Why did not UK assist Greece against Turks in 1919 war?

Greece had historical ties with UK. But no significant assistance by UK was provided to Greece during the war. As far as I know British Armies had already taken Istanbul and were close to the battle front.

It seems UK deliberately and indirectly left the country for Turks. What might be the reason behind this decision? Why did not UK help its Christian ally to obtain the West Anatolia?

  • 1
    Aside from the whole post-WW1 war-weariness, exacerbated by the whole Gallipoli thing?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 2:44
  • Thanks but I think same applies for the Turk side. Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 20:28
  • 1
    Except for Ataturk and a reinvigorated Turkush identity?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 20:45
  • Dont think so. Mayber Russian help. But factors are too complicated. Kliment_Voroshilov , Mikhail_Frunze Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 21:23
  • 1
    @NSNoob: Not "Axis", the "Central Powers". Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


Is the question: "Why did the Great Britain not assist Greek expansionism in the Aegean (specifically Asia Minor/Anatolia) at the expense of the Turks?"

Well Jon Custer's comment that war-weariness on the part of the Allies played a role is true. None of the nations in the Entente had appetite for continuing a costly war.

The Treaty of Sevres outlined the partition of Turkey which was concluded in 1920 The Treaty of Sevres

However the Allied powers had begun secretly partioning the Ottoman Empire as per the Sykes-Picot agreement as early as 1915. Sykes Picot Agreement

It would seem that Great Britain was also fully aware of the atrocities taking place in Anatolia by the Greek forces there as well.

The British definitely felt that the Greeks had overstepped their mark in Turkey violating the concessions given to them at the conclusion of World War I. It is quite possible given that in 1919 the Ottoman government in Constantinople was under British control; the British wished to preserve the partition of the Ottoman Empire as per the terms agreed in both the yYkes Picot Agreement and Sevres Treaty

The British notified the Greeks that they were in violation of the agreement sometime around June 1919 (see Title: Eastern Report No. 124 Author: Foreign Office Date: 12 June 1919 )

The Greeks had been notified by the commodore of the British Aegean Squadron that they should obey the strict orders of the peace conference.

Admiral Calthorpe also complains later that

The Greek troops have also crossed the river south of Aidin, in spite of my orders to the contrary., and were near Giovval on 8th of July, 20 miles southward of the river. Shells fired by the Greek artillery fell inside Italian lines An Italian general commanding officer has formally protested to me against both occurrences. An order from M. Venizelos is presumably responsible for the contravention of my orders. I have written to the Greek High Commissioner insisting that orders should be given that the Greek troops be immediately withdrawn to north of the Aidin railway.

Title: Eastern Report No. 129 Author: Foreign Office 17 July 1919

So it seems clear that the British felt the Greeks had overstepped the mark, and they wholly intended to keep to the terms of the peace conference. It's quite possible as well that the British may have felt that the Greek acquisitions may have ended up conflicting with the Italian concessions in Anatolia. So the "why" is quite simply because the Greeks were already acting in contravention to the orders handed down by the Paris peace conference.

That's just my overview of the situation. I'm sure there's more to be dug around once I can dig up the relevant Foreign Office and Cabinet Papers - of which getting the specific volumes is taking a tad more time than I have available.

  • Thanks @Anaryl for the great answer. I see. What do you think about the current borders then? It does not comply with either Sykes or Serves. Some say current Turkey borders are set by UK to be buffer area for Russian expansion? Do you agree? Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 20:35
  • Well it has been nearly 100 years since Sevres and just over since Sykes-Picot. After the Turkish War of independence Ataturk was able to bring the Allies back to the negotiating table. As for my opinion of the borders, I don't really have one. They are what they are.
    – Anaryl
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 20:50
  • No problems. Was an interesting question
    – Anaryl
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 12:02
  • I see you have answers for very wide range of topics is stackexchange. How do you know so much? Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 17:42

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