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

Cablegram 1637 LONDON, 24 February 1942, 12.52 a.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET HIMSELF ALONE

Further to my telegram 1613 [1] the Prime Minister [2] has informed me that he is very sorry that I was not kept more closely informed of the movements of the convoy and is sure that I will understand how this happened in the very disturbed position of the war. As well, you will realize how involved has been the United Kingdom political situation. During these few days there has been a complete re-casting of British Cabinet and Saturday particularly was a day of exceptional preoccupation for the Prime Minister and Officers most concerned.

2. The Responsible Officer has reported to the Prime Minister that when he gave me the information on Thursday which was telegraphed to you in my telegram P.48 [3] that the convoy was steaming on its course to Australia, it was absolutely correct. [4] It was not till late Friday evening after despatch of the Prime Minister's cable 233 [5] that he, confident of an affirmative answer to his appeal to divert the convoy, instructed the Admiralty to order the convoy to proceed northwards.

3. The Admiralty, anticipating that your reply to 233 would be received in time for the convoy either to go to Rangoon or proceed to Australia without any complication, issued the necessary instructions. Meanwhile the Admiralty had got anxious about the fuel position and telegraphed to the Commander-in-Chief Eastern Fleet [6] as to how far north the fleet could go and still have enough fuel if your reply was unfavourable. The reply received indicated that some ships had by that time not got enough fuel to proceed direct to Australia and on the recommendation of the Chiefs of Staff the Prime Minister despatched his telegram 241.

[7]

4. I was pleased to note the restrained tone of your reply 139 [8] which undoubtedly will assist future relations between our Governments. Since establishment of the new system of consultation I have been kept very fully and promptly informed of all matters of concern to Australia and am satisfied that the delay in informing you and me in this instance while most unfortunate in the circumstances was due to inadvertence.

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1 Document 365.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 Document 351.

4 See the note from Maj Gen Sir Hastings Ismay (Deputy Secretary (Military) of the U.K. War Cabinet) to Churchill on his discussion with Page. This document was sent to Page on 23 February by Sir Edward Bridges (Permanent Secretary of the U.K. Cabinet Office).

See Australian War Memorial: Page collection, Box 118A, File no.

3. Far Eastern Situation. Action since fall of Singapore 15/2/42 to 14/4/42.

5 Document 352.

6 Vice-Admiral Sir James Somerville.

7 Document 362.

8 Document 366.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.7053]