87 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 686 CANBERRA, 16 October 1941

MOST SECRET

For Prime Minister. [1]

At first meeting of War Cabinet of my Government observations in cablegrams Nos. 608 of 31st August [2] and 684 of 12th October [3] relative to the intention to despatch a squadron of capital ships and a battle cruiser were noted during general review of war position and Australia's effort in relation thereto.

These advices were noted with great satisfaction and my Government fully supports the reasons put forward by the preceding Government in cablegram No. 582 of 4th September [4], regarding the importance of such dispositions for the defence of empire interests in the Eastern Hemisphere, for the maintenance of communications to the Middle East and for sustaining generally the war efforts of the Dominions in Pacific and their overseas forces in particular.

It is, therefore, strongly urged that the re-disposition be made as early as possible and it is hoped that your reference to the inclusion of first class units among the capital ships indicates an intention to despatch a modern capital ship in view of its deterrent effect on Japanese and the decisive influence it might have in maintaining command of the sea in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. [5]

1 Winston Churchill.

2 Document 54.

3 On file AA : A1608, A41/1/5, iii.

4 See Document 54, note 5.

5 This cablegram embodied a decision taken by War Cabinet on 15 October (see AA : A2673, vol. 8, minute 1407). The importance of including a modern capital ship in the squadron to be sent to the Far East had already been urged by the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, S. M. Bruce (see his record of a High Commissioners' meeting on 10 October attended by Vice-Admiral Sir Tom Phillips (Vice-Chief of the U.K. Naval Staff) and his cablegram 67 of 14 October on file AA : M100, October 1941). On 16 October Curtin thanked Bruce for his efforts (see cablegram 6186 on file AA : A1608, A41/1/6, vi) and instructed him to see the Dominions Office copy of cablegram 686 and draw it to the attention of Sir Earle Page on the latter's arrival in London.

[AA : A1608, A41/1/6, vi]