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73 Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Prime Minister

Cablegram Winch 1 LONDON, 30 September 1941, 1.15 a.m.

1 I think I ought to let you know for your most secret information
about Tobruk that Lyttelton [1] and I only with difficulty
prevented General Auchinleck [2] from resigning his command on the
grounds that the Australian Government had no confidence in his
Military judgment. Had your decision [3] been based on political
grounds he would not have felt the want of confidence implied.

2. The September relief has been effected successfully. The cost
is measured by an indefinite delay in the intermingling of the 6th
British Division with the two Indian Divisions in Iraq and Persia,
thus making three Anglo-Indian units. I still hope that you will
reconsider your decision that the last two Australian Brigades
must be pulled out of Tobruk without reference to the great
impending operation by which we trust all will be relieved. The
exchange of these brigades with others during the October moonless
period will certainly handicap the Air Force in their preliminary
fight for air superiority before the battle by forcing them to
divert their strength to providing fighter cover for the shipping
involved. Every day's delay in delivering the attack will make our
task more formidable. Everything points to the first days of
November, and the period during which the remaining Australian
Brigades would be involved is very short. Australian troops have
borne the burden of Tobruk and we should all deeply regret that
they should be cut out of the honour.

3. Believe me, everyone here realizes your political
embarrassments with a majority of only one. Nevertheless Australia
might think this is a time to do and dare. We have been greatly
pained here by the suggestion, not made by you, but implied, that
we have thrown an undue burden on the Australian troops. The debt
to them is immense but the Imperial forces have suffered more
casualties actually and relatively. Moreover, the British
Submarine Service has lost nearly a third killed outright, and I
could give you other instances.

Therefore we feel we are entitled to count upon Australia to make
every sacrifice necessary for the comradeship of the Empire. But
please understand that at whatever cost your orders about your own
troops will be obeyed.


1 U.K. Minister of State resident in the Middle East.

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

3 See Document 68.

[PRO:DO 35/1009, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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