Orders of the Day — Greece (Situation)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th April 1948.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir Toby Low Sir Toby Low , Blackpool North 12:00 am, 16th April 1948

I am afraid time is too short for me to give way. As I see it, the position of the rebels and the method of dealing with them is briefly this. The rebels number approximately between 25,000 and 30,000. We are told that they have little support anywhere in Greece. But they have great organization—which, of course, is typical of Communism, wherever it may work. The rebels' numbers are frequently increased by a process of seizing or enticing men into the neighbouring countries, training them as guerillas, and sending them back to Greece. That this, or something like it, goes on, there is ample proof. In any event, we know that during last year there were about 20,000 known casualties to the rebel forces. Yet, during that time the rebels increased their number from 20,000 to about 30,000. Not only have they increased their number, but, from all reports, they have increased the efficiency of their methods and the quality of their equipment.

These guerillas have the advantage of all guerillas because of the form of warfare they carry on. We have seen in Palestine how difficult it is to deal with terrorists. In Greece the guerillas have those advantages, and the additional advantage that they can stretch the Greek forces by operating in so many different areas that the frontage of the Greek Army becomes the sum of the circumferences of those areas. If we add all the fronts on which the Greek Army has been fighting from time to time they total as much as 12,000 miles. I see the Minister of State looks up in surprise. So did I when that fact was first put to me. But, of course, that is the difficulty in combating guerilla warfare. In fighting against 20 areas one has to cover the circumference of each of those 20 areas. If all those miles are added together it makes a very large number. I give that figure to emphasise the difficulty, and for no other purpose.

The final advantage which they have, and of which we are well aware, is that they' are able to retreat for safety to the countries to the north of Greece, and gain supplies from those countries. On the other hand, the Greek Army is now only beginning to get the benefit of better equipment and training. It has recently been increased to about 132,000, and in addition security battalions are being organised to take on the role of more passive defence in the various areas. I very much doubt whether this number is sufficient to carry out the two tasks which any army has to carry out when facing guerilla activity of this sort. The two tasks are, first to attack and clear up the rebels, and secondly to stop the rebels retreating north and stop support for them coming south.

The second task is none other than sealing the frontier. From reports of hon. Members who have been 'to Greece, and by journalists who write of Greece, until the frontier is sealed, or until support from the north stops reaching the rebels, there is little chance of the Greek Army beating down those rebels. To my mind it is clear that the countries to the north have the ability to supply the rebels with just that kind of extra help which will make them strong enough to cope with any increase in the Greek Army which is likely to be made.