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

Cablegram 1211 WASHINGTON, 24 December 1941, 3.08 p.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE SECRET

1. I was informed of reinforcements that are on the way and of which I do not know if you are aware.

2. First air reinforcements will be 51 [crated] [1] Hurricane fighters which are due to arrive at Singapore about 8th January.

One Blenheim squadron (Plus 50% reserves) flying from United Kingdom via Middle East and due to arrive Singapore early in January. Fifty two Hudsons which will begin to arrive Singapore about mid-January and which should all arrive by the end of January.

3. I emphasized minimum reinforcements for Singapore and Malaya set out in Duff Cooper's report of Singapore conference [2] (see my telegram 1190 [3]) and stressed obvious necessity for additional land and air strength at the earliest possible moment over and above that in paragraph 2 above, and naval protection for them.

4. As regards land forces it emerged that quickest reinforcement was to divert part of the 18th British Division which is now in course of being transported from Britain round the Cape towards the Middle East in American ships.

It is now in the Indian Ocean in the vicinity of Mombasa.

Churchill agreed and the President [4] concurred that United States transport 'Mount Vernon' (part of the above-mentioned convoy) containing one brigade group of the 18th Division should be diverted from the vicinity of Mombasa north west [5] towards Colombo where it could join with the convoy containing the leading brigade of the 17th Indian Division which is en route for Singapore where it should arrive about January 8th.

5. Destination of the remainder of the 17th Indian Division and the remainder of 18th Division remains to be decided. I believe they could probably all go to Singapore or Rangoon if necessary.

6. Churchill agreed to telegraph General Auchinleck [6] at once to ask if he could spare four Hurricane squadrons from Middle East to be embarked on His Majesty's Aircraft Carrier Indomitable. Admiral Pound [7] agreed that by this means these fighter squadrons could be got to Singapore (although minus ground staff and spares) about January 27th.

7. Air Marshal Portal (Chief of British Air Staff) has given orders that all American ships passing Durban carrying American fighting aircraft to Middle East should be stopped at Durban and aircraft taken out in order to make up a shipment that will go direct to Singapore. A number of these ships carry about 10 Kittyhawk fighters (improved version of Tomahawk). This is the same proposal as in my telegram 1171. [8]

8. Convoy carrying brigade of 17th Indian Division to Singapore (see paragraph 3 above) will also contain the following. One light anti-aircraft regiment of 32 Bofors guns, one heavy A.A. regiment of 16 3.7 inch guns, one anti-tank regiment of 48 2 pounder guns.

9. One light tank squadron of 17 light tanks is due in Singapore in late January.

10. As regards naval protection for these various convoys which will approach Singapore from westward, I suggested that Admiral Hart's [9] squadron (the balance of U.S. Asiatic fleet which is based on Sourabaya or thereabouts) might be so employed. This is being investigated by Secretary of Navy. [10]

11. I am to see Churchill again tomorrow morning when I hope and believe that he will telegraph you confirming above-mentioned matters.

12. I raised as tactfully as possible with the President question of destination of American aircraft reinforcements now destined for the Philippines via Australia in the event that it was not appropriate for them to be sent to Philippines by time they reach Darwin. He said that they would then be sent to wherever they were most wanted, Singapore or elsewhere.

1 Inserted from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 101.

2 The report of the U.K. Minister of State for Far Eastern Affairs resident in Singapore is published as Document 211.

3 Dispatched 22 December. On file AA:A981, War 42.

4 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 The words 'north west' did not appear in the Washington copy.

6 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East.

7 Chief of the U.K. Naval Staff, then in Washington.

8 Dispatched 18 December. On file AA:A981, War 33, i.

9 Commander of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet.

10 Colonel Franklin Knox.

[AA:A981, WAR 33, ATTACHMENT B]