61 Lord Caldecote, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner in Australia

Cablegram 267 LONDON, 10 August 1940


With reference to paragraph 7 of my telegram No. 263 of 11th August [1] I should be glad if you would let the Prime Minister [2] know that the difficulties of equipping from Australian resources a division for Malaya are fully realized here. At the same time for reasons which he knows in connexion with equipment of Australian forces in the Middle East the difficulties of providing equipment required from the United Kingdom immediately are insurmountable. The greatest efforts will however be made to provide equipment required from the United Kingdom at the earliest possible date.

2. In the event of the Commonwealth Government deciding to send the seventh Australian division to Malaya it would be the strong desire of the United Kingdom Government eventually to relieve this division so that principle of forming first Australian Corps in the Middle East may be followed. Prime Minister will appreciate however that it is not possible in the present circumstances to forecast any date on which this concentration could be carried out. We assume that the 7th Australian division if sent to Malaya would take with it some equipment from one of the existing home service divisions in addition to any items available from the equipment specified in Menzies' telegram to Bruce of the 13th June. [3] It is realized that even so it will not be possible for the Commonwealth Government to equip these troops up to full Western standards but it is not felt that equipment on such a scale would be necessary in view of unlikelihood of Japanese being able to bring mechanised troops with the latest form of equipment to attack them. We hope that equipment taken from home service divisions could be replaced by local manufacture but if this is not practicable within a reasonable period we should be prepared to consider the possibility of helping to re-equip such home service divisions as soon as circumstances permitted.

3. Should the Commonwealth Government agree to send this division to Malaya they will appreciate the importance in existing political situation in the Far East of concealing the destination of this division as far as possible until movement has been completed. The fact that troops are to sail from Australia and that preparations are being made in Malaya to receive reinforcements cannot however be kept secret. It is therefore suggested that it should continue to be assumed that all troops in convoy will be sailing for the Middle East and that sealed orders should be opened in the ships concerned after the convoy has sailed altering their destination to Malaya. In addition the Japanese agents in Malaya and India would hear rumours that reinforcements are expected to sail to Malaya from India.

Please put this suggestion to the Prime Minister adding that if he would like us to do so we should be glad to send further suggestions as to manner in which concealment might be secured.

1 Document 65.

2 R. G. Menzies.

3 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. III, Documents 372, note 5.

[AA:A1608, A41/1/1, xii]