490 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 4501 LONDON, 17 May 1942, 4.30 a.m.


Your P.M.62, 13th May [1], was duly received by me on Thursday. It was so important and convincing as a general summary of the position in Australia that I at once made the analysis contained in it available to the Prime Minister. [2] It was referred to at a special Cabinet held on Thursday afternoon and it was then decided to circulate it amongst the Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff.

2. On Thursday night I left London with the Prime Minister and have Just returned from visiting various Air Squadrons, armoured units, factories and cities in Yorkshire and Durham.

3. In my opinion the argument of yourself and General MacArthur [3] is very timely. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister is impressed and tonight he communicated with the highest quarters in Washington in relation to the matter.

4. One small point arises from your first paragraph. I have never suggested that any obligation rests on MacArthur to obtain the forces needed to implement the orders contained in his directive.

I have merely suggested that in the first instance it is for him to indicate what is necessary to fulfil his mission. This has been done. Undoubtedly it is the obligation of the United Nations to provide the forces required to achieve the stated objective. Under the present machinery his recommendations have to be considered by the United States Chiefs of Staff or the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. As you know the Supreme Commander in every theatre makes recommendations and I am told that Wavell's [4] and Auchinleck's [5] have been drastically cut down an many occasions.

5. In reference to paragraph 3 I have done everything to bring before the Prime Minister and the Service Chiefs a realisation of the grave threat to Australia. I think the realisation is much greater than it was but it still falls short of what it should be.

I can assure you it is a continual struggle to make the authorities here appreciative of our danger. The fact is that when Churchill visited Roosevelt the strategy agreed on was primarily to concentrate on the defeat of Hitler. Moreover the Chiefs of Staff here still think an attempt at invasion of Australia is unlikely. Churchill expressed a high opinion of Sir Guy Royle [6] and any signal by him to me for Churchill personally would be well received.

6. My difficulty arises from the necessity of being persistent without being importunate. You know that I am going all out. I have stressed that the Government here should intervene in Washington to get their staff representatives to support MacArthur a great deal more than has yet been done. The Prime Minister said only an hour ago tonight (Saturday) when we concluded the tour that more would have to be done for Australia but that he is perplexed as to the source from which it should come. It would be easy enough to force the issue to finality but I am afraid that if I go too far I may adversely affect the relationship which has been built up during my fortnight here and thereby injure Australia.

7. In the last six months very large numbers of planes and equipment have been sent to Russia from here and the United States under the protocol of September last. The exact number of combat planes is not easy to ascertain but I think it exceeds 2,000.

There is an agitation led by Lord Beaverbrook [7] to further increase Russian supplies but you will be interested to hear that in Leeds today before an enormous open air gathering Churchill's references to Russia were received in dead silence while every reference to Australia was cheered. Churchill has popular backing everywhere outside Parliament.

8. It is difficult also to obtain details of air equipment in this country but I am making enquiries. Certainly the United Kingdom is over insured against the danger of invasion so far as air position is concerned. In answer to that it will of course be stated that hundreds of aircraft will be used for heavy bombing raids against Germany every night unless weather is impossible. Churchill calls these his non-stop bombing programme.

9. Of course I am very anxious to complete the mission here then hurry back to Washington and thence return home and report to you.

I have told the Prime Minister of my anxiety on this score tonight but he specially wants me to stay at least another week. Smith [8] has cabled that I should go back to Washington quickly [9] but of course I must be guided by what the Prime Minister here practically directs me to do over the next week.

10. Up to date I have seen representative members from four Australian Air Squadrons. They are all extremely anxious to be back home in the fighting. A very serious part of the position is that if landings took place in Australia it would be impossible to ignore the desire of these airmen or of those in the Middle East.

Be sure that Churchill fully understands the overwhelming pressure to which any Australian Government would be subject in this respect.

11. Page [10] is convalescing but it will be six weeks at least before he is fit to resume any official duties here. After I leave Bruce [11] I would have to carry on for the time being.


1 Document 487.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 Allied Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area.

4 U.K. Commander-in-Chief, India.

5 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East.

6 Chief of the Naval Staff.

7 U.K. Minister of State.

8 Secretary of the Supply and Development Dept, then in Washington.

9 The cablegram has not been found.

10 Formerly Special Representative in the United Kingdom. See Document 439, note 8. 11 High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.