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

Cablegram 176 27 March 1941,

Despatches received today from General Blamey [1] regarding Lustre Force [2] include copy of letter addressed to you dated 5th March.

[3] It is assumed that aspects regarding command of Force outlined therein were discussed by you with the United Kingdom authorities.

Am particularly concerned with Blamey's statement that Dominion Commanders excluded from all responsibility for control planning and policy. We are also naturally concerned with the statement regarding piecemeal despatch to Europe.

In subsequent despatch [4] Blamey states that he was informed that in regard to reinforcements one further armoured division might be looked for at an unknown date but beyond that there were no plans for reinforcing formations owing to the fact that shipping could not be made available. In these circumstances it is desired to again refer to paragraph 1 of my cablegram 82 of the 26th February [5] and the reply furnished by you thereto in your 165 of the 1st March. [6]

In the light of Blamey's despatch, the information in regard to reinforcements contained in your 165 of 1st March is rather indefinite and it is presumed that by this time the United Kingdom authorities may be in a position to give more definite information as to plans for augmentation of Lustre Force, advice of which would be appreciated. In this connection it is understood from Blamey that in December last the Commander-in-Chief [7] advised that it was the intention to send fourteen divisions to the Middle East which were expected to arrive there at the rate of one division per month from February onwards. It is suggested that you might investigate this and advise us of the reason for any changed plans.

Blamey feels that sufficient weight has not been given to the fact that whatever we do it is unlikely we can prevent German air superiority in regions favourably situated for the enemy in view of the relative distances. This aspect is dealt with rather fully in Dominions Office cablegram No. 165 of 14th March [8] but nevertheless General Blamey's views will be of interest to you.

In your M.13 of the 8th March [9] you informed us that Blamey had expressed his agreement to the proposal but in his despatch of the 12th March [10], Blamey states that his views were not asked for by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff [11] or the Commander- in-Chief, and he felt that he was receiving instructions. In consequence, his cablegram of the 10th March [12] was sent to the Minister for the Army [13] in Australia and yourself in London.

Blamey advises that although the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff then held very firmly that the operation should be put in hand, he regrets that he still felt very strongly that without a definite plan for building up the forces adequately within the next few months, the operation was most hazardous.

My colleagues and I feel resentment that while some discussion appears to have taken place with the High Command, Blamey's views as General-Officer-Commanding of the force which apparently is to take the major part in the operations should not have been sought and that he was not asked to express any opinion. This not only deeply affects the question of Empire relationship but also places us in embarrassing situation with the Advisory War Council and with Parliament, particularly as I have there stressed the fact as stated in your cable that General Blamey had agreed to the operation.

It will be clear from [my] cablegram No. 173 of even date [14] that we have no wish to retract from the step which we have taken in agreeing to our troops taking part in these operations, but the latter cablegram read in conjunction with this message will indicate to you the local considerations involved.

In view of terms of Blamey's appointment agreed upon by United Kingdom Government which provides he shall have direct responsibility with Commonwealth Government with right to communicate direct to us, he has been asked to furnish complete appreciation of Lustre position generally and as affecting Australian troops particularly. Understand Blamey arrived Athens 20th March.

Advice of your reactions to this cable would be appreciated together with information as to the extent of the enemy forces that are likely to be utilised in view of present position in Balkans.


1 General Officer Commanding 2nd A.I.F. in the Middle East.

2 Code name for the expedition to Greece.

3 Document 335.

4 Dated 10 March. See file Defence: Special Collection II, Bundle 5, Middle East and Balkans.

5 Document 322.

6 Document 327.

7 General Sir Archibald Wavell.

8 On file AA:A1608, E41/1/3, i.

9 Document 344.

10 On file Defence: Special Collection I, Box 626, AIF, Future Employment of.

11 General Sir John Dill.

12 Cited in note 4.

13 P. C. Spender.

14 On file cited in note 10.

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.3845]