Home World War Two Stories from the War Editorial – Greek Tragedy

Editorial – Greek Tragedy

19 April 1941

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 19 April 1941

Greek Tragedy

The war in Greece is not yet over but it is far spent. The Greeks have fought with great gallantry against overwhelming odds. This much may be said even for those Greek forces which, cut off by the Germans in an attempted withdrawal from Albania, have capitulated, surrendering to that Eleventh Italian Army which they flung out of Greece last October and thrashed unmercifully.

The disaster to Greek arms is mainly a consequence of reliance on the military staunchness and steadiness of Yugoslavia. From the moment the Greek left wing was uncovered there appeared to be no hope of holding the Germans or of preventing their over-running Thessaly. The tragedy of the Low Countries was re-enacted and a gigantic pivotal withdrawal forced on the Greeks and the British who went to their assistance.

This time the British were better armed and had at their side a race superior in morale to the Belgians and the French. The Yugoslays, like the Dutch, had been squashed flat almost before they could think or move. The withdrawal of the Anglo-Greek force was skilfully executed under devoted rearguard protection, and one of the most difficult operations in warfare was carried out without major ‘disaster. This much we are able to gather from comparison of our own embarrassed accounts with the bold claims of the enemy. From the former we get what comfort, encouragement, and consolation we can; from the latter the geographical position if not the military facts.

Between bad news and no news we have had a hard time, but Mr. Churchill is right in assuming that we are tough enough to “take it.” We knew that we were in for a bad time anyhow, and that we are still a long way short of the corner we shall one day turn. We hoped we were strong enough already to meet on so distant and difficult a battleground German panzers and stukas with a fair chance of success. If we accept the accounts of the superb heroism and skill of the Greek and British troops, and of the deadly execution wrought upon the enemy, we must also accept the implication of his great margin of strength which months of toil have done little to reduce.

In Greece, where he is based on secure communications and the borrowed territories of three nations, and is also firmly and newly linked with Italy, he is able to deploy overwhelming strength; even in North Africa where his communications are theoretically at the mercy of sea-power, he is dangerously formidable, and has been able with a few swift strokes to strip us of our coastal conquests and renew the threat to Egypt and the Suez Canal. Further he has succeeded in dividing our Mediterranean land forces. We were compelled to go into Greece by a moral as well as a treaty obligation to that great and gallant nation, but we also went there under an overwhelming sense of the necessity for keeping the Germans out of the Mediterranean, and putting some courage into the Turks. If we had gone earlier and in greater force we might have prevented the debacle, but in this case as with the Dutch and the Belgians the invitation came too late, and while we politely waited the Germans struck in Greece and Libya and had us at a disadvantage on both fronts.

The history of this war is a history of Nazi brilliance fortuitously aided by the doubts, hesitations, and disunion of their enemies. If it is true that “God is on the side of the big battalions,” the Germans have taken care to qualify for divine aid and do not hesitate to claim .it, despite a popular impression that they have a new God and that Goebbels is his prophet. Nevertheless, against this tyranny which, it seems, the world is destined to endure for a long season yet, we still stand at bay, in Greece and at every other point where the raging beast struggles to rid himself of the ubiquitous British.

To Hitler we are “the last enemy that shall be destroyed,” and we wait for him, in the shadows, as relentlessly and inexorably as Death itself.