318 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to General Sir Archibald Wavell, Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area

Cablegram 13 CANBERRA, 6 February 1942

MOST SECRET MOST IMMEDIATE

Your telegram 00740 of 4th February to Chiefs of Staff. [1] Commonwealth Government agrees to despatch of A.I.F. Pioneer Battalion at Darwin to Koepang to accompany United States 148 Artillery Regiment. [2]

2. Forces now at Darwin are the minimum necessary to provide for its defence and reinforcement of Koepang at the expense of Darwin will seriously weaken the latter's defence. You will be aware of decision of combined American [and] British Chiefs of Staff to divert from American air squadrons now being organised in Australia one fighter group of 80 aircraft to operate under command of the R.A.A.F., in order to meet the immediate need for the defence of north-east approaches to Australia and to ensure continuity of communications between Australia and the United States. Darwin is a key-point in the maintenance of communications in north-western approaches and is of equal importance to Koepang.

In agreeing to make available A.I.F. Pioneer Battalion we expect that every possible step will be taken to ensure that Darwin is adequately reinforced to frustrate any Japanese attack.

3. The Australian Minister, Washington [3], has been instructed to represent our views on the importance of Darwin to the Americans and ourselves in order to prepare the way for any request for United States of America aid in that region. [4]

4. I would be glad if you would arrange for communications on important questions of policy to be forwarded to Prime Minister, cable address Kindlier Canberra. This should also apply to appreciations which you may wish to communicate from time to time and other information which you consider will be of aid to the Government in view of its vital interest in the A.B.D.A. Area and the Australian forces placed at your disposal.

CURTIN

1 Not found.

2 The convoy carrying the 2/4th Pioneer Battalion of the A.I.F.

left Darwin for Timor on 15 February but was subsequently ordered by Wavell to turn back to Darwin.

3 R. G. Casey.

4 See cablegram 153 of 6 February on file AA:A3300, 220.

The decisions set out in the first three paragraphs of this cablegram were approved by the Advisory War Council and War Cabinet on 5 February. See AA:A2682, vol. 4, minute 734 and AA:A2673, vol. 10, minute 1873.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.3703]