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

Cablegram P36 LONDON, 3 February 1942


At War Cabinet last night Churchill read a personal telegram from President Roosevelt to himself setting out the American view of your proposal of a Pacific Council sitting at Washington which has been transmitted to you. [1] Eden [2] also read a statement which he had just received from the Dutch on the same question. I understand the Dutch Minister [3] will hand a copy of this to Bruce [4] for transmission to you. [5]

The nature of these replies indicates very clearly to my mind that before a Pacific Council along your lines could be established in Washington there will be long argument and much water will run under the bridge.

Unfortunately the extreme urgency of the military situation in Malaya, Burma, East Indies, Australia and the Pacific and Indian Oceans generally demands immediate action.

It seems to me that, whatever form of Pacific Council the Australian Government desires to see established, the machinery now offered by the President in Washington, and the previous proposal for machinery in London, could be set in motion immediately. What I have in mind is that it would be possible to combine the Organisation in London, on the Ministerial plane as originally proposed, with an arrangement whereby the Australian, New Zealand and Dutch Governments had their military representatives in Washington, who were called into consultation where their national interests or collaboration [were] involved.

In this way the machinery in Washington and in London would be found to be complementary. I have no doubt that a combination of the two would be agreed to by Roosevelt and Churchill on request.

The evacuation of Malaya and the siege of Singapore emphasise the need for immediate and continuous consideration and consultation by all the Governments of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands East Indies, who have forces actually fighting there.

This would be assured under this machinery. In London Ministers of these nations, with the British Chiefs of Staff, would in effect constitute a Pacific Defence Committee analogous in every respect to the British War Cabinet Defence Committee which controls all British warlike operations. The decision of this Committee would be transmitted to the combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, with a report of any expression of disagreement by any Government. The point of view of that individual Government could be reinforced or emphasised by technical Officers in its military mission in Washington under Roosevelt's proposal. It is essential, of course, that they should speak with the same voice as the representatives of their Governments in London. This combination offers a very practical method of dealing with a complicated situation.

Certain aspects of strategy, such as the disposition of Australian troops, especially those from the Middle East, question of a possible evacuation of Singapore, the provision of reinforcements of men and materials etc. are vital to Australia. On these Australia will need to express its opinions very soon and very emphatically. Its view would be greatly strengthened by the support of the other Governments in London.

Under the system of absolute control handed to Wavell [6] in his command, this is the most immediate practical method whereby Australia can exert influence during these next few weeks that are so critical to itself, the Empire and the world. While this machinery is being used to deal with the immediate situation there is no reason why you should not argue your case for whatever other system you may ultimately desire to function.


1 See U.K. Dominions Office cablegram 144 of 2 February in Flinders University Library: Evatt Papers, Attorney-General's Dept file M2, Machinery including Australian-New Zealand plan.

2 U.K. Foreign Secretary.

3 Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen.

4 High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

5 See Bruce's cablegram 23A of 3 February on file AA:M100, February 1942.

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

[AA:M100, FEBRUARY 1942]