349 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to General Sir Thomas Blamey, Allied Deputy Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East

Cablegram 8 CANBERRA, 20 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

With further reference to my No. 4 [1] Government, after most anxious consideration, has decided that it cannot agree to proposal of Pacific War Council that 7th A.I.F. Division be diverted to Burma.

2. This proposal was based on recommendation of Wavell [2] and his conclusion that A.I.F. Divisions be not despatched to Netherlands East Indies to which we had agreed earlier.

3. Wavell also recommended that 6th Division proceed to Burma if both could be administratively received and maintained. [3] He has later recommended that the Australian Corps be diverted to Burma and, if Burma is unable to receive the whole at present, part should be landed at Calcutta as reserve for Burma. [4]

4. Lengthy reply has been furnished to Page [5] for Pacific War Council stating our viewpoint. We are repeating this to you.6 Briefly put, as Malaya and Singapore have gone and the Netherlands East Indies is indefensible, both the bastion of Empire defence in the south-western Pacific and the outer screen to Australia leave Australia bare. It is the main base from which a counter-offensive against Japan can be launched with American aid and it must be safeguarded. In view of the unsatisfactory strength of our defences in Australia, the destination of the A.I.F. should be Australia.

5. It is desired that you arrange to return here as speedily as possible. Please advise probable date of departure and method of travel. Also state arrangements recommended for command and administration of A.I.F. in Middle East after your departure.

6. On receipt of reply United Kingdom Government will be advised regarding your appointment of Deputy Commander-in-Chief 7. Also furnish appreciation on position in Middle East before you leave.

CURTIN

1 Dispatched 7 February (AA: A3196, 1942, 0.3858). It outlined possible ways in which Blamey might be fitted into the A.B.D.A.

Command structure after the proposed move of the remainder of the A.I.F. to the A.B.D.A. Area.

2 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area. For his recommendations see U.K. Dominions Office cablegram 219 of 18 February on file AA:A816, 52/302/142.

3 See the cablegram cited in note 2.

4 See Wavell's cablegram 01517 of 18 February on file AA:A2937, Far East position 1942.

5 Special Representative in the United Kingdom. See Curtin's cablegram 29 of 19 February on the file cited in note 2.

6 See Curtin's cablegram 12 of 21 February (AA:A3196, 1942, 0.5386).

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.5295]