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Middle East 1930 - 1947:

Greece 1941

In June 1940, Italy declared war on Greece. Italian troops invaded Greece from Albania on 28 October 1940, and after making some initial progress, the Greek forces pushed them back. The situation of the Italian forces became worse, and support was requested from Italy’s Axis partner, Germany. British Prime Minister, Winston CHURCHILL, ordered General WAVELL, C-in-C Middle East, to commence planning for the deployment of Allied troops to Greece.

On 18 February 1941, General WAVELL met with the General Officer Commanding Australian Forces in the Middle East, Lieutenant General BLAMEY, as the only suitable troops available to be sent to Greece were the I Australian Corps and the New Zealand Division.

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Chronology of Events
» Chronology of Events Greece 1941

Army Troops
» W Force Troops (Greece)

Divisional Formations
» 6 Australian Infantry Division (1939-41)
» New Zealand Division (1939-41)

It was intended to send the 6 Australian Infantry Division and 7 Australian Infantry Division, together with the New Zealand Infantry Division and Polish Carpathian Infantry Brigade, but, only one of the Australian divisions and the New Zealand Division were deployed prior to the invasion. The British 1 Armoured Brigade was also deployed to Greece as part of ‘W’ Force.

The New Zealand Division was sent to Greece on the orders of the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, who for political reasons, wanted to send an Expeditionary Force to Greece to show support as the threat of German invasion became imminent. On arrival in Greece, the division reorganised from brigade groups to the standard divisional establishment. It was deployed on the Aliakmon Line. The German Army invaded Greece on 6 April 1941, and the Allies were soon forced to retreat. The New Zealand Division was evacuated from Greece by 28 April 1941 and most units were taken to Crete. The majority of the division’s artillery, transport and other equipment had to be abandoned in Greece. The division suffered some 890 casualties in Greece, of which 291 were killed. In addition, 1,614 New Zealand troops were left in Greece and became prisoners of war.

The 6 Australian Infantry Division was sent to Greece with the New Zealand Division and 1 Armoured Brigade in March 1941. The division was soon forced to retreat when the invasion occurred in early April 1941. The division was evacuated from Greece by the end of the month. The surviving elements of the division were taken to Crete and Egypt. Following the German invasion of Crete, the remaining personnel were evacuated back to Egypt. The division concentrated in Palestine to

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