371 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to General Sir Archibald Wavell, Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area

Cablegram 40 CANBERRA, 24 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

1. The Darwin area is of greatest importance to Australia and the only port of value in North West Australia. We consider that Darwin must be held. In view of present situation [1] it is essential to know your final plans with regard to your naval forces and where they are based. Also whether in event of aerodromes in Netherlands East Indies becoming untenable it is intended to transfer Air Forces to Darwin.

2. Reference your No. 02126 [2] please state whether disposal of Abdacom means that Darwin is reverting to Australian Command. [3]

CURTIN

1 Darwin had been bombed by the Japanese on 19 February. Wavell's command of the A.B.D.A. Area ceased at 9 a.m. on 25 February.

2 Dispatched 23 February to Lt Gen V. A. H. Sturdee, Chief of the General Staff. It asked that no messages be sent to Wavell which could not be dealt with before 9 a.m. on 25 February. The cablegram is on file AA:MP1217, Box 552, Strategical appreciation in Far East following outbreak of War with Japan, 1941 Formation of A.B.D.A. Area.

3 Wavell replied in cablegram OPX 02329 of 25 February (AA:A3195, 1942, 1.8155) that Darwin should be held; that when the defence of Java became impossible the ships should proceed to Colombo or to an Australian port; that the air forces were to defend Java to the last and then fly to Australia; and that he had recommended to the Combined Chiefs of Staff that Darwin should revert to the Australian command.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.5581]