183 Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram P11 LONDON, 11 December 1941, 1.30 a.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE CLEAR THE LINES FOR PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

At War Cabinet tonight after Churchill had told full story of American and British naval and air losses I suggested that the most important question was how we could make the best use of our joint limited resources to meet the immediate dangers in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. I urged first that Russia should be asked to come in quickly against Japan and bomb vital Japanese objectives from Vladivostock and also make available nearly 100 Russian submarines to hamper the Japanese fleet and mercantile shipping. Churchill said that in view of the importance of the western Russian fight and history of Britain's relations with Russia he himself was not willing to make the request but he would make no objection if America made it. I suggest you give Casey [1] your views on this point direct.

I urged also that Russian aid should be requested and made available to China especially in aeroplanes by the Turkestan Road or Northern China. Churchill was willing to ask Russia's aid in this way.

I also urged that the maximum aircraft available from the Libyan fight, which has taken a definite turn for the better, should at once be flown over to the Burma Road or to Malaya and he said that this was being examined and would be done. I pointed out that joint submarine and aeroplane action could prevent Japanese egress from the China Sea southwards and even much use of the China Sea itself, that the narrow seas between Asia and Australia could present a definite barrier to large Japanese movements by sea into the Indian Ocean and thereby their activities could be largely confined to the Pacific. This involved the fullest and quickest manufacture by Australia of Beaufort Bombers on an accelerated programme, [and] the machine tools for this programme, if not procurable immediately in America, should be taken out of factories in Britain in view of the importance of building up the aeroplane strength in the Far East and of the physical impossibility of supplies of aeroplanes from Britain either by boat or by air under the new circumstances that had arisen. [2]

The Minister for Air [3] said that this matter was already being explored. The Minister of Aircraft Production [4] and [he] himself both agreed with my view that tools and material rather than aeroplanes should be sent to Australia, and promised an early decision on this matter.

I raised the point that the obvious Japanese plan of action was to disperse the American and British Pacific forces over the whole ocean in pursuit of their various attacks, that the only real counter to this plan was by concerted Anglo-American policy of immediate action, that the First Sea Lord [5], as soon as the British plan of action was clear in their own minds, should fly to America and finalise plans in Washington on the spot to make certain that the concentration of the remaining naval and air forces was assured. Churchill said that Admirals Little and Danckwerts were already in Washington, knew the mind of the Admiralty, would be brought immediately up to date from Britain, and could carry out this objective.

I urged also that the islands along Honolulu, Canton, Fiji new Air reinforcement route to Australia should be held strongly against Japan if at all possible by the maximum concentration of forces to permit American supplies of aircraft coming down to Australia and the Far East if they were available and Churchill promised that this would be considered.

It was stated-but this is most secret-that America proposed to transfer its battleships from the Atlantic to the Pacific as quickly as possible to bring Anglo-American strength in that ocean within a reasonable distance of Japan.

The Duke of York is just about ready. Two other British battleships ought to be finished inside the next 7 or 8 months, independent of the American battleships, some of which are well forward. The immediate necessity therefore is to hold fast unfalteringly for the next few months.

I discussed these proposals with Bruce, who broadly agrees.

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1 Minister to the United States.

2 On 11 December the Commonwealth Govt dispatched a cablegram (no.

795) to the U.K. Dominions Secretary, Lord Cranborne, emphasising the need to strengthen the Royal Australian Air Force and to review existing Empire aircraft dispositions. Page and the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, S. M. Bruce, were requested (cablegram 7857) to see this cablegram. See file AA:A981, Pacific 8, ii.

3 Sir Archibald Sinclair.

4 J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon.

5 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound.

[AA:M100, DECEMBER 1941]