256 Curtin to Cranborne

Cablegram 209 CANBERRA, 13 August 1943

My immediately preceding telegram. [1]

'I charge Mr. Fadden with a gross breach of faith in revealing proceedings of the Advisory War Council at a time when he was Prime Minister. This is a violation of his oath as a member of the Council, and not the conduct expected of a former Prime Minister.

2. I also charge him with referring to a secret cablegram from Mr.

Churchill [2] in defiance of an understanding reached between members of the War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council at Mr.

Churchill's request that we would not publicly refer to them during the election campaign.

3. Finally I charge Mr. Fadden with a complete distortion of the facts to serve his political ends.

4. In view of Mr. Fadden's outrageous conduct, I must state the facts, which must be as brief as possible out of respect for the assurance I have given Mr. Churchill on behalf of the members of the Australian War Cabinet and Advisory War Council-

"At a meeting of the Advisory War Council in September, 1941 [3], a cablegram from Mr. Churchill [4] was read to the Council.

It dealt with the situation in the Pacific, and said that the United Kingdom Government was contemplating placing a force of capital ships, including first class units, in the triangle Aden- Singapore Simonstown before the end of the year.

As the entire conception of Australian defence for years had been based on the principle that a fleet in this region would ensure the security of Australia against invasion, I asked that there should be a review of the general position in the light of Mr.

Churchill's cablegram, and that consideration might be given to a reduction in the numbers of militia forces called up for duty and their period of training. I said that I did not favour any reduction in the naval and air war efforts of the Commonwealth and that it might be found that the situation warranted the transfer of men from Army activities to munitions production.

It was agreed that any developments which had a favourable reaction on the local defence position would be kept under notice.

As was known, the position with Japan deteriorated, the PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE were despatched as the first instalment of the Fleet, and Singapore was lost."

5. I have answered Mr. Fadden's challenge. To complete the picture, I would add that, a week before the meeting in question, a statement had been made that one of the main objects of Sir Earle Page's visit to London in 1941, as a representative of the Fadden Government, was to present a case for the strengthening of the forces based on Singapore in accordance with Mr. Churchill's cablegram, in order to case the manpower position arising from the calling up for continuous service or long periods of training of a large home defence army.' [5]

CURTIN

1 Document 255.

2 Published as Document 54 in Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V.

3 See Advisory War Council minute 514 of 19 September 1941 in AA:A2682, vol. 3.

4 Cited in note 2.

5 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Document 65.

[FA:A3196, 1943, FOLDER, OUTWARDS MOST SECRET MASTER SHEETS, 0.22097]