10 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 456 [1] CANBERRA, 20 July 194I

PERSONAL MOST SECRET & URGENT

For your Prime Minister [2] from Prime Minister.

We regard it as of first class importance that, now that the

Syrian Campaign has concluded, Australian Troops in the Middle

East should be aggregated into one force. This would not only give

an opportunity for refreshment, restoration of discipline and re-

equipment after strenuous campaigns but would also give immense

satisfaction to Australian people for whom there is great national

value and significance in knowing that all Australian soldiers in

any zone form one Australian unit. This principle was fully

accepted by both United Kingdom Government and ours when troops

first despatched to Middle East.

Problem has a particular bearing upon the garrison at Tobruk which

has been engaged in continuous operations since March and is

therefore in the position of a force with continuous front line

service over a period of months, a state of affairs which must

result in some decline of fighting value. If they could be

relieved by fresh troops, movement of personnel only being

involved, re-aggregation and equipment of A.I.F. in Palestine

would then present no major difficulty.

I would be glad if you could direct British High Command in Middle

East along these lines. The comparative lull now obtaining in

Libya seems to make this an ideal time for making the above move,

to which we attach real and indeed urgent importance.

MENZIES

1 Repeated to the Deputy Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East as

no. 15.

2 Winston Churchill.

[AA : A1608, E45/2/1, V]