457 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 343 LONDON, 14 May 1941, 4.15 p.m.


Your telegram 247 of 27th April [1] we fully recognise that in agreeing to despatch Australian forces to Greece, H.M. Government in the Commonwealth of Australia laid great emphasis on equipment of their troops to the maximum scale.

Reference to the Commander in Chief Middle East [2] indicates that except for the fact that the third line of transport for the Sixth Australian Division had to be on an improvised basis (i.e.

sufficient in numbers but not entirely of G. 1098 [3] type) this condition was fulfilled as regards all essentials.

Marked deficiencies, as compared with establishment, existed in motor cycles and two inch mortars but these were not regarded as essentials and it was in fact only late arrival from the United Kingdom which prevented further supplies of motor cycles being available in time for issue to the division.

It is understood from the Commander in Chief that General Blamey [4] and the Commander of the Sixth Australian Division [5] were kept fully informed of the scales of equipment available for formations proceeding to Greece and indeed we do not think that the Commonwealth Government would suggest that the equipment was not considered entirely adequate for the purpose. The matter formed the subject of correspondence between the War Office and Mr. Menzies [6] shortly before he left the country.

2. As regards the second and third paragraphs of your telegram, loss of equipment in Greece has of course added considerably to the problem of bringing up to mobilization scale the fighting equipment of Australian troops now in Egypt which had been proceeding satisfactorily.

It will be appreciated that equipment arriving from the United Kingdom and elsewhere has to be used to the best possible advantage having regard to the roles assigned to the various formations in that area and large shipments of equipment are now on their way to Egypt and all supplies which can be made available will continue to be sent as rapidly as possible.

The War Office have already largely increased the Middle East quota from May production and this will in many items more than cover probable losses in Greece and enable some headway to be made in reduction of general deficiencies and accumulation of reserves.

It is not practicable to give exact dates by which existing deficiencies in any particular item of equipment will be fully met. We should however like to assure the Commonwealth Government that no effort will be spared to ensure that the needs of Australian units which have already performed such remarkable service in the Middle East will continue to be given every consideration by us and by the Commander in Chief

1 Document 432.

2 General Sir Archibald Wavell.

3 This identifies the unit stores account listing the number and type of vehicles on the unit's establishment.

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

5 Lt Gen Sir Iven Mackay.

6 Prime Minister.

[AA: A1608, E41/1/3, i]