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

Cablegram 37 CANBERRA, 4 March 1942

MOST SECRET MOST IMMEDIATE

Reference your P.50 [1], P.51 and P.55. [2]

1. These cablegrams were referred to the Chiefs of Staff for consideration in connection with an appreciation on Australian Defence which they had in hand. [3] They were also engaged with the New Zealand Chiefs of Staff on an appreciation relating to the Anzac Area. [4] It is noted that no request for Australian troops for Ceylon was raised by the United Kingdom Government.

2. The submission of the reports of the Chiefs of Staff on 28th February was immediately followed by advice from the Chief of the General Staff [5] that he had since received information that 26 of our 54 ships had already left or passed Colombo and the first ship was due at Fremantle on 3rd March. The Chief of the General Staff had no information of the location of the other 28 ships but considered some of these may have been routed direct from Aden.

3. From this information he considered it impracticable to divert anything from the first two flights now at sea owing to the confusion of marrying up troops with equipment. Consequently the Chief of the General Staff was of the view that if the United Kingdom Government requested some part of the A.I.F. for temporarily strengthening the defence of Ceylon, it could only come from the third flight of the movement, namely two brigade groups of the 6th Division which are embarking from Suez. You will have seen the cablegram to the Prime Minister [6] through the Dominions Office offering these two brigades.

CURTIN

1 Document 372.

2 Cablegram P51 of 24 February (AA:A3195, 1942, 1.8156) dealt with the strategic significance and defence capabilities of Ceylon.

Cablegram P55 of 27 February (AA:A3195, 1942, 1.8580) informed Curtin that although the 6th and 7th Divisions were sailing together, it was possible for one Division to be diverted elsewhere.

3 An appreciation dated February 1942 (on file AA:A2671, 96/1942, Supplements 1 and 2) had been prepared in accordance with War Cabinet minute 1897 of is February (in AA:A2673, vol.10) and presented to the Advisory War Council on 5 March (See AA:A2682 vol. 4, minute 812).

4 See Document 388, note 4.

5 Lt Gen V. A. H. Sturdee.

6 Winston Churchill. This cablegram is published as Document 385.

[AA:A816, 52/302/142]