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

Cablegram 21 CANBERRA, 13 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

1. Your P.38 [1] received and noted.

2. The last comprehensive appreciation received from London was in Dominions Office cablegram M.476 of 23rd December. [2] In this it was stated that to achieve our object we must hold among other vital points:-

(i) Singapore Island and Southern Malaya to give depth to defence;

(ii) Java and Southern Sumatra;

(iii) Timor.

3. As the Japanese have absorbed Malaya and are established on Singapore Island the immediate consideration is the situation at Singapore and the prospects of holding it, including the plans for its reinforcement and relief. Please advise urgently on these aspects.

4. The next points are the effect on the general strategic plan should Singapore be lost, or should the Japanese in addition to besieging Singapore use their seapower against the Netherlands East Indies, Portuguese Timor or Australia. It is of vital importance in thinking of the ABDA Area always to associate with it the relation of the Anzac Area as it is probable that the Japanese will continue their southward move from New Guinea to the islands to the east of Australia or to Northern Australia. You should obtain an early appreciation on the Pacific situation generally and on these points in particular.

5. You will have observed from cablegram No. 117 to the Dominions OffiCe [3] that the ultimate disposition of the A.I.F. is necessarily dependent upon the strategical position resulting from the rapidly changing situation, on which Wavell [4] has been asked to keep us posted.

6. In another cablegram to Wavell regarding the despatch of a further A.I.F. battalion to Koepang we have drawn his attention to the report of a Japanese aircraft carrier and four heavy cruisers off the south coast of Java on 9th February. [5] In regard to the transfer of two divisions of the A.I.F. from the Middle East to the N.E.I., Dominions Office cablegram No.31 of 7th January [6] stated that at no time in the next few months are the Navy likely to be able to furnish escorts for troop convoys approaching the south-west Pacific area on a scale such as to provide that degree of security in relation to the possible scale of attack which has been feasible hitherto. The question of escorts and the relation of the changing strategical situation to the destination of the A.I.F. divisions should be kept constantly under review.

7. On 14th January the Secretary of State cabled me personally the programme of Army and Air reinforcements for Malaya. [7] It is desired to obtain a supplementary statement bringing this information up-to-date, including additional reinforcements authorised, in order that the picture will be constantly before us. You should also state your impression of the relative volume of the stream flowing to Burma as compared with that going to the Malayan and N.E.I. part of the ABDA Area.

8. Churchill when in Washington cabled that he believed the United States would be quite willing to reinforce our Home Defence troops with 40 or 50 thousand Americans. [8] I cabled a statement by the Chiefs of Staff on the need for these forces on 21St January. [9] You should ascertain urgently the present position.

CURTIN

1 Dispatched 11 February. On file AA:A2937, Pacific War Council.

It defined the scope of the Pacific War Council in London, and outlined its procedures for operation.

2 Document 215.

3 Document 329, note 1.

4 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area. See Document 329.

5 See cablegram 25 of 12 February (AA:A3196, 1942, 0.4382).

6 In Australian War Memorial: Page Collection, Box 118A, File No.

2. Far Eastern Situation. Action since outbreak of war with Japan 7.12.41 up to fall of Singapore 15.2.42.

7 See cablegram Winch 8 (AA:A3195, 1941, 1.1624).

8 See Document 262.

9 See Document 287.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.4519]