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

Cablegram 390 LONDON, 30 April 1942, 11.55 p.m.



Your No.267. [2]

1. Please see my Winch No.20 [3] which defines the conditions in which alone we should be justified in diverting divisions to Australia as they round the Cape. Since then no signs have appeared of a heavy mass invasion of Australia, although attacks at Port Moresby and Port Darwin are possible. The danger to India has been increased by the events in Burma as well as by an inevitable delay due to needs in home waters in building up the Eastern Fleet. We should certainly be judged to have acted wrongly if we sent to an uninvaded Australia troops needed for an invaded India. The most noticeable strategic movement of Japanese forces has been the reinforcement by three divisions of their army of twenty divisions in Manchuria towards Siberian Russia. We must continue to decide where to send our limited reinforcements according to the situation.

2. The arrangements General Macarthur [4] proposes of sending the 2nd Division and the Armoured Division to Australia temporarily pending the return of the remainder of the 6th Australian Division and the 9th Australian Division would seem to involve the maximum expenditure and dislocation of shipping and escorts.

3. We hope to relieve the Australian troops in Ceylon by 2 Brigade Groups of our 5th Division which is now in the Indian Ocean, at about the end of May.

4. None of the three armoured aircraft carriers, ILLUSTRIOUS, FORMIDABLE and INDOMITABLE, can be taken from the Eastern Fleet.

To remove one would be to destroy its chances of fighting a Fleet action this summer. The small carrier HERMES which we had hoped to send you has been sunk, and no other carrier is available.

5. I cannot hold out any prospect of our being able to increase the British allocation of shipping on the Australian-American run.

The whole of our tonnage is engaged to the utmost in transporting munitions to Russia, in the heavy troop convoys of about 50,000 men a month we are sending round the Cape, and in the very sharply straitened supply to this island.

6. Nevertheless you may be sure that General MacArthur's recommendations will continue to be studied here, and I have also reported them to the President [5] in case he may feel able to take any further action. I am also looking forward to discussing the position with Dr. Evatt [6], who will soon be here. Ends.


1 Winston Churchill.

2 Document 476.

3 Document 447.

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

5 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

6 Minister for External Affairs, then in Washington.