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

Cablegram 766 LONDON, 4 September 1940, 9.30 p.m.

FOR THE PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

Middle East. My telegram 757. [1]

As indicated in my previous cables I have been doing everything possible to emphasize the importance of the Middle East and to stimulate increased flow of reinforcements, equipment and aeroplanes. Position now greatly improved in both respects. I feel, however, that the vital importance of maintaining our position in the Middle East is still not fully realized even by some members of the War Cabinet. Without such realization impossible to view problem of allocation of men and munitions between the United Kingdom and the Middle East in true perspective. If it were realized that loss of Egypt and Palestine would probably (a) discount results of any success achieved in defeating German thrusts against the United Kingdom; (b) stimulate Japanese to some adventure; (c) mean the return of the fleet from the eastern Mediterranean; (d) weaken blockade to the point of complete ineffectiveness; (e) open the way for the Axis to Kenya and really the whole of Africa and to oilfields of Iraq and Iran, the position would be viewed in the same way as was the prevention of Germans reaching the Channel Ports (my telegrams 333 and 342 [2]) and saving the French from collapse in battle of Paris (my telegram 376 [3]).

Present position is that while everyone agreed safety of United Kingdom first consideration, opinion divided between those who would over-insure these islands and those who would in view of vital importance of the Middle East risk even a fractional under- insurance.

Suggest a cable from you indicating our vital interest in the Middle East and urging maximum effort there compatible with the safety of the United Kingdom would be well timed.

BRUCE

1 Dispatched 3 September. See file AA:A1608, A41/1/1, xiii.

2 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. III, Documents 249 and 255.

3 ibid., Document 329.

[AA:A1608, A41/1/1, xiii]