435 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister

Cablegram M87 LONDON, 27 April 1941, 2.25 p.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

With further reference to your telegram 252 [1], I have continuously been pressing for early reply. The Chief of Naval Staff [2] on behalf of the three Chiefs of Staff has stated that though they fully share your anxiety regarding the contingencies enumerated by you, a fully considered answer cannot be furnished before Tuesday.

The following are extracts from his letter:-

'While we have naturally had to consider these contingencies in a general way, they have not hitherto been in our minds sufficiently imminent to warrant detailed investigation in the midst of the manifold problems of the war situation as a whole with which we have, and are, engaged.

Our staffs are now undertaking a study of all the aspects of the rapidly developing Middle East situation, and at the same time they are working at full pressure on the planning of a number of important projects designed to increase our strength in the Middle East, and to encounter probable enemy moves against home.

I must however sound a note of warning. In his telegram, the Acting Prime Minister asked for an accurate statement of the assistance which the Australian Government could definitely rely on in the circumstances outlined. If, by this, he means a statement of specific dispositions which we should make in the various hypothetical situations which he enumerates, it will not be within our power to give it. While the enemy holds the initiative we cannot prophesy the future course of events. All our plans are made with the object of facilitating any redistribution of forces which may be necessary from time to time and the most one can say is that we shall act at all times in the best interests of the Empire as a whole, as and when particular circumstances arise.' In view of the foregoing I am sending you in immediately following telegrams- (1) a summary [3] of the replies of Chiefs of Staffs to the questions referred to in M.37 [4], (2) a copy of the appreciation from the Commanders in Chief in the Middle East, the substance of which will probably be embodied in the Chiefs of Staff reply [5], (3) the main points of the Prime Minister's [6] instruction to the Commanders in Chief for their general guidance for conducting the Mediterranean campaign. [7]

MENZIES

1 Document 424.

2 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound.

3 Dispatched as cablegram M88 on 27 April. See file AA: CP290/9, 13.

4 Dispatched 1 April. See file cited in note 3.

5 Dispatched as cablegram M89 on 27 April. See file cited in note 3.

6 Winston S. Churchill.

7 Dispatched as cablegram M90 on 27 April. See file cited in note 3.

[AA: A3195, 1941, 1.6508]