336 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 127 [1] CANBERRA, 17 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Following for Prime Minister [2] from Prime Minister.

1. With further reference to my No. 123 [3] the Chiefs of Staff have considered General Wavell's appreciation of the situation in the A.B.D.A. Area in his message dated 14th February, and the views of the Chief of the General Staff [4] on the future employment of the A.I.F. which have taken into consideration a report by the General Officer Commanding A.I.F. Corps. [5] In view of the present situation they are of opinion:-

(I) As General Wavell does not consider Java can be held, Australia and Burma become of primary importance as the only positions in which forces can be concentrated for an ultimate advance against the enemy:

(II) That, if possible, all Australian forces now under orders to transfer to the Far East from the Middle East should be diverted to Australia. These forces are the 6th and 7th Divisions and accompanying Corps base and line of communication troops, in all 64,000: and there is also a British armoured brigade of about 3,000. They would prefer that all these forces should be concentrated in Australia but are mindful of the fact that the strategic position of Burma may necessitate some reinforcement there until other troops are available from elsewhere:

(III) That Darwin is the first place in Australia that should be reinforced out of the troops being transferred:

(IV) There call of the 9th Division of the A.I.F. which is at present in Syria requires early consideration as this would entail further redistribution of the forces of the Allied nations.

2. The Government accordingly requests that urgent arrangements be made for:-

(a) The diversion to Australia of that portion of the A.I.F. now at Bombay and en route to Java.

(b) The diversion of the remaining two flights to Australia.

(c) The recall of 9th Australian Division and remaining A.I.F. in Middle East at an early date.

3. In regard to the opinion of the Chiefs of Staff in sub- paragraph 1 (II), the Government will be glad to know whether it is possible also to divert the British Armoured Brigade to Australia.

CURTIN

1 Repeated to General Sir Archibald Wavell, Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area, as no. 33, to the N.Z. Prime Minister as no, 61 and to the Special Representative in the United Kingdom as no. 26.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 Dispatched 15 February. On file AA:A816, 52/302/142. It conveyed to Churchill the substance of Document 334.

4 Lt Gen V. A. H. Sturdee.

5 Lt Gen Sir John Lavarack. For the appreciations referred to in this sentence See AA:A2671, 106/42.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.4843]