158 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr W. S. Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered 4 October 1940,


I have received your message of 2nd October [1] and am very disturbed by some of its contents.

We were, and are, concerned about the failure at Dakar. My telegram [2] concerning it was somewhat crudely expressed, as I can see on perusing it again. But I still do not understand how it can be construed as containing even the faintest suggestion that you or the British Government are half-hearted in policy, spirit or achievement.

As the recent election here has left my own position extremely precarious and I may therefore soon go out of office [3], I would like to take the opportunity of saying to you that I have been very proud on behalf of Australia to be associated, even though at a distance, with the efforts of Winston Churchill and the British people. Such machinery as I possess in my own country has, at all times, been exercised so as to encourage the Australian people to realize that Great Britain is fighting our battles and that her heroism and superhuman cheerfulness and philosophy must be for us not only a shield but an inspiration.

As for yourself-praise from me would be an impertinence-but what I cabled you on 3rd September [4], the anniversary of the war, represented my whole heart and mind. I am, indeed, grieved to think that you should have felt my recent telegram to be either carping or discouraging.

I say no more about Dakar because it, no doubt, has lessons which it is not necessary for me to underline. Real point I make is that we, at this distance, will learn the lessons of events the more rapidly if information about those events can come to us as promptly and as fully as possible.

As to the Middle East, I have not sought or intended to seek guarantees. All that we ask-and I am sure it is granted before the asking-is that the Middle East should be as fully reinforced and equipped as is humanly possible. Your telegram has given me great satisfaction on this point.

You point out that if the Middle East difficulties and dangers have not been fully met, it is not because the Mother Country has shirked her share of the perils or sacrifice; this is, of course, splendidly true. But I hope that you do not entertain any idea that Australia is shirking her share. We have many thousands of men in the Middle East, as many as shipping has been able to take.

We have in camp in Australia further Expeditionary Force approximating 85,000 men, many of whom will shortly be moving to the Middle East.

In spite of much public doubt caused by a real fear of what Japan may do, my Government has raised naval, air and military forces and pledged our resources to munitions production on a scale previously unknown and regarded only a year ago as impossible.

We have done this notwithstanding the parochial interests and issues which in the recent elections succeeded in defeating us in the all important State of New South Wales. We have set no limit to our contribution because we know that there is no limit to the total British risk.

I mention these matters because I desire to make it dear that our anxiety about our main overseas theatre of actual participation in the war is not only intelligible but acute.

Please, my dear Prime Minister, do not interpret anxieties arising from these facts as either fearful, selfish or unduly wrong- headed. And above all, please understand that whatever interrogative or even critical telegrams I may send to you in secret, Australia knows courage when it sees it and will follow you to a finish, as to the best of my abilities I certainly shall.


1 Document 152.

2 Document 144.

3 At the general election on 21 September Menzies's United Australia Party - Country Party coalition government lost a net total of five seats in the House of Representatives and continued in office only through the support of two independent members.

4 See AA:A3196, 1940, 0.6318.

[PRO: DO 114/113]