79 Churchill to Curtin

Cablegram Winch 28 LONDON, 24 November 1942, 10.35 a.m.


Your Johcu 45 [1] and President Roosevelt's telegram 1st November.

[2] We recognise of course that the withdrawal of the 9th Australian Division from the Mediterranean theatre rests with the Commonwealth Government. However the United States forces are now heavily engaged both in helping to defend Australia and in mastering French North Africa as a prelude to further action in Europe. They are therefore entitled to have the opportunity of considering the position as a whole and of making any representations to you which they may think desirable.

2. It seems probable that the Eastern Mediterranean will be the scene of large scale action in the early spring and the position of Turkey is of peculiar interest. If the 9th Australian Division is withdrawn to Australia, it will, of course, have to be replaced in the Middle East either by British or American forces. In the present acute and aggravated shipping stringency it will be necessary to save tonnage as much as possible. For instance it might be most economical to move one of the American divisions in Australia or destined for the Pacific direct to Suez, where they could pick up the 9th Australian Division on the return journey.

There might be no other way of maintaining the necessary strength in the Middle East. On the other hand it might be possible to carry the Australians away from the Middle East as an isolated shipping operation.

This again would have to be at the expense of our general power to move troops about the world and would have to be considered in relation to the dominating military exigencies. The matter is one on which the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Washington who alone have the central point of view should in the first instance advise.

3. So far as we are concerned we shall of course not oppose your wishes, although we greatly regret the departure from the Middle East theatre of a division which has rendered distinguished service. The object should be to bring the greatest number of the United Nations divisions into contact with the enemy, and certainly it would appear more helpful to the common cause if fresh troops were moved from the United States into the Pacific and into action against Japan than that troops already engaged with the enemy in another part of the world should be withdrawn.

4. As I know the great importance which you have always attached to American opinion and how much you value the substantial aid they have given to the defence of Australia, I feel bound to put these points before you.


1 See Document 76, note 12.

2 Document 68.