395 Mr R.G. Casey, Minister for Supply and Development, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram C50 LONDON, 29 November 1939

For Prime Minister. Personal. Further to the last half of my yesterday's C.49.[1] The training requirements of the 6th Division have been given full consideration here. The War Office proposal is that the force be concentrated in the most suitable training area and to provide adequate training as well as modem equipment not available in Australia. Unless we send at least one Australian brigade group with the first convoy that it is now proposed should leave Sydney about 2nd January, Commander-in-Chief, Middle East [2] is not prepared to release sufficient regular battalions to form a complete division for service in France by early Spring.

Owing to the necessity of completing training in the Middle East and provision of its full-scale war equipment from the United Kingdom, the 6th Division is unlikely to be able to take its place in the European theatre by Spring as you suggest, but the importance of its early arrival in the Middle East is its capacity to free British regular units which other Dominions forces cannot do as they are insufficiently equipped. The British Government is under the necessity of providing the maximum number of divisions in France by March and as the suggested dates for the Australian division being concentrated in the Middle East will not enable it to complete training and get to France until probably June or July, the British Government is obliged to defer completion of outfitting of the Australian division with war-scale equipment until after having outfitted British divisions which will be in France by early Spring. Adequate scale of training equipment, however, will be available to Australian brigade groups as they arrive in the Middle East. With regard to artillery and other equipment, in view of Squires' telegram of 21st November [3] to Northcott which has formed the basis of tentative discussions with the War Office strongly recommend that the first brigade group at least should bring artillery etc. as mentioned in Squires' cable.

Provision of the remainder of the division can be discussed here further.

After discussion with the British Government it is now desired that you let me know not later than 2nd December whether or not you agree to let the first brigade group sail on 2nd January, provided that the sailing dates can be coordinated with New Zealand. Owing to the difficulty of the shipping situation, the authorities here are unable to provide ships at short notice for movements from Australia and New Zealand and certain ships already sailing in anticipation of 2nd January being acceptable will have to be diverted or delayed if it seems that decision not reached.

CASEY

1 Document 394.

2 General Sir Archibald Wavell.

3 Not found.

[AA: CP 290/6, ITEM 35]