301 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 16A LONDON, 25 January 1942, 9.30 p.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE FOR PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL HIMSELF [1]

I feel it is desirable I should send you my personal views on question of control in Far East and Pacific areas and Wavell's [2] command. When the decision was taken in Washington to appoint Wavell the idea of Allied Council sitting in Washington to whom he would be responsible was also adopted. Subsequently it was recognised that as Churchill and United Kingdom Government with Chiefs of Staff would be in London and Dutch Government, with its Service Advisers, was here United Kingdom and Dutch influence on Far East strategy would be more effective if exercised from London than by appointing representatives to sit on an Allied Council in Washington who would have to take their instructions from London.

When this was recognised the proposal for the special body composed of United Kingdom, Dutch, Australian and New Zealand representatives referred to in 12 of 19th January [3] was evolved and was submitted to you without proper explanation as to the reason for adopting this procedure in place of the original proposal for an Allied Council in Washington.

In my view it provides a better method than an Allied Council in Washington of ensuring a full recognition of the importance of the Far East and the Pacific and the development in these areas of a sound and progressive strategy in the formulation and implementation of which Australia will have an effective voice. My reasons for this view are:-

A. Lead on policy and strategy must come from one or other of great Powers concerned, i.e. United Kingdom or United States of America.

B. United Kingdom more promising as United States of America has as yet no war experience and her naval policy and thought notoriously timid and conservative.

C. United Kingdom will need stimulating in leadership in Far East.

D. This stimulus can best be applied here where Government and particularly Churchill can be worked on and Chiefs of Staff are available. United Kingdom representatives in Washington whether political or Service would be only second strings acting on instructions from here.

E. Dutch Government are strongly in favour of the proposal.

F. Australia can co-operate more effectively here with Dutch in influencing United Kingdom, owing to Dutch Government with its Service Advisers being located here. My contacts with Dutch are excellent and would be strengthened if contemplated exchange of Ministers takes place.

As I see it real drive and direction in regard to Far East must come either from Washington or here. In my view best results will be obtained if it comes from here.

If this is adopted it will be for Casey [4] and his Service Advisers, Dill [5] and those associated with him on Chiefs of Staff Committee and Dutch representatives in Washington to bring United States of America Administration and Chiefs of Staff into line.

Imperative question should be settled immediately. Present proposals have been agreed between President [6] and Prime Minister. [7] To get them altered even if it were possible would involve time which cannot be afforded.

BRUCE

1 See editorial note before Document 294.

2 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area.

3 This appears to be an incorrect reference to cablegram 72, published as Document 283.

4 Minister to the United States.

5 Leader of the U.K. Joint Staff Mission in Washington.

6 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

7 Winston Churchill.

[AA:A2937, A.B.D.A. STRATEGIC AREA, 1941-1942]