373 Mr S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 17 November 1939

SECRET

For Army, Melbourne. General Squires [1] from Northcott. [2] The Minister telegraphed the Government today summary of Foreign Office appreciation on the Far East situation best summed up by the British Ambassador at Tokyo as follows:-

'Japan has her hands far too full in China and is too apprehensive of the United States in its present mood to think seriously of any move involving danger to Australia and New Zealand or to the Territories in which those Dominions are interested.' [3]

2. After most interesting six days visit to both British and French front my appreciation is that the British strength in France will be the main factor in the first round. Any serious reversal or defeat in France will provide opportunity for all fence sitters to make their demands and become difficult. This applies to the Far East as well as in Europe.

3. The New Zealand Government has sanctioned the despatch of the first Echelon of their force to Egypt as soon as possible after 20th January. This movement depends on the earliest date that we can despatch our first brigade group. Owing to the shortage of shipping the War Office wish to arrange the dates of despatch of both forces so that the same ships can be used on alternative trips. If possible our force leave December and ships return New Zealand otherwise we follow them.

4. C.I.G.S. [4] informed me that provided our first contingent sailed 15th December or as soon as is possible he expected to be able to withdraw six regular battalions from Palestine in time to be available France early spring. Delay of sailing of the first contingent would probably cause the postponement of this withdrawal.

5. Actual garrison duties Palestine will be taken over by Yeomanry but the War Office unlikely to be able to withdraw regular troops unless our force is available as a reserve although still engaged in training.

6. C.I.G.S. is anxious to get early decision as shipping already taken up in anticipation of our requirements.

1 Lt Gen E.K. Squires, Chief of the General Staff.

2 Maj Gen J. Northcutt, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, who was Casey's military adviser.

3 See Document 371.

4 General Lord Gort.

[AA: CP 290/6, ITEM 35]