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

Cablegram 349 CANBERRA, 30 June 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

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

1. Reference your No. 482 [2] we had laid our plans and based our expectations on the early arrival of the three Spitfire squadrons and are naturally very disappointed at the delay that will now arise. In view of your personal representations and for the reasons outlined in your cablegram, we agree to the diversion of the 42 machines now en route. Our agreement to the proposal is also based on our reliance on the case put forward by Dr. Evatt [3] for an emergency plan for air reinforcement which was accepted by you, and we have done so in the full confidence that arrangements so vital to the strategy of the United Nations in the Pacific will be maintained.

2. We ask, however, that the delay should not be counted against us in regard to the realisation of the ultimate position in which we would have been placed had the original arrangements been adhered to. It is requested that, in addition to the initial quota of 48 aircraft, the monthly wastage of 15 machines with spares be reckoned as from the date of departure of the squadrons. It is also most strongly urged that every endeavour be made to expedite the despatch of the aircraft and that, if possible, the contemplated month's delay be reduced. It is requested that, in addition to the initial equipment, the first month's provision for wastage be included in the shipment. [4]

3. There is the most urgent need for the three squadrons and the personnel will be idle until the equipment arrives. We wish to emphasize that the air strength of Australia without the Spitfire squadrons represents a great wastage of personnel and equipment, because of the superiority of the Japanese fighter aircraft over the American types that are at present being used against them. It is desired to develop our maximum striking power as early as possible to combat the Japanese both in offence and defence, and our air power will be greatly enhanced by the Spitfires.

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

1 Winston Churchill.

2 Document 534.

3 Minister for External Affairs.

4 On 3 July Churchill agreed that the month's delay should not affect the ultimate delivery position, but asked that the July wastage allocation of fifteen Spitfires be accepted as eight aircraft in July and seven in August. See cablegram 492 and file Defence: Special Collection II, bundle 5, Strategical Policy- S.W.P.A. File no. 2.

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