322 Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister (in London)

Cablegram 82 26 February 1941,

MOST SECRET

Your No. 153 [1] was considered by War Cabinet this afternoon.

After full discussion, and after giving full weight to the points made by you in its favour, it was decided to concur in the proposed use of two Australian divisions in the Forces initially contemplated. In arriving at this decision, which we have given despite the risky nature of the adventure, we have been impressed with the necessity for an immediate decision. Had more time been available we would have sought your further advice on the following aspects, but still desire that they be given the fullest possible consideration, both before and after the despatch of the proposed force to its destination.

(1) We have confidence in the advice tendered as to the size of the force required but it appears to us to be relatively small for the task proposed, and would appreciate a further assurance on this point. Would it not be possible to provide additional numbers and also to augment them from time to time as equipment becomes available.

(2) We note your comment regarding the issue of adequate modern equipment, but nevertheless stress the necessity for ensuring that under no circumstances are our troops allotted this task unless equipped on the maximum establishment scale.

(3) You refer in your cablegram to possible evacuation. We hope that this will not be forced upon our troops but our consent to their participation must be regarded as conditional on plans having been completed beforehand to ensure that evacuation, if necessitated, will be successfully undertaken, and that shipping and other essential services will be available for this purpose, if required.

Regarding publicity, we are making no reference at present either to movements of our own or other Imperial troops and have issued a censorship ban to that effect. In view of the extreme interest that will be caused by this move throughout the world, we ask that you will ensure reciprocal action by the authorities in the United Kingdom and that you will also ensure that at the first available opportunity we are enabled to publish the news in Australia simultaneously, if not before, its publication elsewhere. From your own experience in past releases you will fully understand the position. Would you let me have details of arrangements for publication at the earliest possible moment. In meantime information is being treated as MOST SECRET.

We also received from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs telegram No. 109 on this subject. [2] I do not propose to send any reply to the Secretary of State, assuming that you will communicate our views to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.

1 Document 321.

2 For Lord Cranborne's cablegram 109 of 25 February see file AA:A981, War 46, i.

3 The original was incorrectly lettered 1

[AA:A3196, 1941, [0] [3]. 2483]