82 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 196[A] LONDON, 25 November 1942, 2.40 p.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE FOR THE PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL HIMSELF ONLY MOST SECRT

MOST IMMEDIATE FOR THE PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL HIMSELF ONLY MOST SECRET

My telegram 193[A] [1] and Winch 28. [2]

At War Cabinet meeting on Monday evening the question of the return of the 9th Division was referred to but only incidentally by the Prime Minister and while he said that he was not very happy about the move and necessity of providing the shipping involved the assumption behind his observations was that the wishes of the Australian Government had to be respected and that necessary arrangements for transport of the Division were being proceeded with.

No discussion took place in War Cabinet on the matter. I was somewhat surprised at the line the Prime Minister took as I had heard unofficially just before going to the meeting that the President was very perturbed at the prospect of the return of the 9th Division to Australia and at the utilization of shipping involved. I also understood that being so perturbed about the matter the President had referred your letter to him [3] to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. I had imagined that the President would have conveyed to the Prime Minister the views he held and my anticipation was when the Prime Minister raised the question of the 9th Division in Cabinet he was going to elaborate the position down the lines that a further appeal should be made to the Australian Government to reconsider their decision. He however did not take this line, but his observations were an acquiescence, even if a somewhat reluctant one, in the return of the Division. I was accordingly somewhat surprised, after the episode in War Cabinet on Monday night, to see Winch 28. This communication the Prime Minister did not discuss with me and, in fact, I have only seen a copy of it within the last hour.

My own appreciation of the position is that Winch 28 was framed after discussion with the President, the contact between the President and Prime Minister being very close, much of it being conducted by the dangerous medium of wireless telephone.

My impression is that both the President and Prime Minister are very opposed to the withdrawal of the 9th Division. The Prime Minister however was not prepared to raise the issue with you.

Now, however, fortified by the President's attitude he has decided to do so, but basing himself to a considerable extent upon American views and wishes.

My anticipation is that you will receive, if you have not already done so, a communication from the President based on a report he will have received from the Combined Chiefs of Staff, making a further request to you with regard to the Division. [4]

On the Chiefs of Staff level here the position is that examination of provision of necessary shipping is proceeding on the basis of the return of both the Australian and New Zealand Divisions.

One disturbing factor is emerging in this examination. I gather that the transport people and Navy, in regard to escorts, are taking the line that the only practicable method of providing necessary shipping would be by utilization of giant liners. As these liners have little cargo space such utilization would mean that only personnel could be carried and the Division's equipment would have to be left in the Middle East. I understand that the view is taken that utilization of giant liners would be necessary even if priority were given to the 9th Division over the New Zealand Division (your telegram 10746 [5]).

BRUCE

1 Dispatched 21 November. On file AA:A4763. It advised Curtin that the decision to return the 9th Division had been complicated by the N.Z. Govt's appeal for the return of its 2nd Division.

2 Document 79.

3 Document 76.

4 See Document 85.

5 Dispatched 24 November. On the file cited in note 1. It warned Bruce that the request for the return of the N.Z. Division must not be allowed to delay or prejudice the return of the 9th Division, which should be given priority.

[AA:A4763]