453 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs (in Washington)

Cablegram E9 [1] LONDON, 2 April 1942

MOST SECRET

I have now seen Prime Minister's telegram to you [2] which is broadly in line with what I told you in my telegram E. 7. [3]

Whatever your reactions to the telegram are I am in a position to know that it was intended to be helpful and friendly.

The word[ing] of paragraph 4 is unfortunate but might, I suggest, be overlooked. The intention behind the unhappy word 'mistake' was that it would be serious for the common cause if the 9th Australian Division was transferred from the Middle East to Australia because it could not be immediately replaced for transport reasons and because utilisation of shipping for the transference from one combat area to another would preclude the bringing into the joint combat areas of one and possibly two additional divisions.

The main issue that emerges from the telegram is whether or not Australia is immediately threatened with such an attack as would justify the diversion suggested in paragraph 1 of the Prime Minister's telegram notwithstanding the seriousness of the position in India and Burma and the need to reinforce Auchinleck [4] so that he could take the offensive and thus relieve the position of Malta which is becoming increasingly critical.

In establishing this point I suggest the desirability of giving chapter and verse, e.g. opinion of MacArthur [5] and Australian Chiefs of Staff The desirability of diversion has also to be examined from the point of view of avoiding a critical situation arising rather than only ordering it when the crisis has occurred.

In this examination the dire needs of India, Burma and the Middle East referred to above have to be taken into account.

With regard to aeroplanes, munitions and supplies generally, I believe the position will best be dealt with down the lines of (5) in my telegram E. 7 [6] and I am obtaining details as to what actually is afloat at the present moment.

With regard to our special requirements, e.g. Bofors, R.D.F. [7] etc. following on Prime Minister's telegram to you a re- examination of what could possibly be done is being undertaken.

BRUCE

1 Evatt repeated this cablegram to the Prime Minister (John Curtin) as a corollary to cablegram S20 (Document 454). See cablegram S23 of 4 April on file AA:A981, War 33, attachment C.

2 Winston Churchill's cablegram is quoted in Document 454 3 See Document 449, note 9.

4 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East.

5 Allied Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area.

6 Paragraph 5 reported Churchill's opinion 'that as all available shipping is being employed in transporting troops aeroplanes and equipment and is all proceeding via the Cape, diversion at that point is the most effective and rapid method of sending help to Australia while at the same time ensuring maximum utilisation of shipping for reinforcement at whatever point circumstances of the moment require aid should be sent'.

7 Radio Direction-Finder.

[AA:M100, APRIL 1942]