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

Cablegram 73 SINGAPORE, 23 December 1941, 11.51 p.m.


For Minister for External Affairs.

Referring to my recent messages I feel that I must emphasize that
the deterioration of the air position in the Malayan defence is
assuming landslide proportions and in my firm belief is likely to
cause a collapse in the whole defence system. Expected arrival of
modern fighter planes in boxes requiring weeks to assemble under
the danger of destruction by bombing cannot save the position. The
arrival of military reinforcements expected will be absorbed in
relieving the tired front line troops and will create little
difference. British defence policy now concentrates greater
companies of fighter and anti-aircraft defence on Singapore island
to protect the naval base, depriving the forward troops of such
defence including the A.I.F.

Present measures for the reinforcement of Malayan defences can
from a practical viewpoint be regarded as little more than
gestures. In my belief only thing that might save Singapore would
be the immediate despatch from the Middle East by air of powerful
reinforcements, large numbers of the latest fighter aircraft with
ample operationally trained personnel. Reinforcements of troops
should be not in brigades but in divisions and to be of use they
must arrive urgently. Anything that is not powerful modern and
immediate is futile. As things stand at present fall of Singapore
is to my mind only a matter of weeks. If Singapore and the A.I.F.

in Malaya are to be saved there must be very radical and effective
action immediately.

Doubtful whether the visit of an Australian Minister can now have
any effect as the plain fact is that without immediate air
reinforcements Singapore must fall. Need for decision and action
is a matter of hours not days. [1]


1 On 24 December Evatt dispatched copies of this cablegram and
Bowden's cablegram 72 of 23 December (AA:A3830, 1941, 3857) to R.

G. Casey, Minister to the United States, with a preamble pointing
out that they emphasised the overriding importance of cablegram
1103 (Document 214). See cablegram 1106 on file AA:A981, War 33,
attachment B.

The same day the Prime Minister, John Curtin, dispatched copies of
cablegram 1103 and Bowden's cablegram 73 to S. M. Bruce, High
Commissioner in the United Kingdom, with the following postcript:

'Anything you and Page [Special Representative in the United
Kingdom] can do at that end should be done without any delay
whatsoever.' See cablegram 8200 (AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22555).

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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