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

Cablegram 44 WASHINGTON, 8 January 1942, 9.47 p.m.


Your telegram 37. [1] I discussed with British Chiefs of Staff here this morning Prime Minister's [2] telegram to Churchill (contain[ed in] [3] your telegram 37) and first draft [of] reply that Churchill had drafted himself and telegraphed from his present location [4] to Chiefs of Staff for their views. I also had communicated to Churchill (and to Chiefs of Staff here) substance of first eight paragraphs of your telegram No. 37 omitting paragraphs 3 and 6.

I made strong representation on lines of your views as to inadequacy of Churchill's draft reply in meeting your points. This was communicated to Churchill but as his final reply will be sent to you via London from his present location, I have not yet seen it. He is over 1,000 miles away from Washington at present.

Chiefs of Staff asked where Australia wanted more consultative representation, at 'Wavell [5] end' or at 'London end'. I said that I believed at both ends. Their attitude in effect was that advantages of having a 'supreme commander' would be whittled down if he has to consult with several governments. He will be fully engaged in directing the campaign and is not equipped to discuss matters with governments. They pointed out that he would undoubtedly have senior Australian officers on his staff but I said they would have their staff functions to perform and would not represent a consultative link between Wavell and Australian Government. I asked if there was to be any provision for a senior Australian liaison officer between Wavell and Australian Chiefs of Staff. Field Marshal Dill [6] said that he saw [no] difficulty in this although this would need to be discussed with Churchill and the President.

However, I said that I believed that Australian Government's principal concern was to have adequate representation on 'body' that issued instructions to Wavell. Their answer was that arrangements proposed in annex 2 of 'directive' or 'letter of instructions' to Wavell [7] was the best they could work out bearing in mind the fact that the British Government was in London and the United States Government in Washington. There could be no one self-contained 'body' in one place that would satisfy all governments concerned. Australian viewpoint could be put through Page [8] (or whoever was Commonwealth Government representative in London with ministerial status) to War Cabinet. Wherever Australian view was presented (i.e. in London or Washington) somewhat the same method of presenting Australian view was inevitable.

Dependent on what Churchill says to you in reply, I would suggest that the time is ripe to press for some more adequate standing as regards the War Cabinet in London for Page or whoever is to be your representative with ministerial status in London, particularly in view of the clear necessity for the Commonwealth Government's views to be heard in respect of the South-west Pacific and indeed in respect of the other areas in which Australian forces are engaged. I do not know Page's present status as regards War Cabinet and I am assuming it is not satisfactory.

It appears probable that neither Churchill nor the President will be back in Washington before the night of January 9th at the earliest. [9] Meanwhile, if you will let me have any positive proposals that may arise from the above reactions and/or [from] Churchill's reply, I can work on United Kingdom and United States staffs prior to my seeing Churchill and the President.

As regards paragraph 6 of your telegram No. 37 I can assure you that there is no misapprehension in high quarters here. I have kept them informed confidentially from the monthly telegrams from Australia of production and numbers of men under arms and in training. The great difficulty has been to get them to appreciate what has been done by way of numbers in services and munitions production. Until I started giving them precise confidential information a few months ago, they were incredulous about what had been achieved. You can be assured that I appreciate your attitude on this.


1 Document 260.

2 John Curtin's cablegram is published as Document 259.

3 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300,219.

4 Churchill spent 4-9 January at the Palm Beach, Florida, home of Edward E. Stettinius, U.S. Lend Lease Administrator and special assistant to President Roosevelt.

5 See Document 252, note 4.

6 Leader of the U.K. Joint Staff Mission in Washington.

7 The directive to Wavell (dated 2 January) is on file AA:A3300, 219 and was communicated to the Commonwealth Govt in cablegram Winch 1 of 4 January (on file AA:A981, War 54). Annex 2 outlined the decision-making responsibilities shared between London and Washington.

8 Special Representative in the United Kingdom.

9 President Roosevelt was at his Hyde Park, New York, home.

[AA:A981, WAR 54]