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208 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr Winston Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister (en route to the United States)

Cablegram Johcu 10 CANBERRA, 20 December 1941


In continuation of cablegram of 17th December [1], I despatched
yesterday the following cablegram to the Commander-in-Chief, Far
East [2], as a result of a communication received by the Chief of
the General Staff [3] from the G.O.C., A.I.F., Malaya [4]:-

'Army authorities are in receipt of disturbing report from Bennett
regarding gravity of position and request by him for despatch of
one Australian Division from Middle East. He also refers to
inadequate air support.

It is understood that Sturdee has communicated with you regarding
this matter. As it is one requiring immediate Government
consideration, and, if necessary, urgent representations to the
United Kingdom Government, I shall be glad to receive most
immediate reply as to military position, the strength of your
forces, and measures in hand for reinforcements, if such are

It would be appreciated if brief report on military situation
could be cabled to me say three times a week or more frequently if
developments require it.'

No reply has so far been received from the Commander-in-Chief, but
in view of press reports received regarding the progress of the
Japanese and the considerable Australian land and air forces in
Malaya it is a matter of paramount importance to know precisely
the Commander-in-Chief's assessment of the situation and his
capacity to meet it.

2. Most disturbing report has been received from the Official
Representative of the Commonwealth Government in Singapore
regarding unpreparedness of the A.R.P. defence during the raid of
8th December. [5] This together with the aspects referred to in my
cablegram of 17th December cannot but give rise to misgivings
regarding the effectiveness of machinery for higher directions.

3. The Commonwealth Government has for long pressed the United
Kingdom Government on the provision of the strength considered
necessary for land, sea and air defence. Now that the actual
threat has come and the enemy is making substantial progress on
several fronts, we must press for it to be boldly met and hope it
will not be attempted by dispositions of a 'penny packet' nature.

4. We are particularly concerned about reports reaching us
regarding inadequacy of air strength and anti-aircraft defences.

5. 1 would be glad of your earliest advice of the position and the
measures you propose to take. [6]


1 Document 197.

2 Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham.

3 Lt Gen V. A. H. Sturdee.

4 Maj Gen H. G. Bennett.

5 See V. G. Bowden's cablegram 43 of 8 December on file AA:A1608,

6 Curtin also dispatched a copy of this cablegram, and of the
cablegram referred to in note 1, to Sir Earle Page, Special
Representative in the United Kingdom, requesting 'all support
Bruce and you can give to emphasizing that now attack on Malaya
has commenced, we expect measures to be taken for the adequate
defence of British interests in the Eastern Hemisphere'. See
cablegram 8111 of an December (AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22269).

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22268]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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