336 War Cabinet Minute

Minute 296 MELBOURNE, 4 June 1940

THEATRE OF EMPLOYMENT OF THE A.I.F. AND LOCATION OF G.O.C., A.I.F.

The Chief of the General Staff [1] raised the subject of the theatre of employment of the A.I.F., and outlined four possible alternatives:-(i) Its retention in the Near East for assistance to Turkey in the event of hostilities in this region.

(ii) Its transfer to Egypt for defence purposes in that area.

(iii) Its transfer to Marseilles without delay for the completion of its equipment and training for use in France.

(iv) Its embarkation from the Near East and transfer to the United Kingdom, via the Cape.

The Chief of the General Staff strongly favoured alternative (iii), as he considered the Germans would make their next effort against the French Army, and it was of great military and psychological importance to have Australian soldiers in France.

The Chief of the General Staff also recommended the War Cabinet to reconsider its decision to retain Lieut.-General Sir Thomas Blamey, G.O.C. of the A.I.F., in Australia. He pointed out that Major-General Mackay, who was G.O.C. of the 6th Division, was inexperienced in the higher administrative and political principles relating to the control of the A.I.F., and it was important that Lieut.-General Blamey should be on the spot to ensure that the known policy of the Australian Government was adhered to and the fullest safeguards observed against the dispersion of the A.I.F.

It was decided in regard to the theatre of employment of the A.I.F. that a further cablegram be sent to the United Kingdom Government, asking for a reply to the cablegram of 8th May [2], which requested additional information to supplement the strategical appreciation already furnished and the strength and distribution of the Allied Forces and of those of the enemy in the various theatres. In the cablegram, advice is to be requested regarding the material side of Britain's war effort, including the output of aircraft, and the Chiefs of Staff are to enumerate the various points on which information is required, to ensure that the advice will provide a comprehensive basis for a full strategical appreciation. Particular attention is to be paid to the situation in relation to the Mediterranean and the Near East, and the bearing it will have on the theatre of employment of the A.I.F. The importance of reconstituting the whole Expeditionary Force at the earliest possible date, as mentioned in the cablegram of 8th May to the Dominions Office, was stressed, together with the assurance of the United Kingdom Government that this will be done.

It was decided that Lieut.-General Sir Thomas Blamey, G.O.C. of the A.I.F., should now proceed to Palestine.

1 General Sir Brudenell White.

2 Document 215.

[AA: A2673, VOL. 2]