. When Rommel launched his offensive in March he had only one German Division with Italian support against a unexperianced and under equiped enemy. When the 9th Australian Division retreated to Tobruk it's battalion had to leap frog each other due to not enough transport to move a division as a whole, also alot of the equipment for that division had been striped and sent to Greece. Just the precence of another Australian Division, like the 6th could have at least made Rommel delay his offensive until the Africa Corp was at full strength.


A most interesting thread birddog!

You may be correct in your estimation. No doubting the bravery of British and Commonwealth troops, even the green troops, but as i thought i understood it, their equipment was severely worn down during their offensive that by the time of the German intervention their supply lines were already stretched and replacing anything worn would be too slow in counteracting any Axis thrust, which had left me with the current belief that even with their experienced troops and what resources they had on hand, instead of being diverted to Greece, still left me with a doubt that they could have held the defensive line en masse, as it had become set, for any length of time until they were resupplied with fresh and newer of everything, most especially gear/kits? In a way, the situation seemed ripe for exploitation and i think that is why Rommel hit the ground running, so to speak.

It always made me think that what had transpired was bound to take place. Though i do believe you are correct in pointing out the possibility of them being able to delay Rommel's offensive, but i do wonder by how much? Maybe a week or two, a month tops under the best of circumstances, perhaps?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Feb 2011 at 12:01
The 6th was sent into Greece fully equiped, this was after their campagin against the Italians. They even ended up with a surplus of captured Italian trucks, not to metions food and petrol supplies. During O'Connars campagin the British forces lived mostly off Italian supplies. The 9th had full artillary, anti-tank, anti-aircraft guns and motor transport, more than could be said of the forces that releaved them on the Libyan boarder. 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Feb 2011 at 12:03
Sorry, got my Divisions mixed up at the end. The 6th had full artillary, anti-tank, anti-aircraft guns and motor transport.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Feb 2011 at 06:17
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

I do find it slightly exasperating at how nearly no one takes a critical look at the man and thus he is idolised on both sides of the pond.
For many years now I have hardly seen anyone do anything but take a critical line against Churchill, involveing often the silliest of accusations like 'drunk before lunchtime' 'sending Australian troops to the wrong beach', 'sending in troops to the Rhondda', 'advocating using poison gas against the Arabs' and such garbage anklebiting. 
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It is not merely an Australian standpoint that I represent, it is simply one that engages in honest critical thinking as opposed to unthinking worship and idolatry.
It doesn't seem so. It seems to me to represent dishonest political propaganding and have nothing to do with critical thinking. Churchill of course was wrong on many counts, which is why in contrast to giving him worship and idolatry the British threw him out of office in 1945.
 
On the other hand Churchill gave his country both heart and spirit as possibly the only one of the Western politicians who was in any sense a great war leader. That mattered more than all the other things he failed at.
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Why is it that no one else seems to acknowledge that the greatest empire on the planet had their arses handed to them by an upstart nation and that perhaps part of the reason why might lie with the fact they were led by a mentally unstable drunk?
What upstart nation would that be? Certainly not Germany, which lost the only important campaigns it fought against the British country to country (over Britain in 1940, and in North Africa and the Mediterranean in '41 through '42), and only part won in the Near East since it failed to capture Cyprus, the important British holding there.
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Anyway, we are diverging from the topic. I am sure birddog would appreciate if we opened another thread on Churchill rather than commandeer this one Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Buckskins Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Mar 2012 at 02:46
Originally posted by Panther Panther wrote:

 

Of course, none of this does change the fact that of what i ahve come to appreciate that Churchill was not greatly respected or admired in Australia, even to this day, given his past involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.



The British surrender at Singapore was not a help, nor the refusal by Churchill to return an Australian division to Australia when they were under threat from the Japanese.
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