482 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr A. T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London

Cablegram SL12 CANBERRA, 5 May 1942

SECRET

Following for Evatt [1] from Curtin.

Please see telegrams D.226 [2] and No. 393 [3] from Dominions Office to US.

Negotiations for mutual repatriation of Japanese and British Commonwealth (except Canadian) officials and non-official Japanese nationals have almost reached finality. We are concerned, however, that Japanese Government is refusing our request for inclusion of Bowden and staff from Singapore [4] and Ross from Dilli. [5] You will recall we assured Bowden we would insist on his inclusion in any scheme of exchange. [6] Position is, so far as Australia is concerned, that if scheme as now proposed is accepted, we would be repatriating to Japan all Japanese non-officials interned in Australia totalling 1,120 and all diplomatic and consular staff and officials totalling 23. In return, Japan would repatriate to Australia personnel of Australian Legation, Tokyo, totalling 8, and probably a proportion only of Australian nationals in Japan, total number of whom is believed to be less than 45. We think that reasonable arrangement in view of large disparity of numbers both officials and non-officials would be for Japanese to include Bowden and staff of 2, as well as Ross. Difficulty is that if we insist on inclusion of Bowden and Ross we may prejudice scheme either in its entirety or at least so far as Australian exchange is concerned. On the other hand, acceptance of the scheme as it now stands would result in Bowden and staff being detained for the duration of the war. I may add that enquiry regarding welfare of Bowden and staff was made through Argentine Government on 23rd February last and two reminders have been sent, but Japanese have not deigned to reply. [7]

Glad if you would consult appropriate United Kingdom authorities and let me have your views as to our most appropriate course.

1 Minister for External Affairs (in London).

2 Dispatched 29 April. On file AA:A981, Consuls 13, i. It outlined discussions between the Allied and Japanese Govts for a reciprocal exchange of officials and other non-military personnel.

3 Dispatched 2 May. On the file cited in note 2. It conveyed the Japanese Govt's decision that officials from Singapore and Timor were not to be included in the reciprocal exchange.

4 See Document 333, note i. News of Bowden's death was not received in Australia until the end of the war.

5 See Document 337, note 5. For Ross's return to Australia see Documents 528 and 533.

6 See Document 326.

7 See unnumbered cablegrams of 23 February and 29 April and cablegram 123 of 27 March (sent through Stirling) to Sir Esmond Ovey, U.K. Ambassador to Argentina. Ovey reported on 7 May that an Argentinian official was continuing to press the Japanese for information and on 28 May that the Japanese had stated that Bowden had left Singapore for the Netherlands East Indies at the end of January and his present whereabouts were unknown. All cablegrams are on file AA:A981, Australia 237B.

[AA:A981, CONSULS 13, i]