417 Mr Clement Attlee, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 318 LONDON, 17 March 1942, 8.50 [p.m.]

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET AND PERSONAL

Following for Prime Minister from Prime Minister [1] begins.

I had not realised till I saw Sir Earle Page's cable to you [2] that he had led you to expect a telegram from me in addition to the summary which was sent to you of the President's proposals for dividing the commands. [3] I was not in a position to send you definite advice till our staffs had considered the proposals and I had myself clarified some points with the President.

I was expecting to receive your impressions and have only now learned that you were expecting to hear further from me. However, no time has been lost because it was necessary to examine these proposals very carefully. I have now telegraphed to the President on the main issue as in my immediately following telegram. [4]

2. I wish here and now, however, to make the following plain to you. The fact that an American commander will be in charge of all the operations in the Pacific Area will not be regarded by His Majesty's Government as in any way absolving them from their determination and duty to stand to your aid to the best of their ability, and if you are actually invaded in force, which has by no means come to pass and may never come to pass, we shall do our utmost to divert British troops and British ships rounding the Cape or already in the Indian Ocean to your succour, albeit at the expense of India and the Middle East. Ends. [5]

1 Winston Churchill.

2 Document 393.

3 For the summary of Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposals see Documents 410-11.

4 See cablegram 319 of 17 March on file AA:A2937, Far East position 1942.

5 Curtin acknowledged Churchill's assurances of support on 20 March. See cablegram 210 on file AA:A816, 52/302/142.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.11098]