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265 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram Johcu 82 CANBERRA, 1 September 1944


I thank you for your cablegram No. Winch 5 [1] and for the information which you furnished me regarding the conclusions of the Defence Committee on the strategy for the war against Japan.

2. I note the alternative suggestion in paragraph 10 of the telegram to Washington for the formation of a British Empire Task Force under a British Commander, consisting of British, Australian and New Zealand land, sea and air forces, to operate in the Southwest Pacific under General MacArthur's supreme command.

3. You will recall that when the question of basing United Kingdom Forces on Australia was under discussion at the meeting of Prime Ministers in London, I pointed out in my paper of 3rd May [2] that it would be necessary to have regard to the existing Allied and Australian set-up in the Southwest Pacific Area in respect of the system of command. This aspect was previously mentioned in my cablegram 68 of 22nd March, 1944. [3] In the subsequent discussion at the Conference on 26th May [4] of the strategy for the war against Japan, I indicated that it was not possible for me, in the absence of any discussion with my colleagues in Australia, to commit myself to any changes in the command arrangements for the Southwest Pacific Area. I also stated that there was a danger of the gravest misunderstanding with the United States if Australian Forces were taken away from General MacArthur's direct command and placed under a new Commander.

4. Upon my return to Australia, these aspects were brought to the notice of War Cabinet [5] and the Advisory War Council [6], and they have both affirmed that, in connection with the forthcoming operations against the Philippines, there should be no variation in the existing assignment to the Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, of operational control of the Australian Defence Forces.

5. In view of the special significance to Australia of the alternative suggestion in paragraph 10, and our discussions in London, I feel that there should have been consultation between us before communication of the proposal to the United States Chiefs of Staff. I am sure you will appreciate the importance which we attach to this matter and I trust that, when the views of the United States Chiefs of Staff have been received, there will be further consultation between us before any action is taken on this proposal.

6. You will be aware, from the cablegram despatched on the official level to the Deputy Secretary (Military) to the United Kingdom War Cabinet on 26th August [7] that the examination by British and Australian staffs into the feasibility of basing British Forces on Australia has been completed, and that a copy of the report is being forwarded to London by air mail. [8] The consideration of this report by our Governments and the further detailed examination of the Service plans by the Australian civil authorities concerned will now presumably await the decisions reached on the strategical proposals outlined in your cablegram.


1 Document 254.

2 In AA:A6712, 1944, Top Secret, PMM(44)2.

3 Document 89.

4 Document 167.

5 See War Cabinet minute 3654 of 5 July, in AA:A2673, vol. 15.

6 See Advisory War Council minute 1402 of 5 July, in AA:A2682, vol. 8.

7 See Shedden's cablegram 247 to Ismay, on file AA:A5954, box 590.

8 Report by the Chiefs of Staff entitled 'The Basing of U.K.

Forces on Australia', submitted to Curtin on 23 August. On file AA:A5954, box 591.

[AA:A5954, BOX 560]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History