378 Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr M.J. Savage, N.Z. Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered 21 November 1939,

PERSONAL MOST SECRET

We have been considering in Cabinet the very difficult questions which arise in relation to sending troops out of Australia. As you know, we have a Division enlisted for service at home or abroad on terms similar to your own.

Our general view is that in spite of a reassuring survey of the Far Eastern position just received from the Foreign Office [1] and promises made by Admiralty in relation to defence of Singapore [2], there is still some real uncertainty about the position of Japan which might become more acute if Germany invaded Holland and Netherlands East Indies were cut off from their mother country.

Further, while Australian public opinion would warmly support sending troops abroad if land warfare in Europe assumed critical character, there is a feeling that in present state of affairs- with only five British Divisions in France and as yet no casualties-despatch of Dominion troops cannot be very urgent.

Another consideration which has puzzled us is that whereas we are finding the greatest possible difficulties in obtaining even a fraction of the shipping needed for some of our export commodities, it seems to be assumed that there would be no difficulty in securing ships and naval convoy for a military force.

Summing up, our judgment is that we should watch the developments of the next three or four weeks before committing ourselves to the despatch of our Division overseas. At same time we do not wish to be out of step with you as we think that from every point of view the closest co-ordination between our policies is essential.

Would greatly appreciate any comments you care to make on the matter.

MENZIES

1 Document 371.

2 Document 372.

[AA: CP 290/6, ITEM 35]