243 Evatt to Curtin

Cablegram E173 WASHINGTON, 12 July 1943, 7.27 p.m.

MOST SECRET

Your telegram L.68 [1] is of course the first intimation I have had that an additional Spitfire squadron was raised from reserves and despatched to New Guinea. Your telegram says that the action was concurred in by the Air Ministry in London. I would say that this seems hardly in conformity, with arrangements made during my visit to London last year which are stated in writing. [2] It was intended that the Spitfire reserves should be devoted exclusively to effectual maintenance of the three squadrons, otherwise the result might be that the three squadrons would be weakened. That in effect is what has happened.

2. I have discussed most confidentially with Churchill the question of providing one or two additional squadrons for the South West Pacific. This is for your most confidential information as the result of our discussions may not be known for some little time. I think it quite possible that I could obtain the additional 30 Spitfires, but the suggested way of dealing with the matter is not quite satisfactory.

3. On receipt of your wire I immediately telegraphed to Bruce as follows:-

'Please do nothing at present re Canberra 102 until I communicate with Curtin. I have already been active in connection with the matter.' [3]

4. I propose, with your permission, to communicate with Churchill to whom I can frankly explain the matter. I would also ask that you confirm with Bruce that he takes no action at present. [4] The moment he makes informal enquiries of the Air Ministry the whole situation will have to be disclosed to Churchill who, for all practical purposes, is in charge of the Air.

5. Please telegraph at once whether you will let me make approach as I recommend. [5]

Best wishes.

1 See Document 240, note 1.

2 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Document 500.

3 See cablegram E4 of 12 July on file AA:M100, July 1943. Curtin's cablegram 102 is published as Document 240.

4 Curtin conveyed this instruction to Bruce on 13 July. See cablegram 105 on the file cited in note 3.

5 No cablegram from Curtin has been found, but on 14 July Shedden advised Evatt that Curtin had taken exception to the action of the Air Dept in arranging with the U.K. Air Ministry for the formation of the fourth Spitfire squadron without informing the Commonwealth Govt; for this reason the matter had been raised through Evatt rather than directly with the U.K. Govt. Evatt appears to have regarded Shedden's cablegram as an authority to proceed in the matter and he replied on 18 July 'I entirely agree with Prime Minister's attitude and will wire you as soon as I hear from Churchill'. See cablegrams L78 to, and E181 from, Evatt on file AA:MP1217, box 474, visit abroad of Dr H. V. Evatt . . . 1943. For Churchill's reply see Document 265.

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