226 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States

Cablegram 164 [1] CANBERRA, 26 December 1941

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

1. Government has carefully considered comment of Chiefs of Staff Committee (dated December 23) [2]upon Duff Cooper's [3] telegrams of 21St December [4] communicating considered opinion of Singapore Joint Inter-Allied Conference as to reinforcements which were the minimum not the optimum reinforcements required to stabilise the situation in Malaya.

2. We note that comments Chiefs of Staff Committee on these imperative requests have been sent to Churchill at Washington and Government therefore desires to make following observations.

(a) Fighters. The 51 fighters when they arrive will merely complete existing squadrons and their reserves. They will make no contribution whatever towards the four additional fighter squadrons plus 100% reserves regarded by Singapore Conference as minimum. Obviously these are a A.1 priority.

(b) Bombers. Provision is contemplated for only two of the four bomber squadrons demanded by Conference with 100% additional reserves in the case of Hudsons. Additional squadrons repeat squadrons should be despatched immediately.

(c) Chiefs of Staff Committee states that they are examining effect on Middle East theatre of meeting balance of immediate air reinforcements required. We are reliably informed that aircraft in Middle East are in region of 800 and it is difficult to believe that having regard to overwhelming necessities Far East aircraft cannot be spared. We also refer to Chiefs of Staff appreciation C.O.S. (41) 230 dated April 11, 1941 [5] in answer to Menzies' memorandum [6] which appreciation seriously under-estimated situation Japanese air strength and over-estimated that of British.

(d) It is noted that Chiefs of Staff state air escort flight 'cannot be provided'. Presumably this means cannot be provided at present. We think that escort and transport flights should be formed in reserve in pool to be based on Australia.

(e) Generally. We note that according to Chiefs of Staff Committee, other minimum requirements of Singapore Conference are not being provided for and that in almost every respect something less is being planned. This is the service attitude which our Prime Minister [7] characterised as 'penny packet' dispositions in his personal telegram to Churchill December 20th last. [8] We hope and believe that Churchill and Roosevelt will brush it aside.

3. We now turn your 1211. [9]

(a) As to Paragraph 6 it is not a question of what Auchinleck [10] can spare, it is what emergency requires to avert devastating blows to strategic situation in Far East. Matter is one for decision by highest political authorities as to what emergency requires, that is, for decision by Churchill and Roosevelt.

(b) We are aware of proposals you mention and we were aware of substance of them prior to Australian Prime Minister's crucial message 1103 to President and Prime Minister. [11] Government adheres to its view expressed in paragraph 6 of 1103 that small reinforcement will be of little avail and that degree of resistance to Japan will depend largely on amount of assistance to be provided by United Kingdom and United States of America Governments and on speed of provision.

4. Please understand that stage of gentle suggestion has now passed. Continuous over-statements by British Far East Commands as to degree of preparedness have produced a very serious effect upon public opinion. Latest reports from Malaya suggest that fighters will not support A.I.F. troops in field because they have to be withdrawn for defence fortress itself This will re-echo experiences of Greece and Crete and must be avoided.

5. You say that Churchill will confirm the proposals mentioned to you and already known to us. Much more is required. Please take immediate steps to inform him in accordance telegram 1103 that requirements of Singapore Conference are only the very minimum, that anything less will be dangerous and that definite time-table is required.

6. When visiting here Brooke-Popham [12] informed Government that some of his demands for further reinforcements Far East had encountered 'non possumus' attitude from United Kingdom Government and we fear that attitude in Chiefs of Staff report of 11th April 1941 signed Pound, Portal and Haining [13] may still govern decisions.

7. This is gravest type of emergency and everything will depend upon Churchill-Roosevelt decision to meet it in broadest way.

8. You should read substance of message concerned as from Australian Government. We are expecting favourable answer.

9. For your private information our view accords strictly with that of Bruce expressed in his telegram 136 [14] to Prime Minister here.

[EVATT]

1 Repeated to the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom as no.

8231. There is an earlier and substantially different draft of this cablegram (undated) on the file cited in note 2.

2 See cablegram 872 of 23 December on file AA:A981, War 33, attachment B.

3 U.K. Special Minister of State for Far Eastern Affairs resident in Singapore.

4 See Document 211, and cablegram 862 of 21 December on the file cited in note 2.

5 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV, Document 400.

6 See ibid., note 1.

7 John Curtin.

8 Document 208.

9 Document 223.

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

11 Document 214.

12 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Far East.

13 Cited in note 5.

14 Document 221.

[AA:A981, WAR 33, ATTACHMENT B]