218 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 1199 WASHINGTON, 23 December 1941, 6.17 p.m.


I saw Winston Churchill in company with [British Ambassador [1], Canadian [2]] and South African [3] Minister[s] and Langstone, New Zealand Cabinet Minister. [4]

Prime Minister reviewed the war situation on all fronts.

He said 'my principal task in coming here is to co-ordinate arrangements with the United States of America by which the control of the Pacific will be regained'.

He spoke of the United States naval reinforcement of the Pacific from the Atlantic of which you know and hinted that further such reinforcement over and above that now taking place was not impossible. He spoke of the British naval reinforcement of the Indian Ocean which is either proposed or is in train.

He spoke of the drainage of British and American supplies of tanks and aircraft brought about by the necessity of diverting all possible supplies to help Russia and the extremely useful results of such diversion. He spoke of their efforts to clean up Libya as quickly as possible which would release reinforcements for the Far Eastern theatre.

He said (without using these exact words) that an Australian division might possibly be spared from the Middle East for reinforcement of the threatened area in Australia-Singapore area.

He spoke of the urgent necessity to maintain Singapore even if the British forces were slowly driven Southward out of northern Malaya, and of their determination to get naval, land and air reinforcements to Malaya and Singapore by diversion from other theatres.

He said that Wavell's [5] command had been extended to include Burma and that Brooke-Popham [6] was being replaced at Singapore.

He said that first 2 or 3 days of his visit would be taken up with personal discussions with the President [7] but that as soon as possible the scope of the discussions would be widened to include the Dominions.

Meanwhile I am having Naval Attache [8] and Goble [9] maintain as close a touch as possible with naval and air staffs.

I left the Prime Minister's telegraphic message (your telegram 1103 [10]) personally with Churchill and identical message was delivered to the President through Sumner Welles [11], both at equivalent of 3.30 a.m. December 24th Australian Eastern Standard Time.

1 Lord Halifax.

2 Leighton McCarthy. The section in square brackets has been corrected from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 101.

3 R. W. Close.

4 The minutes of this meeting are on file AA:A3300, 123.

5 U.K. Commander-in-Chief, India.

6 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Far East until 27 December, when he was replaced by Lt Gen Sir Henry Pownall.

7 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

8 Commander D. H. Harries.

9 Liaison Officer to the Empire Air Training Scheme in Canada, who was then in Washington.

10 John Curtin's cablegram is published as Document 214.

11 U.S. Under-Secretary of State.