255 Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister (in the United States), to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram Winch 3 [WASHINGTON, 3 January 1942, 4.45 a.m.] [1]


The following is a note by the First Sea Lord [2] referred to in paragraph 6 of my immediately preceding telegram. [3]

The whole Naval situation has been upset by the losses of the United States Fleet at Pearl Harbour and our own Naval losses.

At the moment there can be no question of providing a combined fleet capable of dealing with the main Japanese Fleet.

Until the United States Fleet is repaired we must do the best we can with the ships available. We are discussing this with America.

The time will come when it would be possible to provide a combined fleet which is superior in numbers to the Japanese. The Australian Chiefs of Staffs appear to think that once this has been achieved it will be quite easy to bring about fleet action with the Japanese and that the Pacific problem will then be solved.

This conception of Naval war[fare] is far from being a correct one.

It may be extremely difficult to bring on a fleet action except in areas where the Japanese have superiority and where the whole course of action might be altered to our disadvantage by air attacks.

Unless, therefore, the American Naval strategy is such [as] to ensure either a fleet action at our chosen time or to create such a threat to the Japanese that they will not send important Naval Forces into the Indian Ocean, it might be greatly to our disadvantage to reinforce the strength of the American Pacific Fleet and leave the Indian Ocean insufficiently protected.

We are endeavouring to concert with the Americans the best arrangements not only for the time when ships become available to make either a large combined fleet or two smaller fleets but also during the interim period.

1 Material in square brackets has been inserted from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 219. This cablegram was dispatched to London and retransmitted to Canberra at 3.32 a.m. on 4 January (see the copy on file AA:A981, War 33, attachment B).

2 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound.

3 Document 254.