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

Cablegram 32 CANBERRA, 24 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

Reference 1609. [1]

In regard to paragraph 4 of Wavell's message that evacuation of Australian and other troops will be carried out if ordered by joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, our Chief of General Staff [2] has been informed by Wavell that they cannot be evacuated in view of instructions in Combined Chiefs of Staff D.B.A. 19 [3], but preparations are being made to do so if this policy is altered.

2. The Government instructed Lavarack on 19th February that if worst comes to worst some chance of withdrawal should be afforded our men. [4] In view of present position in Java the Government insists that the necessary authority be given to Wavell to ensure that these troops be evacuated, their ultimate destination being Australia.

3. Wavell will apparently be moving headquarters 9 a.m. 25th February [5] and it is requested that you arrange for issue of necessary orders at once.

4. This cablegram is being communicated to Casey [6] at Washington for parallel action and also to Wavell. [7]

CURTIN

1 Dispatched by Page on 22 February. On file AA:A816, 52/302/142.

It transmitted the Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area's cablegram 1864 of 21 February requesting decisions on evacuation in the event of a Japanese invasion of Java, and the response of the Pacific War Council in London.

2 Lt Gen V. A. H. Sturdee.

3 Dated 17 February. In Australian War Memorial: Page collection, file 773, item 172.

4 See cablegram 5 to Commander, I Australian Corps, on file AA:A816, 52/302/142.

5 Wavell then resumed duty as U.K. Commander-in-Chief, India.

6 Minister to the United States. The cablegram was repeated to him as no. 43.

7 The cablegram was repeated to Wavell as no. 39.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.5528]