386 Lord Caldecote, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner in Australia

Cablegram 178 LONDON, 15 June 1940, 12.27 p.m.


Commonwealth Government's telegrams Nos. 256 of 3rd June [1], and 281 of 12th June. [2] Please convey the following to the Prime Minister [3] for his most secret information.

Position now is that declaration of war by Italy has made the Red Sea unsafe for personnel convoys and restricts the movement of store ships. Desirable therefore that only essential reinforcements should be sent to the Middle East and overland routes via Basra and via Mombasa will be the only ones available.

These routes are now being organized for the purpose and for use to the maximum extent possible as maintenance routes.

It follows that until the Red Sea can be used there is no prospect of concentrating the A.I.F. either in the Middle East or in the United Kingdom.

We contemplate bringing up reserves to 150 days as soon as possible by these overland routes, and it is suggested as regards the routeing of any supplies which it may be intended to despatch from Australia for the A.I.F. in the Middle East the Commonwealth authorities should communicate direct with the G.O.C. in Chief Middle East. [4]

Supplies from our own resources will be made available for the maintenance of troops of the A.I.F. in the United Kingdom. As soon as the situation with Italy permits we should like to concentrate the A.I.F. in the Middle East without delay but this must clearly depend on strategical factors obtaining at that time.

Equipment policy at present can be stated generally as follows- At least training scale of equipment will be available for all troops in the United Kingdom and as full a scale as possible for those proceeding to France but it is feared that only a very limited quantity of equipment will be available for other theatres for some time.

Further telegram regarding general strategical situation, possible supply of war material from Australia and your assistance in the maintenance of overland routes to the Middle East will follow shortly.

Copy of this telegram is being given to Mr. Bruce. [5]

1 Document 330.

2 Document 361.

3 R. G. Menzies.

4 General Sir Archibald Wavell.

5 High Commissioner in London.

[FA: A3195, 1.4328]