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

Circular cablegram Z258 LONDON, 26 September 1940, 12.10 a.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE SECRET

[On 22 September the U.K. Govt informed the Commonwealth Govt that because of the strategic importance of French West Africa and the desirability of establishing General de Gaulle, leader of the Free French movement, in French territory, it had decided to send a combined British and Free French force (including the cruiser H.M.A.S. Australia) to capture Dakar. It was believed that the operation could be carried out without a serious clash with the Vichy French forces then occupying the base. See cablegram Z251 on file AA:A 1608, F41/1/7.]

Following is for the information of the Prime Minister [1]- BEGINS- On the evening of the 24th September, report was received from our Commanders before Dakar that despite close range bombardment, fire of French warships had not been neutralized and morale of French garrison was high. Fog had interfered considerably with operations. Later report stated that Free French marines had landed at Rufisque but had subsequently been withdrawn. Commanders intended to continue bombardment on the morning of the 25th September, but in view of continued strong resistance of French garrison, and failure to silence the forts and neutralize fire of French warships it was decided that a landing in face of such determined opposition should not be attempted. During the late afternoon orders were accordingly given for operation to be discontinued, and our forces are withdrawing. ENDS

1 R. G. Menzies

[AA:A3195, 1940, 1.8347]