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207 Mr V. G. Bowden, Official Representative in Singapore, to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

Cablegram 63 SINGAPORE, 19 December 1941, 8.48 p.m.


My telegram No. 56. [1] Situation.

Unofficial information reaching me continues to point to the air
strength here not being adequate for efficient protection or
attack. Japanese are using Messerschmidt 109's and 110 E's,
pursuit planes of Curtiss Hawk type 4-2D, bombers similar to
Dormers also Zero F naval fighters with higher ceiling and greater
manoeuvrability than Buffaloes.

My information is that the best fighter available in Malaya is the
Buffalo which is a good aircraft at low altitudes but has no
ceiling to deal with the Japanese types.

Assume that full details of the types of aircraft in use are
available from the Air Intelligence and merely quote the above to
demonstrate the necessity of urgent action.

Understand Gordon Bennett [2] has reported fully to the Army
regarding the military situation and has expressed his views
regarding reinforcements required. I feel strongly that before
further Australian troops are committed every possible guarantee
should be taken that they will not be abandoned with those already
here. In my view real defence strength of Malaya falls far short
of previous publicity and I feel assurances should be sought
immediately from United Kingdom Government that Malaya will not
continue to be regarded as secondary theatre of war and that
reinforcements and supplies of modern arms and equipment will be
rushed here even at cost of slowing down African offensive.

Am convinced that unless reinforcements of modern aircraft and
operationally trained personnel are sent immediately Singapore
will before long be in gravest danger.

Penang is already virtually abandoned but although this is widely
known here combined headquarters was withholding public
announcement fearing the moral effect of this coupled with
probability of early announcement of loss of Hong Kong. Following
loss of battleships effect of these two announcements on British
prestige amongst the Asiatics will be serious but the effect of
hiding losses will also undermine confidence. In addition to this
valuable fuel for Japanese anti-British propaganda has been
provided by the fact that the evacuation of Penang was applied
only to the white British subjects and not to Asiatics. This was
apparently ordered by military authorities as only practical
course but is likely to have grave local repercussions extending
as far as India. Understand question of further evacuations on
same lines has been discussed by war council and strongly opposed
by the Governor [3] in the interests of the native population.


1 In cablegram 56 of 15 December (on file AA:A1608, J39/2/1)
Bowden had reported a lack of confidence in the military situation
in Malaya.

2 General Officer Commanding 8th Division A.I.F. See Document 208.

3 Sir Shenton Thomas.

[AA:A3830, 1941, 3539]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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