385 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr Clement Attlee, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 160 [1] CANBERRA, 2 March 1942


For Prime Minister [2] from Prime Minister.

1. We are most anxious to assist you in your anxieties over the strengthening of the garrison at Ceylon.

2. The President while fully appreciating our difficult home defence position in relation to the proposed return of the A.I.F.

was good enough to suggest that he would be glad if we could see our way clear to make available some reinforcements from later detachments of the three divisions of the A.I.F. which have all been allocated from the Middle East to Australia.

3. For the purpose of temporarily adding to the garrison for Ceylon we make available to you two brigade groups of the 6th Division. These are comprised in the third flight of the A.I.F.

and are embarking from Suez. We ask that adequate air support will be available in Ceylon and that if you divert the two brigade groups they will be escorted to Australia as soon as possible after their relief. We are also relying on the understanding that the 9th Division will return to Australia under proper escort as soon as possible.

4. As you know we are gravely concerned at the weakness of our defences, but we realise the significance of Ceylon in this problem and make this offer believing that in the plans you are at present making, you realise the importance of the return of the A.I.F. in defending both Australia and New Zealand.

5. We hope very early to send you a submission on your No. 169 [3] regarding the Anzac Area. [4]

1 Repeated to the Minister to the United States as no. 47 for personal transmission to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and on 6 March to the Allied Deputy Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East as no. 14 (On file AA:A816, 52/302/142). Curtin also instructed the Special Representative in the United Kingdom to see the Dominions Office copy of this cablegram (see cablegram 35 of 3 March on file AA:A2937, Far East position 1942).

2 Winston Churchill.

3 Dispatched 8 February (AA:A3195, 1942, 1.4879).

4 Churchill replied in cablegram 281 of 3 March that he was 'most grateful' for the Commonwealth Govt's offer of assistance in the defence of Ceylon and formally accepted the offer in cablegram 286 of 4 March. Both cablegrams are on file AA:A816, 52/302/142.

[AA:A816, 52/302/142]