191 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram [192] [1] 1 May 1940,

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Your cablegram 129 [2] has received immediate consideration but the Government feels some difficulty in arriving at a decision as to the ultimate destination of the convoy without additional information regarding the strategical considerations involved in Italy's possible entry into the war and the repercussions this step may have in the Balkans, Near East, North-west frontier of India and Far East.

Before answering your suggestion that the second and third convoys be diverted to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Government would like an appreciation by your Chiefs of Staff on the likely possibilities of the prospective situation, the measures required to counter the probable plans of die enemy and to provide for the security of our interests, and the zone in which the A.I.F. could most effectively co-operate. We can then more clearly see our part in the scheme of things. No doubt this information is readily available as the possibility of being confronted with an alliance of this nature has long been referred to in C.I.D. documents.

The Commonwealth Government is gravely concerned at the prospect of the 6th Division being split into parts located in Palestine and the United Kingdom. Though this entails administrative handicaps there is also the possibility of difficulties in re- concentration from the operational point of view. In our minds the latter is imperative. Furthermore, such a wide dispersion might prejudice the fulfilment of the decision as to the theatre in which the A.I.F. should serve.

Pending the receipt of the appreciation and a decision our view is that the second convoy should be held at Colombo for a few days and in view of the urgency of the matter the Chief of the Naval Staff [3] was asked to forward a signal accordingly to the Commander of escort and Admiralty.

In the appreciation of the Chiefs of Staff it is desired that they should traverse the considerations involved in equipping the Division.

The Australian Chiefs of Staff have also been asked to submit a similar review as there are important local considerations which must be brought into the picture.

This cablegram has been repeated to New Zealand.

MENZIES

1 The number has been taken from the Prime Minister's Dept outward cable register (FA: A3637).

2 Document 190. It was considered in War Cabinet on the morning of 1 May 1940 (see AA: A2673, vol. 2, Minute 256).

3 Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin.

[AA: A2671, 96 AND 97/1940]