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4 Churchill to Curtin

Cablegram Winch 25 LONDON, [11 July 1942] [1]


I am very glad that the 9th Australian Division is now in action

in the Western Desert, and I am most thankful to you for making it

available for this vital key point of the war.

2. The unforeseeable tide of disaster which drove us from Gazala

to Alamein with the loss of Tobruk and 50,000 men has now for the

time being been stemmed. General Auchinleck has received strong

reinforcements raising his army to 100,000 men with another 20,000

well forward in the Delta behind them. He is thus about double

Rommel [2] in men. He has a fair equality in artillery but is

still somewhat weaker in armour to the enemy. This imposes

prudence upon him for two reasons. First, a retirement is much

worse for him than for Rommel who has nothing but deserts behind

him and, secondly, far more strength is coming to General

Auchinleck than to the enemy.

3. For instance, the 8th Armoured Division with 350 Valentine

Tanks has landed and will soon be in action. About 400 tanks of

all natures, having been despatched before the battle began, will

reach General Auchinleck in July and early August as replacements.

The 44th British Infantry Divisisdon fully equipped, 15,000 strong

with 72 guns, should have arrived by the end of July and the 51st

British Infantry Division a month later.

4. It was very fortunate that four months ago I obtained from

President Roosevelt the shipping to carry an additional 40,000 men

to the East without deciding on their destination till they

rounded the Cape. Without these, the reinforcements now proved so

needful by the hazards of war could not have been at hand.

5. When in Washington, I obtained from the President 300 of the

latest and finest tanks (Shermans) in the American Army. They were

taken from the very hands of the American troops who eagerly

awaited them, and were sent by special convoy direct to Suez. With

them went one hundred 105 MM. self-propelled guns which definitely

outmatch the 88 MM., the whole being accompanied by a large number

of American key men. These should arrive early September. Apart

from the 8th Armoured Division and in addition to the two armoured

and one army tank brigades now in action forward, we have in the

Delta the personnel of four armoured brigades awaiting re-

equipment. About half these men are desert trained in tanks. We

should therefore be able to bring into action incomparably the

most powerful and best trained armoured division yet seen in the

Mid East or indeed anywhere. But I hope the issue will be decided

in our favour earlier. This is especially desirable because of

dangers that may, though I do not say they will, develop on the

Northern approaches to Egypt.

6. Scarcely less important are the air reinforcements given me by

the President on the morrow of Tobruk. As you know we have not

been hitherto able for technical as well as military reasons to

provide heavy bomber squadrons for the Mid East, though they have

often asked for them. But now the President has assigned to the

defence of Egypt the Halpro Group of 20 Liberators which was on

its way to India, after bombing Rumanian oilfields, 10 other

Liberators which had already reached India and a group of 35

Liberators from the United States. These, with our own Liberators,

make up about 85 of these heavy bombers which should all be

available this month. At the same time our two Halifax Squadrons

will come into action, making up to 117 heavy bombers in all. It

is this force I rely upon to beat up the ports of Tobruk and

Benghazi, hampering Rommel's reinforcements, besides of course

playing the part of a battle-fleet in preventing a seaborne

invasion of Egypt. We have great enterprises in preparation for

the re-victualling of Malta but as these deal with future

operations you will not, I am sure, wish me to mention details.

In addition to the above, the President sent about 70 of his

latest Kittyhawks across in the carrier 'Ranger' which should soon

be reaching West Africa.

7. Besides this, every preparation has been made to defend the

Delta should the battles in the desert go against us. Here we have

very large numbers of men all of whom have been ordered to take

part in the defence of Egypt exactly as if it were England that

was invaded. Cultivation and irrigation of the Delta make it

literally the worst ground in the world for armoured vehicles, and

armour as a factor would lose a great deal of its predominance.

All ideas of evacuation have been repressed, the intention being

to fight for every yard of ground to the end. As I have said,

however, I do not think this situation will arise.

8. We are having a great struggle to carry supplies to Russia. One

fifth of the June convoy was sunk and I fear less than one half of

the July convoy got through. The difficulties and dangers of this

route are enormous especially during the season of perpetual

daylight. This is serious as it is almost the only thing we can do

for our brilliant ally who is taking so heavy a toll of Hitler's

armies and will, I am confident, endure to the end. To show you

what a good comrade Premier Stalin is proving himself, they have

offered us three divisions of partly equipped Poles for the

Levant-Caspian Theatre and have transferred to Egypt 40 Boston

fighter bombers which were on the way to them through Basra. In

this last matter, the President was my intermediary.

9. The House of Commons has proved a rock in these difficult days,

as it did in the struggle against Napoleon, and I have also been

greatly encouraged by the goodwill of your Government and people.

I never felt more sure that complete ultimate victory will be

ours. But the struggle will be long and we must not relax for an

instant. [3]

1 Inserted from the London copy in PRO:PREM 4/43B/2.

2 Commander-in-Chief of the German Army in North Africa.

3 Bruce commented on Winch 25 that 'more stress should be laid on

the necessity for early action and less on the growing strength of

our position in the future'. See cablegram 104A of 14 July on file

AA:M100, July 1942.


Last Updated: 2 February 2011
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