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

Cablegram 817 LONDON, 11 December 1941, 1.53 a.m.


Your telegram 8th December 778. [2]

We fully understand your wish to have a general review of the new war situation which has now developed, but things are moving so fast that a telegram drafted in the morning is often out of date by the evening. We are hard at work examining the position and considering what redisposition of our naval forces should now be made and what and how reinforcements can be sent to the Far East.

2. We are of course in for an anxious time in the Pacific. Sir Earle Page, who attended a meeting of the War Cabinet yesterday evening [3], will no doubt tell you how we view the general situation confronting us. We must not forget that Germany, who is still the main enemy, is in serious and increasing difficulties both in Russia and in Libya.

3. It is not considered that there is any immediate large scale threat to territory of Australia, and much less of New Zealand, and the possibility of raids by enemy cruisers accompanied by seaborne aircraft remains generally under conditions similar to those set out in paragraph 34 of Far East appreciation contained in my telegram August 12th 1940 Z.214 to the United Kingdom High Commissioner. [4]

4. The potential threat to our sea routes in the Far East Area has of course greatly increased and the situation is largely that set out in paragraphs 30 to 38 of telegram Z.214 already referred to.

Admiralty instructions with regard to conveying and routeing are contained in Admiralty telegram 1915/10 to A.C.N.B. and N.Z.N.B.


5. As regards local Australian Defence until we know more of Japanese intentions we do not recommend any changes of those dispositions decided on as a result of consideration given to the subject at the time of Mr. Menzies' visit (see paragraphs 23 to 26 of our reply of April 18th). [6]

6. A further telegram will be sent to you as soon as the new situation has been fully examined.

1 Corrected from the Prime Minister's Dept inward cablegram register (AA:A3642, 4).

2 See Document 181, note 1.

3 See Document 183 4 Then Sir Geoffrey Whiskard. See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV, Document 66.

5 Not found.

6 See Document 400 in the volume cited in note 4. This memorandum (in fact dated 11 April) replied to questions raised by the then Prime Minister, R. G. Menzies.

[AA:A1608, V41/1/1]