222 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London

Cablegram 1607 12 December 1940,

MOST SECRET IMMEDIATE

Your cable 1073. [1]

It had been announced by B.B.C. and from other sources that Australian troops had been engaged in battle in the Western Desert. Government under pressure for a statement and as usual in humiliating position of having to say 'we have no official news'.

Circular D.W. 514 [2] then arrived and I stated its substance to Parliament.

My colleagues and I are at a complete loss to understand how Italy can fail to be aware of localities in which engagements occurring.

If we are wrong in this respect we can only express regret but we would like to know the reasons for the contrary view.

I would like to add for your information that we at this end are never in a position to make any statement to Parliament or to the people about war events because the news we get from the Dominions Office is always a long way behind the Press and Radio and when cables do arrive they are invariably 'Most Secret'. The effect of this has been to discredit us very much. We are represented as a Government that knows less than the newspaper reporters and that it does not even know whether its soldiers have gone to Greece or into action as the case may be.

I feel that it is not too much to insist that we must be allowed some reasonable discretion at this end.

MENZIES

1 Document 220.

2 Dispatched 10 December. On file AA:A1608, G41/1/1, v.

[AA:A3196, 1940, 0.9906]