192 Appreciation by Chiefs of Staff for War Cabinet

Appendix C to Agendum 96/1940 1 May 1940

SECRET

DESTINATION OF CONVOYS U.S.2 AND U.S.3

The Chiefs of Staff have given most careful consideration to the Dominions Office cablegram 129 of 30th April, 1940. [1]

They are definitely and firmly of opinion that the advice tendered by the Dominions Office should be conformed to unreservedly.

The Chiefs of Staff consider that the change in plans recommended by die Dominions Office will not adversely affect measures necessary for the protection of Australia.

Their reasons for so advising are, briefly:-

(a) The moral and other effect of an altered plan, and conjointly with this the inadvisability of conforming unnecessarily to enemy action.

(b) The desirability of avoiding delays in pressing on with Australia's War Effort-e.g. the formation of the 7th Division.

(c) The advantages of getting our troops early nearer the main theatre.

(d) The facilities for equipment and for the ultimate organization of the A.I.F. made possible by the location of troops in the United Kingdom.

(e) The power to switch troops to the most convenient point, provided by a stop at Cape Town.

(f) The Brigade now in Palestine is capable of continuing its training without the remainder of the Force being with it.

(g) The Navy is of opinion that ships and escort can do the new route without difficulty.

(h) The danger and climatic disadvantages of a stop at Colombo at the beginning of the monsoonal season.

The Chiefs of Staff note and agree that the Basra-Baghdad route is not practicable at present.

2. The Chiefs of Staff definitely recommend acceptance of the Navy's assurance on sea safety. On this route the possible threat to the safety of the convoy even with Italy in the war against us is small as far as Freetown, and an adequate escort can be provided by Australia and the Admiralty from Naval Forces on the stations concerned, and the latter are already making the necessary arrangements. From Freetown onwards a slightly increased scale of attack is possible, but adequate resources are available from allied Naval Forces in home waters to meet this threat.

Should it be necessary to disembark troops at some intermediate port, say Cape Town, the continuance of training would be difficult owing to lack of equipment and other facilities. The Chiefs of Staff do not think that serious weight need be given to this contingency.

3. In order to adhere to the present convoy dates as nearly as possible an immediate decision is necessary and the Chiefs of Staff recommend that it should now be given.

4. The foregoing views are not in any way affected by the cablegram of 1st May to the Dominions Office [2] which has just been received.

1 Document 190.

2 Document 191.

[AA: A2671, 96 AND 97/1940]