514 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Lt Gen Sir Thomas Blamey, G.O.C. 2nd A.I.F. in the Middle East

Cablegram 13 21 June 1941,


I am most disturbed by the failure at and about Sollum. So far as I can make out we had equality in tanks and superiority in the air, yet we failed.

Your own view appears to be that training of mechanised units deficient. If this was so, please inform me whether in your opinion attack was founded upon military opinion in Egypt or on direction from London.

I am cabling you direct because I have great confidence in your judgment and would like you to let me have urgently answers to the following questions:-

1. What is your own assessment of the enemy's strength and our own on the Western Desert front and our respective capacities to increase and maintain such strength? 2. Are you satisfied that the garrison at Tobruk can hold out? Should we press for evacuation or for any other and what course? 3. What is your estimate of our real capacity to defend our bases in Egypt, with particular reference to the risks to which our Forces, particularly the Fleet, are subject? 4. What progress is being made with plans for contingencies, including the evacuation of Egypt? I understand [sic] in London that these were in hand and I would like to be assured that possible moves have been adequately provided for.

With the enemy in possession of the Dodecanese, Crete and Libya, the Middle East position appears to have new elements of doubtfulness.

A disaster at Tobruk, coming on top of those in Greece and Crete, might have far-reaching effects on public opinion in Australia, and a reverse in Egypt itself would, I think, produce incalculable difficulties in Australia.

Views which I received from London may be unduly coloured by wishful thinking, and I still feel that they constantly under- estimate the enemy. That is why I would welcome your own full and frank view.

I do not want you to think from the foregoing that I personally have any illusions about the frequent necessity for fighting, even unsuccessfully, at outposts in order to protect and strengthen our base. But at the same time I cannot allow it to be said that the attitude of the Australian Government was passive or insufficiently strong at such a critical period in the Middle East campaign.

Anything that you can tell me therefore which will enable us to strengthen your own hand and the defence of the Canal Zone will be of the highest urgency and importance.

Kind regards.


[AA: A3196, 1941, 0.8383]