73 Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Prime Minister

Cablegram Winch 1 LONDON, 30 September 1941, 1.15 a.m.

1 I think I ought to let you know for your most secret information about Tobruk that Lyttelton [1] and I only with difficulty prevented General Auchinleck [2] from resigning his command on the grounds that the Australian Government had no confidence in his Military judgment. Had your decision [3] been based on political grounds he would not have felt the want of confidence implied.

2. The September relief has been effected successfully. The cost is measured by an indefinite delay in the intermingling of the 6th British Division with the two Indian Divisions in Iraq and Persia, thus making three Anglo-Indian units. I still hope that you will reconsider your decision that the last two Australian Brigades must be pulled out of Tobruk without reference to the great impending operation by which we trust all will be relieved. The exchange of these brigades with others during the October moonless period will certainly handicap the Air Force in their preliminary fight for air superiority before the battle by forcing them to divert their strength to providing fighter cover for the shipping involved. Every day's delay in delivering the attack will make our task more formidable. Everything points to the first days of November, and the period during which the remaining Australian Brigades would be involved is very short. Australian troops have borne the burden of Tobruk and we should all deeply regret that they should be cut out of the honour.

3. Believe me, everyone here realizes your political embarrassments with a majority of only one. Nevertheless Australia might think this is a time to do and dare. We have been greatly pained here by the suggestion, not made by you, but implied, that we have thrown an undue burden on the Australian troops. The debt to them is immense but the Imperial forces have suffered more casualties actually and relatively. Moreover, the British Submarine Service has lost nearly a third killed outright, and I could give you other instances.

Therefore we feel we are entitled to count upon Australia to make every sacrifice necessary for the comradeship of the Empire. But please understand that at whatever cost your orders about your own troops will be obeyed.


1 U.K. Minister of State resident in the Middle East.

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

3 See Document 68.

[PRO:DO 35/1009, ii]