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

Cablegram ET33 [1] LONDON, 28 May 1942, 1.40 a.m.


Following is letter [2] just received from Prime Minister's [3] Chief of Staff General Ismay referred to in previous cable. [4] Paragraph [1 refers to the] [5] instruction to Dill [6] in Washington.

Begins-It may be of assistance, both to you and to us, if I set down on paper the principal results which have arisen from your discussions with the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet.

These results have not been achieved without sacrifice on the part of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, but this sacrifice is willingly made in the full spirit of brotherhood, and in recognition of the support which the mother country has received from Australia.

(1) Although Australia, forming part of the south-west Pacific area, is in the sphere of United States strategical responsibility, it is the firm intention of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that this circumstance will not in any way lessen their regard for Australian interests and their solicitude for her safety. Instructions to this effect have been sent to Field Marshal Sir John Dill, and he has been told to press the United States Chiefs of Staff for assurances that measures will be taken to ensure the safety of Australia. This is in accord with the statement made by War Cabinet to General Marshall [7] during his recent visit, that the plan which he proposed was accepted on the understanding that adequate forces must be allocated to safeguard the defence of Australia and the island bases connecting that country with the United States.

(2) Mr. Churchill reaffirmed, and the War Cabinet endorsed the following undertaking given to the Prime Ministers of Australia [8] and New Zealand [9] in his telegram of August 11th, 1940 [10]:

'If, however, contrary to prudence and self-interest Japan set about invading Australia or New Zealand on a large scale, I have the explicit authority of the Cabinet to assure you that we should then cut losses in the Mediterranean and proceed to your aid, sacrificing every interest except only the defence and feeding of this island on which all depends.' (3) Recognizing the need for accelerating the flow of army equipment to Australia, to make good deficiencies, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have undertaken to assure delivery for shipment in June or July of important equipment agreed upon by yourself and Mr. Lyttelton. [11] This may entail some slight diminution of assignments in [subsequent] month[s] but it is the intention of His Majesty's Government in United Kingdom to do their utmost to ensure that equipment which the Australian forces need will be sent to them. Special steps have been, and will continue to be, taken to speed up shipment of American equipment assigned to Australia.

(4) Finally, at the instance of the Prime Minister, United Kingdom Government has decided to adopt a special plan for air support of Australia, under which a wing of three Spitfire squadrons complete with aircraft, two of the squadrons being R.A.A.F. and one R.A.F., will be shipped to Australia in a convoy leaving in the middle of June and will be fully maintained. This special reinforcement of well established squadrons is over and above any assignment of aircraft which may be made from United Kingdom, or which may be secured for Australia from output of United States of America. It is an expression of mutual support which should bind together the countries of the Empire and will go some way towards repaying the sacrifices made by Australia in Imperial cause. Ends.

1 Repeated to A. S. V. Smith, Secretary of the Supply and Development Dept (in Washington) as no. 46 (see copy on file AA:A3300, 228).

2 The original letter is in Flinders University Library: Evatt Papers, Cables to and from Dr Evatt, March-May 1942.

3 Winston Churchill.

4 Document 500.

5 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the copy of the cablegram on the file cited in note 2.

6 Leader of the U.K. Joint Staff Mission in Washington.

7 Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.

8 Then R. G. Menzies.

9 Peter Fraser.

10 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV, Document 64.

11 U.K. Minister of Production.

[AA:A4764, 2]