478 Mr W. S. Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 386 LONDON, 31 May 1941, 1.32 p.m.

MOST SECRET AND PERSONAL

Your 2649. [1] Everything in human power has been and will be done to strengthen our Air Force in the Middle East. The first part of the JAGUAR operation [2] already completed. Second part starts this morning. We hope to have reasonable air superiority for the first time in approaching operations in the Western Desert. As you well know, the difficulty of air reinforcements of the Middle East is not supply of aeroplanes here nor the wish to send them but delay round the Cape and the limited capacity of short cuts T and M. [3] Nevertheless in May well over 1,000 were simultaneously moving along various routes thither. The process is continuing.

2. The difficulty of defending Crete did not arise so much through shortage of aircraft but from absence of well defended air fields within fighter range.

3. The country you mention in the fourth paragraph [4] will be occupied at the earliest with such forces as we can find. It is only when we have secured airfields there that an advance into [Cyprus] [5] in strength will be possible and by then it may well be too late. We can only do our best.

Evacuation of Crete is proceeding with success, over 11,000 having already reached Alexandria. Continuance of resistance there without air support would have jeopardized the naval position in the Mediterranean.

All of the above is MOST SECRET.

1 Document 475.

2 The air reinforcement of Malta.

3 This probably refers to the delivery of aircraft to the Middle East via Takoradi (Gold Coast) and Malta.

4 Syria.

5 This word appeared as 'Crete' on the copy circulated in Canberra. It has been corrected from the London file copy in PRO:

DO 35/1009, ii.

[AA: A1608, V41/1/1]