289 Advisory War Council Submission by Curtin

Agendum 22/1944 [CANBERRA], 20 September 1944

TOP SECRET

BASING OF NETHERLANDS FORCES ON AUSTRALIA

APPROACH BY NETHERLANDS MINISTER IN AUSTRALIA

In a memorandum to the Department of Defence, dated 4th September [1], the Department of External Affairs communicated the following letter [2] from the Netherlands Minister in Australia:-

'I have the honour, by direction, to inform you, that my Government have decided to organise a force of about 30,000 men soon after the liberation of Holland and to send these troops to the Far East, where they will be used in the Netherlands East Indies after having undergone some additional training. My Government would appreciate if this training could take place in Australia and have instructed me to approach the Commonwealth Government on this subject.

I would therefore feel very much obliged if your Government could let me know whether, in principle, they are agreeable to the arrival, accommodation, training and maintenance of the above- mentioned Netherlands Forces in Australia, details being left to be discussed between the Australian Army Authorities and the Netherlands Commander-in-Chief, General L. H. van Oyen.'

2. REPORT OF DEFENCE COMMITTEE The Defence Committee submitted the following report [3] on the proposal:-

'Before any commitment can be accepted, or acceptance in principle even, the following aspects should be considered by the Government.

2. The allotment of major forces to the Southwest Pacific Area is a matter for determination by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Washington. This allotment takes into account the tasks and the nature of the forces required in accordance with the strategic policy which can only be determined by the Chiefs of Staff. The Chiefs of Staff have recently had under consideration the possibility of basing large British Forces in this area. No decision has yet been received in regard to these proposals, but undoubtedly the possibility of having to accommodate and train additional forces for the Netherlands East Indies would affect the plans already considered by the Chiefs of Staff for basing the British Forces referred to. 3. It will be necessary for consideration to be given to the nature of the ultimate employment in the Southwest Pacific Area of the Dutch troops referred to. If they are to be garrison troops for Netherlands East Indies after the Japanese have been driven out of these areas, the first question that arises is the priority of resources which are available in Australia. Therefore, it is suggested that it would be quite inappropriate at this stage for the Commonwealth Government to agree in principle to accept additional commitments.

It is suggested that the matter should be referred by the Dutch Government to the highest authority responsible for strategic employment of Allied Forces in this area. In the meantime, Australian Army staff can examine the proposal to ascertain what is involved in accommodating, training and maintaining these troops in Australia. 4. Another aspect that must be considered on the highest plane is the question of the allocation of shipping to move a force of this size from Europe to Australia. Priority in shipping resources will no doubt require that the forces to be made available immediately for fighting the Japanese will be allotted such shipping as is available.'

3. VIEWS OF DEPARTMENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS The Department of External Affairs has expressed the following views [4]:-

'It would be politically desirable that a Dutch force should be based on Australia. An Australian contribution in the shape of such assistance to the Dutch in the recovery of the Netherlands Indies would assist to a considerable degree in the realisation of Australia's general policy of fostering Australian influence and creating conditions for future development of Australian trade in this region. In general Australian political interest would be promoted by such assistance to the Dutch.'

4. SUBMISSION TO COUNCIL The question of the basing of Netherlands Forces on Australia is referred for consideration by the Advisory War Council.

JOHN CURTIN

1 On file AA:A816, 19/305/114.

2 Dated 16 August.

3 See Defence Committee minute 292/1944 of 13 September in AA:A2031, vol. 13.

4 See Hodgson's memorandum of 20 September on file AA:A5954, box 562.

[AA:A2679, 22/1944]