Skip to main content

Historical documents

134 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister

Cablegram Johcu 4 CANBERRA, 29 November 1941, 6.45 p.m.


I have your Most Secret telegram of 28th November WINCH No. 6 [1]
and very greatly regret that you have had distress of mind from
any attitude taken by this Government. In Australia, we are
endeavouring to educate the public to a realisation of, and as a
Government to assume, our share of the burden associated with
foreign policy. We have many difficulties which I need not detail
here but of which you will be aware. We assume that your
Government welcomes our independence of thought and advice rather
than that we should wait on you for guidance and support. The
latter would be most unhelpful to you and would be equally
unhealthy from an Australian national viewpoint. Consequently,
sometimes it is inevitable that the Commonwealth Government will
formulate a policy at variance with yours. You know that often
only a narrow distinction may exist between the expression of a
policy and criticism of some other view but we will be at great
pains to see to it here that no criticism of your policy in
respect of the war and foreign affairs is given publicity.

Actually, it would be difficult to construe what Dr. Evatt [2]
said with regard to Finland, Hungary and Roumania as criticism of
your Government. The reference is as follows:


'It is a strange feature of the present struggle that, while we
are Allies of Russia in the fight against Germany, we are still at
peace with these three eager satellites and accomplices of
Germany'. Ends.

This reference included a recital of the facts and could be made
by any one without any suggestion of blame.

I appreciate the dilemma you have been in with regard to these
countries particularly Finland. I have noted from your telegram
under reply and from telegrams received today from the Secretary
of State [3], the present position of the matter and realise that
you are doing everything possible to help our cause.

I greatly appreciate your expression of sympathy in the loss of
the SYDNEY-it is a heavy blow to us. The sinking of H.M.S. BARHAM
is another shock and we feel for you deeply in this loss of life
and material. It is all a terrible (? group omitted) but must be
borne. I am glad to read your comment that General Auchinleck is
hopeful. Naturally, we follow this campaign very carefully and
with hope for a happy conclusion.

Finally, may I say that we do not need any concrete demonstration,
such as you instance, to make us aware of your comradeship and
goodwill towards us. We know that your great work is not only for
Great Britain but for all of us and we are doing and will continue
to do everything in our power to give you practical assistance.

Kindest regards and I take the opportunity of adding Many Happy
Returns of Sunday's anniversary. [4]


1 Document 131.

2 Meister for External Affairs. See his statement to the House of
Representatives on 27 November in Commonwealth Parliamentary
Debates, vol. 169, pp. 972-8.

3 See Lord Cranberrie's cablegrams M395 and M399 on file AA :

A981, War 44.

4 Churchill celebrated his sixty-seventh birthday on 30 November.

[PRO : PREM 4 50/15]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top