Skip to main content

Historical documents

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

Cablegram P11 LONDON, 11 December 1941, 1.30 a.m.


At War Cabinet tonight after Churchill had told full story of
American and British naval and air losses I suggested that the
most important question was how we could make the best use of our
joint limited resources to meet the immediate dangers in the
Pacific and Indian Oceans. I urged first that Russia should be
asked to come in quickly against Japan and bomb vital Japanese
objectives from Vladivostock and also make available nearly 100
Russian submarines to hamper the Japanese fleet and mercantile
shipping. Churchill said that in view of the importance of the
western Russian fight and history of Britain's relations with
Russia he himself was not willing to make the request but he would
make no objection if America made it. I suggest you give Casey [1]
your views on this point direct.

I urged also that Russian aid should be requested and made
available to China especially in aeroplanes by the Turkestan Road
or Northern China. Churchill was willing to ask Russia's aid in
this way.

I also urged that the maximum aircraft available from the Libyan
fight, which has taken a definite turn for the better, should at
once be flown over to the Burma Road or to Malaya and he said that
this was being examined and would be done. I pointed out that
joint submarine and aeroplane action could prevent Japanese egress
from the China Sea southwards and even much use of the China Sea
itself, that the narrow seas between Asia and Australia could
present a definite barrier to large Japanese movements by sea into
the Indian Ocean and thereby their activities could be largely
confined to the Pacific. This involved the fullest and quickest
manufacture by Australia of Beaufort Bombers on an accelerated
programme, [and] the machine tools for this programme, if not
procurable immediately in America, should be taken out of
factories in Britain in view of the importance of building up the
aeroplane strength in the Far East and of the physical
impossibility of supplies of aeroplanes from Britain either by
boat or by air under the new circumstances that had arisen. [2]

The Minister for Air [3] said that this matter was already being
explored. The Minister of Aircraft Production [4] and [he] himself
both agreed with my view that tools and material rather than
aeroplanes should be sent to Australia, and promised an early
decision on this matter.

I raised the point that the obvious Japanese plan of action was to
disperse the American and British Pacific forces over the whole
ocean in pursuit of their various attacks, that the only real
counter to this plan was by concerted Anglo-American policy of
immediate action, that the First Sea Lord [5], as soon as the
British plan of action was clear in their own minds, should fly to
America and finalise plans in Washington on the spot to make
certain that the concentration of the remaining naval and air
forces was assured. Churchill said that Admirals Little and
Danckwerts were already in Washington, knew the mind of the
Admiralty, would be brought immediately up to date from Britain,
and could carry out this objective.

I urged also that the islands along Honolulu, Canton, Fiji new Air
reinforcement route to Australia should be held strongly against
Japan if at all possible by the maximum concentration of forces to
permit American supplies of aircraft coming down to Australia and
the Far East if they were available and Churchill promised that
this would be considered.

It was stated-but this is most secret-that America proposed to
transfer its battleships from the Atlantic to the Pacific as
quickly as possible to bring Anglo-American strength in that ocean
within a reasonable distance of Japan.

The Duke of York is just about ready. Two other British
battleships ought to be finished inside the next 7 or 8 months,
independent of the American battleships, some of which are well
forward. The immediate necessity therefore is to hold fast
unfalteringly for the next few months.

I discussed these proposals with Bruce, who broadly agrees.


1 Minister to the United States.

2 On 11 December the Commonwealth Govt dispatched a cablegram (no.

795) to the U.K. Dominions Secretary, Lord Cranborne, emphasising
the need to strengthen the Royal Australian Air Force and to
review existing Empire aircraft dispositions. Page and the High
Commissioner in the United Kingdom, S. M. Bruce, were requested
(cablegram 7857) to see this cablegram. See file AA:A981, Pacific
8, ii.

3 Sir Archibald Sinclair.

4 J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon.

5 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound.

[AA:M100, DECEMBER 1941]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top