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

Cablegram 47 [1] CANBERRA, 20 March 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

1. Reference your P. 64 [2], relative to 9th Division it has been necessary to consider many aspects, including naval and air, relating to the defence of Australia and you will be further advised as soon as possible.

2. It is noted that you say the President [3], while seized with the importance of the defence of Australia, insisted on the intimate connection between the Australian and the Mid East and Indian Ocean theatres, and accordingly desires the 9th Division to remain in the Mid East.

3. If you refer to Dominions Office Cablegram No. 311 of 10th March [4], containing the President's message, you will note that he says 'We also agree that the Australian and New Zealand Divisions now in that region should remain.' 4. Your information would appear open to some doubt as Churchill would appear to have made some representations to the President on the subject and this, notwithstanding that our cablegram No. 160 of 2nd March [5] offering the two brigade groups of the 6th Division for Ceylon stated that it was made on the understanding that the 9th Division will return to Australia under proper escort as soon as possible. This was, of course, subsequent to the original suggestion for the return of the A.I.F. made by Churchill in the House of Commons on 27th January [6] and the request of the Australian Government which was dated 17th February. [7]

CURTIN

1 Curtin instructed Bruce to see Page's copy of this cablegram (see cablegram 2352 of 20 March on file AA:M100, March 1942).

2 Document 402.

3 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

4 See Document 428, note 1.

5 Document 385.

6 Churchill had said: 'We shall not put any obstacle to there turn of the splendid Australian troops who volunteered for Imperial service to defend their own homeland or whatever part of the Pacific theatre may be thought most expedient.' See House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, 5th series, vol. 377, col. 614.

7 Document 336.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.08016]