240 Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister (in the United States), to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram Winch 14 [WASHINGTON, 29 December 1941] [1]


My immediately preceding telegram. Text of the agreement begins:-

(a) That unity of command shall be established in the south- western Pacific. Boundaries are not yet finally settled but presume that they would include Malay Peninsula, including Burma, to the Philippine Islands and southwards to necessary supply bases, principally Port Darwin, and (corrupt group) supply line in Northern Australia.

(b) That General Wavell should be appointed Commander-in-Chief or if preferred Supreme Commander of all United States, British Empire and Dutch forces of land, sea and air who may be assigned by the Governments concerned to that theatre.

(c) General Wavell, whose headquarters should in the first instance be established at Sourabaya, would have an American officer as Deputy Commander-in-Chief. It seems probable that General Brett would be chosen. [2]

(d) That the American, British and Australian and Dutch naval forces in the 'theatre' should be placed under the command of the American Admiral in accordance with the general principles set forth in (a) and (b).

(e) It is intended that General Wavell should have a staff in the south Pacific accessible as Foch's [3] High Control Staff was to the Great Staffs of the British and French armies in France. He would receive his orders from an appropriate joint body who will be responsible to me as the Minister of Defence and to the President of the United States [4] who is also Commander-in-Chief of all United States forces.

(f) The principal commanders comprised in General Wavell's sphere will be the Commander-in-Chief, Burma [5]; Commander-in-Chief, Singapore and Malaya [6]; Commander-in-Chief Netherlands East Indies [7]; Commander-in-Chief, Philippines [8]; and Commander-in- Chief of Southern Communications via the south Pacific and north Australia. [9]

(g) India, for which an Acting Commander-in-Chief will have to be appointed, and Australia, who will have their own Commander-in- Chief, will be outside General Wavell's sphere except as abovementioned and are the two great nations through which men and material from Great Britain and the Middle East on the one hand, and the United States on the other, can be moved into the fighting zone.

(h) United States Navy will remain responsible for the whole of the Pacific Ocean cast of the Philippine Islands and Australasia including United States approaches to Australasia.

(i) A letter of introduction is being drafted for the Supreme Commander safeguarding necessary residuary interests of the various Governments involved and prescribing in major detail his tasks.

(Text ends.) [10]

1 This cablegram was presumably dispatched from Washington immediately after Churchill's preceding cablegram (Document 239).

According to the London copy (AA:A2937, A.B.D.A. Strategic Area) it was retransmitted to Canberra at 7 p.m. on 29 December. The Canberra copy (on file AA:A981, War 54) gave the time of dispatch as 7.07 a.m. on 29 December, but this is clearly incorrect.

2 This assumption was correct.

3 Supreme Generalissimo of the Allied Armies on the Western Front in 1918.

4 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 Lt Gen T. J. Hutton.

6 Lt Gen Sir Henry Pownall.

7 Lt Gen H. ter Poorten.

8 General Douglas MacArthur.

9 Maj Gen D. V. J. Blake, Commandant of 7 Military District at Darwin.

10 Curtin read cablegrams Winch 13 (Document 239) and Winch 14 to War Cabinet on 30 December. The agreement was approved with the proviso that Australia should be included in the joint body mentioned in subparagraph (e) and a cablegram in these terms was dispatched to Churchill on 30 December. The same meeting also agreed to an Admiralty request that the Commonwealth Govt proceed with the development of Australian ports as bases for all or part of a reconstituted U.K. Eastern Fleet. See AA:A2673, vol. 9, minute 1631 and cablegram Johcu 13 (incorrectly dated 1 January 1942) on file AA:A981, War 54.

[AA:A981, WAR 54]