413 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister

Cablegram M66 LONDON, 19 April 1941, 6 p.m.

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Your telegram 18th April. [1] Have just had long and frank discussion with Dill. [2] Wavell [3] has gone to Greece to discuss evacuation and in the meantime plans are well advanced though you will appreciate that the utmost secrecy regarding evacuation must be preserved. Wavell is almost desperately short of tanks in Egypt and therefore our real prospect of defending Egypt depends upon interruption to German supplies.

I have told Dill that it is a matter of imperative importance from Australia's point of view that all Australian Forces should as soon as possible be assembled as one corps under the command of Blamey. [4] I have gone further and indicated that Blamey should be promptly considered for some important command such as the Western Desert or Egypt and that we should feel much happier because we could then feel that we have an effective voice in decisions on the spot.

Have also stressed that a suitable Australian officer should be posted to Wavell's staff for similar reasons. Dill is in complete sympathy with both ideas and is cabling Wavell privately and urgently today. I may add that a good deal of trouble in Libya arose from the fact that a new armoured brigade, which was sent to the Western Desert when Creagh's Division was taken away to Cairo for repairs, has completely disappeared, the personnel presumably being all killed or captured. This armoured brigade was a force sufficiently strong to have made a vital difference in Tobruk- Sollum area if it had been able to carry out its orders which were to harry any advance but to avoid direct battle with superior forces. The tanks of Creagh's division will not be all out of the work shops until the end of next month while equipment for another brigade is now on its way to the Middle East by water. Everything therefore will depend upon turning the head of the German column and interrupting their supplies over the next few weeks. The situation is regarded as being very grave and all energy is being concentrated upon dealing with it.

MENZIES

1 It is not dear whether Menzies here refers to the cablegram to Cranborne printed as Document 410 or to the cablegram mentioned in Document 412, note 1.

2 Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

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

4 General Officer Commanding 2nd A.I.F. in the Middle East.

[AA: A3195,1941, 1.6039]