Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
379 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
The following is the text of a statement made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons today:
As I am most anxious to give the House, the Nation, and the Empire information at the earliest possible moment, and also in view of the extravagant claims made by the enemy, I think it right now to give the figures, so far as they are known to us, of the evacuation of the Empire Forces from Greece. Up to the time when evacuation was seen to be inevitable we had landed about 60,000 men in Greece, including one New Zealand and one Australian division. Of these, at least 45,000 have been evacuated. Considering that our Air Force was, through the superiority of the enemy, forced to leave the airfields from which alone it could effectively cover the retreat of the troops, and that only a small portion of it could cover the points of embarkation, this must be considered remarkable. The conduct of the troops, and especially the rearguards, in fighting their way so many miles to the sea merits the highest praise. This is the first instance where air bombing prolonged day after day has failed to break the discipline and order of the marching columns, who besides being thus assailed from the air were pursued by no less than three German armoured divisions as well as the whole strength of the German mechanised forces which could be brought to bear. In the actual fighting, principally on Mount Olympus, around Grevena, and at Thermopylae, about 3000 casualties, killed and wounded, are reported to have been suffered by our troops. This was a very small part of the losses inflicted on the Germans, who on several occasions, sometimes for two days at a time, were brought to a standstill by forces one fifth of their number. Nor of course does it take any account of the German losses incurred in their assaults upon the Greek and Yugoslav armies. It will I daresay be possible to give a fuller account in the debate next week, but I think I have said enough to show the House that painful as are our losses we have much to be thankful for and the Empire Forces have much to be proud of.