335 Lt Gen Sir Thomas Blamey, G.O.C. 2nd A.I.F. in the Middle East, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister (in London)

Letter [CAIRO], 5 March 1941


I sent a wire to you in the following terms- 'Operations plan in preparation includes Australian Corps less one division (.) Have pointed out necessity of obtaining concurrence Australian Government (.) With New Zealand troops majority of force from Dominions (.) Wavell [1] proposes appointing Wilson [2] to command (.) As matter of principle have raised point that I should be considered for command (.) In view your presence in London Wavell is referring matter for decision (.) No personal objection whatever decision given.' On the same day General Wavell sent a wire to the British Government stating that as a matter of policy I had raised the question contained in the wire.

I would like to make it quite clear from the outset that this is not a personal matter in any sense, and no matter what answer might be given, it will not affect me in any way or the services I, and the troops, will render.

In his cable General Wavell stated that while the force was a total strength of 126,000, the Australian contribution was exactly 1/3rd; 42,000. This is perfectly true of the force as set down on paper, but it is far from describing the exact position. The whole of the fighting troops, except an armoured brigade group and a considerable body of artillery, are Australian and New Zealand.

General Wavell's figures are arrived at by adding up the sum total of the force actual and potential, as set forth in an Order of Battle prepared by his staff, and whereas the Australian and New Zealand parts are actual, a very considerable proportion of the British is only forecast, some is on its way and some of it is not even in existence.

In order to set forth the true position, I have had a brief classified numerical summary of the force as shown in the proposed Order of Battle made out, and attach it hereto. [3] From this it will be seen that while the Australian and New Zealand Troops, except for hospital and one or two other essentials, are practically all fighting troops, the British troops, except for the armoured brigade and a limited number of artillery, etc. are practically all non-fighting troops.

It is clear that, broadly speaking, the fighting is the function of the Dominion troops, while supply and Line of Communication is the main function of the British. I do not know what the ultimate force may become, but the first addition one would expect would be Morshead's division. [4]

Past experience has taught me to look with misgiving on a situation where British leaders have control of considerable bodies of first class dominion troops while dominion commanders are excluded from all responsibility in control, planning and policy.

In the circumstances I feel it was right to put forward my point of view. I had no expectation that it would have any effect beyond keeping in notice the fact that when our troops are called upon the equality of status of dominion leaders cannot be ignored.

The plan is, of course, what I feared; piecemeal despatch to Europe. I am not criticising the higher policy that has required it, but regret that it must take this dangerous form. However, we will give a very good account of ourselves.



1 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East.

2 Notwithstanding Blamey's suggestion, Lt Gen Sir Maitland Wilson of the British Army was appointed to command U.K. and Dominion troops in Greece.

3 Not found.

4 The Australian 9th Division commanded by Maj Gen L. J. Morshead.