172 Curtin to Forde

Cablegram 45 LONDON, 28 May 1944

TOP SECRET AND PERSONAL FOR MR FORDE

1. With further reference to your No. 40 [1], I have had a discussion on the manning of additional ships from the Royal Navy by personnel of the Royal Australian Navy.

2. My general attitude on what should be our approach to additional commitments was outlined in Cablegram No. 28. [2]

3. In the light of my subsequent discussions on- (i) the proposals put forward by me for closer Empire co- operation;

(ii) the questions raised in our Cablegram No. 267 of 8th October [3], relative to the Australian War Effort, to which no answer had been given;

(iii) the plan for the use of British Forces in the war against Japan; I do not favour any separate decision on this matter until all aspects of the war effort can be looked at together.

4. I offer the foregoing opinion with the full realisation that this course might mean delay in manning the ships unless the naval intake is increased now to provide the trained crews at the appropriate time. Further reasons for my views are contained in the following remarks on the reasons for an increase in Australian naval strength which are given in paragraph 6 of your Cablegram No. 40:-

(a) In regard to this point, the ships are a mere fraction of the strength of British ships that will shortly be available for cooperation against Japan. The United States and Royal Navies will have a preponderating superiority over the Japanese.

(b) In this case, there is a tag on the ships in regard to their strategical control.

(c) The reference to the maintenance of the highest possible effort by Australia is already provided for by the established policy of the Government, which I have clearly outlined here. The extent of our naval effort must be considered with those of the land and air forces and our present and prospective commitments in other directions as well.

(d) Canada has a population which is fifty per cent greater than that of Australia. The correct comparison between the two Dominions is their total war effort in the light of this factor.

(e) Notwithstanding the loss of ships, the personnel has apparently been absorbed in manning other vessels, for the personnel of the Navy has trebled since 1939.

As stated in the remarks on (c), this matter must be considered in relation to the maintenance of the strengths of the other services and other commitments.

(g) An opinion such as this can only be expressed in the light of the discussions of the subjects referred to in paragraph 3 and is a matter for judgement by me.

5. I would add that it has come to my knowledge that an expression of the views [4] of the War Cabinet has been communicated to the Admiralty through Naval channels. There is an explicit instruction [5] against this and I shall be glad if you will ensure against the repetition of this in regard to the information in this cablegram.

CURTIN

1 Document 128.

2 Document 157.

3 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI, Document 293.

4 See War Cabinet minute 3523 of 3 May in AA:A2673, vol. 14. 5 Not located.

[AA:A5954, BOX 5]