465 Commonwealth Government to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 313 22 May 1941,


Your telegram of 17th May, No. 237. [1] Commonwealth Government are in agreement with report of Washington Staff Conversations.

With regard to the plans for the reinforcement of Singapore, they fully endorse the observations made in New Zealand Government's telegram 192 of 21st May [2], as to the need for every possible step being taken to expedite the arrival of the main fleet at Singapore. Reference to this was made in Commonwealth Government's telegram 269 of 4th May. [3]

2. The Commonwealth Government also agree with the recommendations made in the reports of the American-Dutch-British Conversations and British-Dutch Conversations at Singapore in April. The following observations are made on aspects indicated:-

(a) United States Support: With regard to paragraphs 42, and 71(a) of A.D.B. [4], the extent of the support to be afforded by United States to British naval and air forces south of the equator, and also the arrangements for direct co-operation by Australia and New Zealand with Cornmander-in-Chief of United States Pacific Fleet have been taken up through the Australian Naval Attache, Washington. [5]

(b) Attack on Australia and New Zealand: It is noted from paragraph 12 of A.D.B. [6] that attacks on Australia are ruled out as initial operations. It is understood that word 'attack' is meant in sense of invasion, which conforms to basis accepted in reports of previous Singapore Conferences.

(c) Command: Commonwealth Government agree to arrangements for unified strategical control of naval and air forces in the eastern theatre as defined in Section V of A.D.B. Report and in Paragraphs 22 to 28 of B.D. Report. [7] In regard to command at Ambon, arrangements are being made in collaboration with the Netherlands East Indies authorities for establishment of combined headquarters which will function for local defence and control of operations of R.A.A.F. and Dutch naval-air units. Command of local forces at Timor will be exercised by Australian Commander as agreed to at Anglo-Dutch-Australia Conference in February.

3. It would be appreciated if the reply of the United Kingdom Government to the question raised in Paragraph 2 of New Zealand Government's Telegram 192 as to the United States Pacific Fleet could be repeated to Australia. [8]

4. Commonwealth Government would be glad to know if results are yet available of further study of political aspects of definition of act of war by Japan and movement of Australian forces to Koepang and Ambon, prior to outbreak of hostilities. The matters are referred to in Dominions Office Telegram 263 [9] of 15th April. [10]

1 Document 460.

2 On file AA: A816, 37/301/88.

3 Document 446.

4 See Document 455, note 5.

5 Commander D. H. Harries. See Document 451.

6 & 7 See Document 455, note 5.

8 The N.Z. Govt had noted a discrepancy between the view expressed in paragraph 41 of A.D.B., that it was essential for the U.S.

Pacific fleet to be maintained at a strength at least equal to that of the Japanese fleet, and the U.K. Admiralty's view (see Cranborne's cablegram 332 to the Commonwealth Govt of 10 May on file AA: A1608, A41/1/1, xxi) that the U.S. Pacific fleet need only retain a capital ship strength of at least six vessels.

9 Document 405.

10 This cablegram was also addressed to the Acting N.Z. Prime Minister, Walter Nash, as no. 197; to the U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Far East, Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham; and to the Minister to the United States, R. G. Casey, as no. 52.

[AA: A3196, 1941, 0.6733]