67 Curtin to Bruce

Cablegram 10002 CANBERRA, 31 October 1942


My cablegram No. 9941 of 29th October-9th Division. [1] The G.O.C.

A.I.F. in the Middle East was informed of the Government's decision on 24th October, in order to ensure that fulfilment of decision and all its implications was safeguarded. The following message has been received from General Morshead:-

'Saw Commander-in-Chief 27th October at Tactical Headquarters 8th Army. He had not been informed of the Commonwealth Government's decision and said could not consider release present time as 9th Australian Division is main pivot of operations and without them battle would collapse. Of all formations in the Middle East it is the one he can least afford to lose. Undertaken to arrange relief as soon as operational situation permits. He drafted signal to London and concluded as follows: 9th Australian Division playing only conspicuous and important part in present operations and it would be quite impossible to lose their magnificent services until present operations are brought to successful conclusion.'

2. You will recall that, in your cablegram 173 of 23rd October, you advised that you had confirmed with the Chief of the Imperial General Staff that instructions had already been sent to the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and were being reiterated that afternoon. [2] The Government views with great concern that the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, was not aware of its decision.

You will be aware that as far back as 30th July, in cablegram Johcu 38 to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom [3], it was stated that the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, would need to have regard to reinforcement position in his use of the 9th Division. This was re-affirmed in my cablegram 9684 to you. [4]

It is desired you take up matter with United Kingdom authorities at once and advise. [5]

1 See Document 66, note 1.

2 See Document 64, note 4.

3 Document 12.

4 Document 64 5 Bruce replied on 31 October: 'Cannot understand the position as your decision was telegraphed to the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East ... Am making further enquiries.' See cablegram 178[A] on file AA:A4763.