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

Cablegram [202] [1] 5 April 1941,


Following communique dated 4th April has been received from General Wavell [2] and repeated to General Blamey [3]:-

'1. At time enemy advanced Australian Division less one brigade were on escarpment east and north east of Benghasi. Capture [of MSUS] [4] by enemy armoured and mobile forces and necessity of our own armoured forces to fall back temporarily exposed their left flank. They were therefore ordered to be ready withdraw but this has not been necessary yet. They have not yet been in action. One brigade is in Tobruk.

2. Eighteen Australian Infantry Brigade has been ordered to proceed at short notice to Tobruk. Remainder 7th Division (AUSTRALIAN) is in Palestine and I hope to send it to Greece but may be compelled to send it to Cyrenaica.

3. Concentration of 6th Australian Division in Greece is continuing.

4. Am keeping Blamey in touch situation and much regret necessity to alter plans. Have explained situation personally to Lavarack [5] and C.I.G.S. [6] approves change of plan.' [7]

Receipt of this communique is most disconcerting to us particularly in view of your M. 13 of 8th March [8] in reply to my 102 of 6th March [9] in which you state military advisers discounted possibilities successful thrust by German armoured force in North Africa and had complete confidence Benghasi front could be held without Lustreforce. Naturally this advice had great influence with us in forming our subsequent decision. We cannot but feel that the situation in North Africa must be indeed grave when the C.I.G.S. agrees that the already inadequate Lustreforce must be seriously weakened by the despatch of the 18th Brigade to Tobruk to be followed, if the situation demands it, by the remainder of the Division. We realise that equal concern at the changed situation must be being felt by the United Kingdom Government and by yourself and that you will have been constantly in touch with them on this question which so vitally affects our Australian troops both in North Africa and in Greece. Would be glad to have appreciation of position as early as possible. [10]

1 Inserted from the copy on file Defence: Special Collection 1, Box 626, AIF, Future Employment of.

2 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East.

3 General Officer Commanding and A.I.F. in the Middle East.

4 This section was mutilated in transmission. The suggested decipherment was 'Capture Zimsus ... by enemy', but 'Zimsus' was probably intended to read 'Msus' (see the account of the loss of Msus in Barton Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein, Canberra, 1966, pp.

60-4) 5 General Officer Commanding 7th Division, and A.I.F.

6 General Sir John Dill.

7 The text of the communique has been inserted from the copy on file Defence: Special Collection II, Bundle 5, Middle East and Balkans.

8 Document 344 9 On file cited in note 1.

10 This cablegram was drafted by F. R. Sinclair, Acting Secretary of the Defence Co-ordination Dept, after a telephone conversation with Fadden.

[AA:A3196, 1941,0.4258]