345 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom

Cablegram 28 CANBERRA, 19 February 1942

MOST SECRET MOST IMMEDIATE

Your P.45. [1]

After most anxious consideration Government has decided that it cannot agree to the proposal that 7th A.I.F. Division should be diverted to Burma. [2]

2. A.I.F. Divisions were to be sent to the vital Netherlands East Indies sector, to help stop the southern thrust of the enemy. it has apparently been decided by Wavell [3] that this sector is not to be reinforced further. To carry out the same objective the destination to which they should now proceed is obviously Australia, which is in imminent danger of attack, which is an essential allied base and which is the nearest area of concentration south of Netherlands East Indies.

3. Cable just received from Lavarack [4] regarding Wavell's suggestion of diversion to Burma finishes as follows:-

'Not personally in position to judge Australian home defence position owing considerable absence. If this reasonably satisfactory believe Australia's best interests served by course suggested. This despite natural desire Australian Corps assist direct defence own homeland if considered necessary.' Position is that mainly owing our efforts overseas, home defence position is, in opinion of our Chiefs of General Staff, not satisfactory. Therefore we cannot approve of the proposed diversion.

CURTIN

1 Dispatched 18 February (on file AA:A816, 52/302/142).It requested a 'clear the line' reply to the request in Document 341, paragraph 1(7), that the 7th Division should be sent to Burma.

2 See War Cabinet minute 1896 of 18 February in AA:A2673, vol. 10.

3 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area.

4 Commander, 1 Australian Corps. His cablegram OPX 01492 of 18 February is on file Australian War Memorial: A2663, Army Headquarters, 541/1/4.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.5088]