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529 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 86A LONDON, 23 June 1942, 8.45 p.m.


At War Cabinet meeting Libyan position fully discussed and
decision reached that in view of seriousness of situation all
possible reinforcements should be diverted to Middle East. [1]

During consideration of possible diversions which mainly affect
India question of diverting Spitfire Squadrons en route to
Australia was raised.

When this issue arose I reminded the Cabinet of the circumstances
under which the offer to despatch these Squadrons had been made
and the special significance which attached to their presence in
Australia. [2] I also emphasised the importance of the maximum
insurance of the Australian position in the light of the adverse
developments in the Middle East. At the same time I pointed out
that I had had no opportunity of consulting my Government and as
the proposed diversion was in conflict with the spontaneous and
specific offer made to Evatt [3] I felt the United Kingdom
Government should approach you directly setting out their reasons
rather than that I should communicate with you. This view the War
Cabinet concurred in hence Dominions Office telegram No. 871. [4]

The case made in the telegram is a strong one but is not as
convincing as that which emerged in the discussions in the War

While I have given no indication here of my view, for your
personal information I feel that, having regard to the seriousness
of the position, the value the 42 Spitfires will be if they arrive
in time, the diversions made from India and the fact that only the
machines are being diverted and the personnel and equipment are
going on, it would be difficult not to agree to the request.


1 German forces in North Africa began a major advance eastwards on
26 May, capturing Tobruk on 21 June and reaching El Alamein, the
last line of Allied defence before the Nile Delta, oil 30 June.

Heavy fighting in early July ensured that El Alamein was held by
the Allies.

2 See Document 500, section D, paragraphs 8-14.

3 Minister for External Affairs.

4 See Document 530, note 1.

[AA:M100, JUNE 1942]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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