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119 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom

Cablegram unnumbered CANBERRA, 20 November 1941


I acknowledge with thanks your cablegrams P.2 to P.6 inclusive and
have studied with interest the statement made by you to United
Kingdom War Cabinet and the summary of the discussion. [1]

Your cablegrams are being submitted for early consideration by War
Cabinet [2] and in the meantime the following observations are

(i) Representations for increase in air strength in Far East. The
reasons of the Air Ministry outlined in your P.5 as to why in
their opinion immediate action to strengthen air forces in Malaya
is not practicable at present are noted, together with the promise
to review the position if the Middle East operations are
unsuccessful or in the event of the intensification of the
Japanese threat. It is observed that you are continuing to press
the urgency of immediate reinforcement. This attitude meets with
our full support.

In regards to expediting Beaufort production, War Cabinet has been
giving urgent consideration to expediting the programme. [3] Any
assistance you can render in regard to the delivery of machine
tools as requested in my cablegram of 18th November [4] will be of
the greatest importance in accelerating the programme.

(ii) Possibilities of Japanese attack on neighbouring nations. In
regard to the four possibilities referred to by you [5] :-

(a) Japanese attack on Russia;

(b) Japanese attack on Kunming and the Burma Road;

(c) Japanese attack on Netherlands East Indies;

(d) Japanese invasion of Thailand;

our views on (a) and (b) were contained in cablegrams Nos. 714 and
722. [6]

In regard to (c) it is noted that you have had discussions with
the Foreign Office on the question of an undertaking with the
Dutch. Our most recent advice on this subject is Dominions Office
cablegram No. M.295. [7]

The main factor on (d) appears to be the President's statement to
the Prime Minister at the Atlantic Conference. [8]

(iii) General Policy in the Pacific. The objectives as stated by
you are:-

(a) To keep Japan out of the war;

(b) If we are unsuccessful in doing this we must ensure that we
will have the co-operation of America.

The viewpoint which you put forward towards the end of your P.3
does not appear to have been very comprehensively dealt with by
the Prime Minister, according to the third paragraph of Part 2
ofyour P.4, though the constitutional difficulties of the
President are of course fully understood.

This subject is being further examined for consideration by War
Cabinet, and you will be advised as soon as possible.

(iv) Naval Defence. We have agreed to the four Australian
destroyers joining the Far Eastern Fleet after refitting, subject
to their return to the Australia Station when other destroyers
become available.

The Australian Chief of the Naval Staff is proceeding to Singapore
for the Naval Staff Conversations in December, and War Cabinet has
had a discussion with him regarding the United States Naval Staff
contention that it is unnecessary to maintain so many Australian
and New Zealand cruisers in Australian and New Zealand waters. [9]
This matter is being further examined before Admiral Royle's


1 Cablegrams P3 and P4 containing Page's statement to the U.K. War
Cabinet and his summary of the subsequent discussion are published
as Documents 110 and 113. Cablegrams P2, P5 and P6 of 14 and 15
November are on file AA : A981, Pacific 8, i.

2 Page's cablegrams were attached as Appendixes 1-5 to War Cabinet
agendum 384/1941 of 19 November and the cablegram here Published
was appended as supplement 1 to this agendum on 20 November (see
file AA : A2671, 384/1941). There is no record of a formal
discussion of this agendum by War Cabinet, but cablegrams P2-P6
were considered by the Advisory War Council on 28 November (see
minute 574 on file AA : A2680, 141/1941).

3 See War Cabinet minutes 1478 of 6 November and 1498 and 1503 of
17 November in AA : A2673, vol. 9.

4 AA : A3196, 1941, 0.19154.

5 See Document 110.

6 Documents 97 and 106.

7 Dispatched 6 September. On file AA : A1608, B41/1/9, i. it
advised that the U.K. Govt was addressing a note to the
Netherlands Govt pointing out that while the latter's request for
'ratification' of the Singapore conference reports was
inappropriate in the circumstances and while the U.K. Govt was not
yet in a positon to approve those conversations in which the U.S.

Govt had been involved, it was ready to give 'general approval' to
the recommendations arising from the British-Dutch conversations.

The note emphasised that 'the recommendations were specifically
stated to involve no political commitment' but that the
governments concerned had agreed 'to co-operate fully in the event
of any one of them being forced to take military action to counter
Japanese aggression'. The U.K. Govt, however, would have to remain
'the sole judge' of what actions or military measures were
appropriate and practicable.

8 For Roosevelt's statement to Churchill see Document 40.

9 This was presumably a reference to the War Cabinet discussion of
17 November at which Royle was present. See AA : A2673, vol. 9,
minute 1499.

[AA : A3196, 1941, 0.19371]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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