407 Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 235 17 April 1941,

Your telegram No. 181 of 4th April [1] has been noted with much interest by my Government, which is greatly concerned at the present situation in North Africa and Greece, in both of which theatres our Australian troops are so vitally affected.

Since the decision was first made to despatch Lustreforce the position has materially changed to our disadvantage, as it has not been possible to despatch to Greece the forces originally contemplated, owing to the advance made by the enemy in its successful attack on our positions in North Africa.

As in your paragraph 3, we regard the security of Egypt and the Suez Canal as of much importance to Australian defence, and suggest that the time is opportune to make a re-appreciation of the position in the Mediterranean lest our efforts to assist Greece and at the same time retain our hold in North Africa may have a disastrous result in both theatres by the division of our strength. We agree with you that the decision to send our troops to Greece was strategically correct and retract in no way from that decision, but we would now like to have a candid appreciation of the position under the present vitally altered circumstances and of the chances of maintaining our forces in Greece with our reduced strength, particularly in view of the collapse of Yugo- Slavia. If, however, it is considered that we are unable to hold the position there, we suggest there should be no hesitation in effecting a withdrawal before the position becomes irretrievable.

If such an appreciation could be supplied, it would, with the information contained in your cable 181 of 14th April, and any additional information that can now be furnished, be of great value to my Government, which is naturally concerned regarding the Australian troops now fighting defensively in these areas.

1 Document 402.

[AA: A3196, 1941, 0.4777]