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

Cablegram unnumbered CANBERRA, 24 December 1941


Your P.15 [1] and P.16 [2] have been studied with interest.

2. I have despatched further cablegram to Churchill [3] advising
that we are meeting request of Commander in Chief Far East [4] for
400 members of Armoured Division for manning light tanks from
India subject to satisfactory arrangements being made by Navy for
transport and adequate escort. I have also referred to
Intelligence reports regarding types of aircraft possessed by
Japanese and their superior performance to British types and urge
it is imperative that fighter reinforcements should be of types
that will rectify our present inferiority.

3. War Cabinet has since decided at Bennett's [5] request to send
a machine gun battalion and opportunity is being taken to include
1,800 reinforcements in convoy under same conditions of transport
and escort. [6]

4. As you now know from cablegram to Bruce today [7], I have also
addressed directly to Churchill and Roosevelt a special message
regarding the far-reaching effects that would arise from the loss
of Singapore and the fact that the degree of resistance to Japan
in Malaya will depend directly on the amount of assistance
provided by Governments of United Kingdom and United States. [8]

5. G.O.C., A.I.F., Malaya has submitted the following further

'Present lull only temporary. British troops tired and depleted in
numbers and no repeat no reserves in hand to meet further attacks
if enemy renewing attack further withdrawals seem certain even
Kuantan included. Indian Brigade expected in week or two but not
acclimatised or trained in local conditions. My troops now
preparing positions vicinity Gemas and Muar. When enemy advance is
checked lost ground must be regained. This will require at least
three divisions in my opinion. Again strongly urge that at least
one of our divisions from Middle East be sent here as early as
possible. Percival [9] concurs.'
6. With reference to recommendations (d) and (e) in your P.15 you
state that 'if situation warrants it' among further measures
contemplated is the despatch of an A.I.F. Division from Palestine
subject to Commonwealth Government concurring. You do not refer in
your cablegram to a British Division which Commander in Chief Far
East states is on passage off South Africa and could be diverted
and would reach Malaya before any Division serving in the Middle

7. Please advise urgently-
(i) whether division being diverted to Burma and Malaya (vide
Circular M-476 [10]) is complete in all requirements to enable it
to take the field on arrival;

(ii) what is precise situation in regard to your reference to
A.I.F. Division Middle East in view of Bennett's request and the
time that would elapse before it could reach Malaya.


1 See Document 215, note 1.

2 Document 209.

3 See cablegram (Johcu 11) of 24 December (AA:A3196, 1941,

4 Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham.

5 General Officer Commanding 8th Division, A.I.F.

6 See AA:A2673, vol. 9, minute 1629.

7 See Document 217, note 1.

8 Document 214.

9 U.K. General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Malaya.

10 Document 215.

[AA:A3196, 1941, 0.22647]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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