106 Commonwealth Government to Lord Caldecote, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 4717 September 1940,

MOST SECRET

We have given consideration to position in the Middle East and possible developments in the Mediterranean area.

While recognising that under no considerations [1] should the defences of the British Isles themselves be depleted and that the first consideration must be to ensure impregnability of homeland, nevertheless we feel strongly that whole Empire position would be endangered should our forces be driven from Middle East and control lost in Mediterranean.

The loss of Egypt and Palestine would destroy our prestige and imperil our diplomatic bargaining powers. It would also counteract results already achieved in defeating German thrusts at the United Kingdom.

In addition it would probably necessitate withdrawal of the fleet from the Eastern Mediterranean and would reduce the Western blockade to a point of ineffectiveness.

The door would be open for the enemy to attack Kenya and in fact the whole of Africa and they would have access to the oil fields of Iraq and Iran.

The implications of such a success would stimulate the activities of the anti-British parties in Japan and encourage them in any fresh adventure.

While we recognise the Italian advance in Somaliland has been counterbalanced by British Defence of United Kingdom and in particular of R.A.F. successes both in defence and offence, we feel that our favourable position could not be sustained if any severe blow was inflicted in Middle East. We cannot stress too strongly the importance we attach to the holding of this area and urge that a maximum effort should be made there compatible with the safety of the United Kingdom. [2]

1 ? circumtances.

2 Caldecote replied in cablegram 338 of 14 September (AA:A3195, 1940, 1.7921) that the U.K. Govt were doing their utmost to maintain their military position in the Middle East.

[AA: A981, WAR 57, i]