Intervention in Greece 1941

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by aghart, Jan 13, 2011.

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  1. Not mentioned a lot but IMHO "the" worst mistake the British made in WWII. Had we focused on pressing on and finishing off the Italians in North Africa, the Italian situation to those looking in from the outside would have looked impossible to save.
    A real possibility the the Afrika Corps deployment in North Africa would have been aborted by Hitler before it began? If not the much stronger British forces might well have halted Rommel's intial push in early 1941 and altered the war in the desert.

    Imagine this scenario ! June 1941. British & Empire forces in North Africa, Victorious, confident, experienced, battle hardened (yes against the Italians but Italian bullets kill as well) with no one to fight. 6 months before Pearl Harbour and already halfway to Singapore!
  2. If we hadn't have intervened in Greece, then Hitler would have had a secure right flank for Barbarossa, a month early. Then he might have made it to Moscow before the snow fell.
  3. Alternatively the forces used against Crete may have been used in North Africa!
  4. Keeping Jerry off-balance was the only effective strategy available to the British at that point in the war. Showing up the Italians and supporting the Greeks earned Britain a lot of friends in the region, and kept the Balkans and Eastern Med smouldering for the rest of the war.

    Although an accidental side-effect, the delay to Barbarossa saved the Russians - the Germans would probably have taken Moscow if they'd only got there just one to two weeks earlier....
  5. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    Due to Turkey sitting on the Fence until 1944 and the fact that there were British and French troops in Syria and Palestine the Germans and Italians had to keep large amounts of troops in Greece which could have done much harm in other theaters, but it did allow the Axis to carry out some of the stranger operations of the war, the Bombing of Palestine,and Bahrain, and the Luftwaffe setting up a base in Mosul in Iraq
  6. Usual balls: the invasion was delayed by wet ground in Russia caused by a late thaw. Nothing at all to do with the blood sacrifice of the Australians and New Zealanders that Winnie sent to Greece and gallipolied -- again.

    By the middle of 1942 the German Army had 180 divisions -- 3 of them were in the Greece/Yugoslavia area. In order to achieve this remarkable distraction of enemy forces Churchill suffered over 17,000 casualties in return for 6,000 on the German Army. He also achieved the virtual destruction of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean fleet: one aircraft carrier, two battleships, nine cruisers and thirteen destroyers sunk or badly damaged.

    If that was a victory, it was a typical Churchillian one. It was, of course, a disaster, like everything else the idiot was allowed to meddle with, until the Americans arrived and the grownups took over the war.

    What would make an interesting alternative history is the British using the forces they sent to Greece to fortify Crete. Held and developed, it could have been an extremely useful strategic bomber base. The Rumanian oil fields were a target the Germans had to defend. Certainly Operation 'Tidalwave' the USAAF's attempt to bomb Polesti were not very successful but the US planes had to fly a two thousand mile round trip to reach the target from North Africa: operating from Crete would have reduced the round trip to one thousand three hundred miles. Still not easy, but a lot easier. In fact bombers on Crete would have had to fly about as far to reach Hitler's oil fields as the bombers in Britain did to reach Berlin.

    The difference would have been that that bombs which destroyed the oil wells producing 35% of the Germans' oil supply would have been of immediate and immense value in winning the war, as opposed to the useless RAF attacks on German cities in general and Berlin in particular.

    The second thing that bombers from Crete could have done would have been to block the Danube. The river was an absolutely vital supply route for Germany. Without chrome from Turkey the production of weapons in the Ruhr would have been crippled and without foodstuffs from the Balkans imported along the river many Germans would have starved.

    Even the RAF planning staff, never the sharpest knives in the drawer, recognised how important the Danube was to the enemy and began mine laying operations against it in April, 1944. From bases in Italy captured by the allied armies, of course. Allied air chiefs always claimed that their bombers would clear the way for the troops: what really happened was that the troops had to capture France before the bombers could do anything useful in Germany. The situation was the same in South East Europe. But a bomber/long range fighter force in Crete might have given the Air Forces the great decisive victory they always dreamed of achieving off their own bat.

    "The day I heard that Mustang fighters were flying over Bucharest, I knew the jig was up": Herman Goering.
  7. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    In fact the first USAAC raid on Ploesti was the first bombing raid in the ETO in WW2. On the 12 June 42, 13 B24s of HAPRO took off from Fayid in Egypt, and landed in Iraq on there way to China, Operation Tidal wave was a year later on 1Aug 1943 when 177 B24 took part
  8. take your continent sized chip elsewhere, my old man was on Crete, but his lot were Brits so clearly don't count

    Rather like Gallipoli, more Brits killed than Aus/NZ or French combined, but still the dripping of victimisation from a land down-under
  9. You are Steven Ambroses long lost son now where is my fiver

    Out of interest your views, why 12 armee group detached a entire panzer divison to assist safeguarding the Bulgarain border from invading Turks.
  10. Churchill's Greatest Blunder ?
    Well he had a few.
    He was determined to fight Hitler and Nazism when ever he got the chance.
    I do think he considered N Africa sorted following a string of success against the Italians.
    However there was 'Only' the well trained divisions of the African Army/Airforce available so he used these and threw away the British victories.
    Then Erwin arrived and launched his troops into an attack almost as they came off the ship.
    Not even the High Command approved of that.
    The Royal Navy did what it has always done Fight. It lost ships at sea for now the Luftwaffe had the bombs and ship killing torpedoes that they did not have come Fall of France.
    Bad business and a strong contender for Winston's Worst.

  11. Interesting replys from the forum. Assuming no diversion of resources to Greece. and assumimg the Afrika Corps deployment goes as per history. Does the campaign alter or does Rommel still run riot?
  12. 'What would make an interesting alternative history is the British using the forces they sent to Greece to fortify Crete.'

    There were more than enough British and New Zealanders on Crete to deal with the German paratroops and were actually winning until ordered to evacuate Maleme airfield which turned the tide of the battle towards the Germans. The problem with the allied forces on Crete was the perenial one of poor leadership which dogged British and Commonwealth operations throughout the first part of the war - Allenbrooke's claim that the best military talent of his generation died in Flanders still held true.

    As for reinforcing Crete, it would have just meant that more soldiers would have gone into the bag - Singapore was still being reinforced when the Japanese were at the causeway and those troops went straight into captivity.

    'until the Americans arrived and the grownups took over the war.' Oh yeah? Even until very late in the war, the Germans had a saying 'pity the poor tommies, we have the Italians but they have to put up with the Americans!'
  13. Blundering aside, Crete was an absolute sod of a defensive task with no clear DS solution - if you exclude 20/20 hindsight. The garrison had to cover x number of possible enemy LZs, in craggy mountainous terrain with virtually no roads usable by motor vehicles. Walking the battlefield today, its hard to see how any manoeuvre and counter-attacks could be organised in sufficient time.
  14. I don't know if it counts for anything in the overall strategic picture, but in Greece Britain is still remembered today as an ally and a friend because of the intervention.
  15. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    Some decent air cover would have made a massive difference, it was also the first time that the commander on the ground knew through "Ultra" the time and place of the invasion, but by then the amount of troops on the Island who should have been able to defeat the Para attack were unable to do so mainly because of lack of equipment to do the job, A couple of Squadrons of tanks and a regiment of 25pdrs would have made a hell of difference