217 Mr V. G. Bowden, Official Representative in Singapore, to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

Cablegram 73 SINGAPORE, 23 December 1941, 11.51 p.m.


For Minister for External Affairs.

Referring to my recent messages I feel that I must emphasize that the deterioration of the air position in the Malayan defence is assuming landslide proportions and in my firm belief is likely to cause a collapse in the whole defence system. Expected arrival of modern fighter planes in boxes requiring weeks to assemble under the danger of destruction by bombing cannot save the position. The arrival of military reinforcements expected will be absorbed in relieving the tired front line troops and will create little difference. British defence policy now concentrates greater companies of fighter and anti-aircraft defence on Singapore island to protect the naval base, depriving the forward troops of such defence including the A.I.F.

Present measures for the reinforcement of Malayan defences can from a practical viewpoint be regarded as little more than gestures. In my belief only thing that might save Singapore would be the immediate despatch from the Middle East by air of powerful reinforcements, large numbers of the latest fighter aircraft with ample operationally trained personnel. Reinforcements of troops should be not in brigades but in divisions and to be of use they must arrive urgently. Anything that is not powerful modern and immediate is futile. As things stand at present fall of Singapore is to my mind only a matter of weeks. If Singapore and the A.I.F.

in Malaya are to be saved there must be very radical and effective action immediately.

Doubtful whether the visit of an Australian Minister can now have any effect as the plain fact is that without immediate air reinforcements Singapore must fall. Need for decision and action is a matter of hours not days. [1]


1 On 24 December Evatt dispatched copies of this cablegram and Bowden's cablegram 72 of 23 December (AA:A3830, 1941, 3857) to R.

G. Casey, Minister to the United States, with a preamble pointing out that they emphasised the overriding importance of cablegram 1103 (Document 214). See cablegram 1106 on file AA:A981, War 33, attachment B.

The same day the Prime Minister, John Curtin, dispatched copies of cablegram 1103 and Bowden's cablegram 73 to S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, with the following postcript:

'Anything you and Page [Special Representative in the United Kingdom] can do at that end should be done without any delay whatsoever.' See cablegram 8200 (AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22555).