344 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 31 LONDON, 18 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE FOR THE PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL HIMSELF MOST SECRET

I send you the following supplementary to Page's P.43 and 44. [1] The Pacific War Council meeting last night was the first encouraging indication of co-operative action based on well thought-out plans for the conduct of the war in the Pacific.

The decisions which had to be taken with regard to the Netherlands East Indies are unpalatable but in my view realistic and wise. The acceptance by the Netherlands Government of non-reinforcement of Java and diversion of the Australian Division was a most courageous action and showed great statesmanship and is in keeping with the character and toughness of the Dutch people.

From our point of view the most significant result emerging from the meeting was the realisation of the importance of Australia as a base, and we can I believe now confidently rely on the maximum support it is physically possible to get to us.

With reference to recommendation 7 of the Pacific War Council, in my view it is essential that we should agree to the 7th Australian Division going to Burma because- (a) Its presence there offers the best hope of keeping open the Burma Road, (b) The continuance of a flow of supplies and munitions to China is of paramount importance for the fight against Japan, (c) Even if the Division's presence did not achieve the objective of keeping the Burma Road open, the sending of it there will have tremendous effect on China's morale and will to resist which it is imperative to maintain if we are to avoid the incalculable disaster of her throwing up the sponge, (d) Added to all we have already done, our action, hard pressed as we are, in sending a division to the vital spot in Burma strengthens our position in demanding similar action to meet our necessities, (e) It is our reply to agreement by the Dutch to the diversion of a Division earmarked for the Netherlands East Indies.

BRUCE

1 Documents 341-2.

[AA:A816, 52/302/142]