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

Cablegram unnumbered CANBERRA, 24 December 1941

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Your P.15 [1] and P.16 [2] have been studied with interest.

2. I have despatched further cablegram to Churchill [3] advising that we are meeting request of Commander in Chief Far East [4] for 400 members of Armoured Division for manning light tanks from India subject to satisfactory arrangements being made by Navy for transport and adequate escort. I have also referred to Intelligence reports regarding types of aircraft possessed by Japanese and their superior performance to British types and urge it is imperative that fighter reinforcements should be of types that will rectify our present inferiority.

3. War Cabinet has since decided at Bennett's [5] request to send a machine gun battalion and opportunity is being taken to include 1,800 reinforcements in convoy under same conditions of transport and escort. [6]

4. As you now know from cablegram to Bruce today [7], I have also addressed directly to Churchill and Roosevelt a special message regarding the far-reaching effects that would arise from the loss of Singapore and the fact that the degree of resistance to Japan in Malaya will depend directly on the amount of assistance provided by Governments of United Kingdom and United States. [8]

5. G.O.C., A.I.F., Malaya has submitted the following further cablegrams-

'Present lull only temporary. British troops tired and depleted in numbers and no repeat no reserves in hand to meet further attacks if enemy renewing attack further withdrawals seem certain even Kuantan included. Indian Brigade expected in week or two but not acclimatised or trained in local conditions. My troops now preparing positions vicinity Gemas and Muar. When enemy advance is checked lost ground must be regained. This will require at least three divisions in my opinion. Again strongly urge that at least one of our divisions from Middle East be sent here as early as possible. Percival [9] concurs.' 6. With reference to recommendations (d) and (e) in your P.15 you state that 'if situation warrants it' among further measures contemplated is the despatch of an A.I.F. Division from Palestine subject to Commonwealth Government concurring. You do not refer in your cablegram to a British Division which Commander in Chief Far East states is on passage off South Africa and could be diverted and would reach Malaya before any Division serving in the Middle East.

7. Please advise urgently- (i) whether division being diverted to Burma and Malaya (vide Circular M-476 [10]) is complete in all requirements to enable it to take the field on arrival;

(ii) what is precise situation in regard to your reference to A.I.F. Division Middle East in view of Bennett's request and the time that would elapse before it could reach Malaya.

CURTIN

1 See Document 215, note 1.

2 Document 209.

3 See cablegram (Johcu 11) of 24 December (AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22431).

4 Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham.

5 General Officer Commanding 8th Division, A.I.F.

6 See AA:A2673, vol. 9, minute 1629.

7 See Document 217, note 1.

8 Document 214.

9 U.K. General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Malaya.

10 Document 215.

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22647]