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

Circular cablegram Z259 LONDON, 26 September 1940, 1.05 a.m.

IMMEDIATE SECRET

My immediately preceding telegram. Please tell the Prime Minister [1] as a personal message from me how greatly I regret the fact that it was not possible to give him earlier information of the final stages of operations at Dakar and of the decision to bring the operation to an end. It only became dear late this evening that General de Gaulle's [2] objective could not be achieved without heavy fighting in which the British forces would have to play an important part. When the Commanders made a report to this effect it was felt, after careful consideration, that the right course was to withdraw the forces engaged. The Prime Minister will appreciate that in view of the certainty that German and Vichy agencies would at once issue a report giving a false account of the operation, it was of the highest urgency that a statement should be issued to die Press by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The statement which has been issued to the Press had therefore to be released before it was possible to inform the Prime Minister. I feel sure that the Prime Minister will realize that only the most exceptional and unexpected circumstances could have prevented him from receiving the first intimation of the result of the operation and the decision which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom felt bound to take.

1 R. G. Menzies.

2 Leader of the Free French movement.

[AA:A3195, 1940, 1.8358]