96 Commonwealth Government to Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 91 9 March 1940,


As 2nd A.I.F. now being despatched for co-operation with the British Army, Commonwealth Government suggests that the principles that are to govern the control and administration of that Force, while abroad, should now be defined. The subject is urgent as Commonwealth Government requires to instruct the G.O.C., 2nd A.I.F. [1] Commonwealth Government suggests the following considerations that affect the principles recommended below.

Commonwealth Government desires, as first principle, that the Australian Imperial Force should be recognised as an Australian Force under its own Commander, who will have a direct responsibility to the Commonwealth Government, with the right to communicate direct with that Government. Commonwealth Government also desires that no part of the Force should be detached or employed apart from the main Force without the consent of the G.O.C., 2nd A.I.F. Commonwealth Government also suggests that questions of policy regarding the employment of the Force should be decided by the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Governments, in consultation; except that in an emergency the Commander, Australian Imperial Force, may at his discretion make a decision on such a question, informing the Commonwealth Government that he is so doing.

Commonwealth Government realises the necessity for a unified command over the whole forces of the Empire which are located or engaged in any one theatre, and therefore suggests, as the second principle, that the Australian Imperial Force should be placed under the operational control of the Commander in Chief of the theatre in which it is serving. Commonwealth Government also realises the desirability of the Australian Force and the British Forces using a common line of communication, thus obviating the necessity for Australia to provide an extensive organisation for movement and maintenance, additional to that established for the British Army.

Commonwealth Government also realises the desirability of facilitating the transfer of the Australian Forces between Armies of the British Forces, as the occasion may require, and also realises the necessity for flexibility in the whole organisation.

The Commonwealth Government therefore suggests, as the third principle, that the administration of supply services and such other questions as are amenable to the adoption of a common system should be controlled by the Commander in Chief of the Force in which the Australian Imperial Force is serving subject to a financial adjustment between the respective Governments concerning the cost of such administration incurred by the United Kingdom Government. All major financial questions arising from service abroad of the 2nd A.I.F. to be reserved for direct discussion between the Commonwealth and United Kingdom Governments.

Commonwealth Government also considers that it is desirable that the G.O.C., 2nd A.I.F., should retain full control, subject to the directions of the Commonwealth Government, over such matters of internal concern as appointments, promotions, transfers and posting of personnel, internal organisation, pay and finance, records and co-operation with Australian welfare organisations which can be best administered under the independent control of Australian authorities. Commonwealth Government therefore suggests, as the fourth principle, that administration of 2nd A.I.F. domestic matters should be a prerogative of the G.O.C., 2nd A.I.F., subject to general control by the Commonwealth Government.

Commonwealth Government would be glad to have agreement by United Kingdom Government, in these four principles, as early as possible.

1 Lt Gen Sir Thomas Blamey.

[FA: A3196, 0.1478]