360 Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner to Australia, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Letter CANBERRA, 14 November 1939

SECRET AND IMMEDIATE

I duly informed my Government of the decision of the Commonwealth Government, conveyed in your letter to me of the 6th November, approving the proposals of the Admiralty with regard to the transfer of Australian destroyers to the Mediterranean. [1]

I have now received a further telegram from my Government [2] stating that, in order to meet urgent convoy escort requirements in the Atlantic, certain Royal Navy forces have already been transferred from the Mediterranean in advance of the arrival of Royal Australian Navy destroyers, with the result that the Mediterranean forces are reduced below what is required to carry out the very important services on that station. It is therefore desired that the R.A.N. destroyers should proceed to the Mediterranean station at the earliest possible date.

The two cruisers selected for service on the Australian station are now employed on northern patrol, and they cannot be relieved by armed merchant cruisers until early December, after which they require a thorough refit. They should be able to sail for Australia towards the end of January.

My Government hope that the Commonwealth Government will appreciate the vital reasons for this temporary delay in the replacement of R.A.N. destroyers by cruisers and that they will agree to the immediate transfer of R.A.N. destroyers to the Mediterranean. [3]

GEOFFREY WHISKARD

1 Document 331.

2 Not printed.

3 Menzies informed Whiskard on 15 November 1939 that he would discuss the delayed arrival of the two R.N. cruisers with his colleagues. On 22 November Whiskard wrote again to ask when the U.K. Government could expect a decision on the dispatch of the R.A.N. destroyers to the Mediterranean and their replacement by R.N. cruisers. Menzies informed Whiskard on 23 November that the destroyers were already in transit to the Mediterranean and on 27 November that the Australian Government understood the necessity for the delayed arrival of the cruisers. All correspondence is on file AA: A1608, H33/1/1.

[AA: A1608, H33/1/1]