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

Cablegram 482 LONDON, 27 June 1942, 9.08 p.m.

MOST SECRET IMMEDIATE

Your telegram 25th June, No. 347. [1] Following Most Secret and Personal. From the Prime Minister [2] to the Prime Minister.

Begins:

I am sorry that you have felt concern over the request made to you in Attlee's message of 24th June. [3] I cannot see that that proposal involves any substantial departure from what was agreed with Evatt. [4] It was put forward after full consideration in Cabinet as a result of the grave situation which has arisen in Libya. Every other possible source of supply, e.g. Malta and India, was examined but only means of obtaining required number of tropicalized Spitfires in less than 2 months was found to be diversion of the 42 machines en route in W.S. 20. [5]

The proposed diversion does not in any way cancel the plan for air support which I made with Evatt and the ground equipment and personnel of the squadrons will arrive according to timetable. The aircraft would follow a month later. It cannot be said to be a fortuitous circumstance that these aircraft are at sea on their way to Australia. Had they not been assigned to Australia, more machines would have been at sea on their way to the Middle East.

No Middle East despatches were possible during the time when [these] [6] aircraft were arriving off production and being packed.

Please do not think that we have forgotten or under-estimate Australia's danger. But it cannot be denied that the losses which the Japanese have sustained in the Midway action have had a material effect on the naval situation in the Pacific and on the imminence of the threat to Australia.

I must therefore ask you to accept our proposal which I regard as vital to our common interests. Ends.

S.W.P.A. FILE NO. 2]

1 Document 530 2 Winston Churchill.

3 See Document 530, note 1.

4 Minister for External Affairs.

5 Convoy WS20 was then moving down the West African coast.

6 Corrected from Attlee's unnumbered cablegram of 29 June on file Defence: Special Collection II, bundle 5, Strategical Policy- S.W.P.A. File No. 2.

[DEFENCE: SPECIAL COLLECTION II, BUNDLE 5, STRATEGICAL POLICY-