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64 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Prime Minister

Cablegram 620 LONDON, 11 September 1941, 5.59 p.m.


Following for the Prime Minister [from Prime Minister] [1]

1. In my immediately following telegram [2] I send you, in its
entirety, General Auchinleck's [3] private telegram to me about
the relief of Australian troops in Tobruk. I do so in complete
confidence in your discretion. General Auchinleck's telegram is
the result of prolonged consultation with Naval and Air Commanders
in the Middle East.

2. You will see from his telegram that if you insist upon relief
of Australians in Tobruk, it is physically impossible for it to be
completed in time for you to make the statement you desire to the
Commonwealth Parliament by the middle of this month. In fact, only
half could be removed during the moonless period of September and
the other half would have to be removed during the latter half of
October, which is the very time when all preparations for the
offensive will be intense and when preparatory work of the Air
Force will demand their complete concentration on the enemy's rear
areas, dumps and air fields.

In no case could you make any statement to the Commonwealth
Parliament, because any suggestion in public that reliefs were to
take place might lead to heavy air attacks on Tobruk Harbour and
along the coast at the time when your troops would be withdrawing.

If, however, you insisted that Australian troops must be relieved,
orders will be issued accordingly irrespective of the cost
entailed and injury to future prospects.

I trust, however, that you will weigh very carefully the immense
responsibility which you would assume before history by depriving
Australia of the glory of holding Tobruk till victory was won,
which otherwise by God's help will be theirs for ever.

3. I feel bound again to impress on you the vital importance of
maintaining absolute secrecy about future operations or movements
of troops which the question of the relief of your forces has
compelled the Commander-in-Chief to reveal to us.

1 Winston Churchill. These words have been inserted from the
London copy in PRO:DO114/114
2 Cablegram 621 of 11 September (AA:A3195, 1941, 1.17542).

3 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East.

[AA:A3195, 1941,1.17541]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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