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221 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 136 LONDON, 24 December 1941, 10.14 p.m.


D.O. telegram 872. [1] While the communication set out in this
telegram is admittedly only comments by the Chiefs of Staff
Committee sent to the Prime Minister [2] in Washington, by whom
and where it could be argued the policy is to be determined and
decisions taken, I feel that in the comments there is a lack of
appreciation of the urgency of providing the immediate
requirements set out in part 2 of the telegram from Singapore [3],
particularly with regard to air reinforcements.

Paragraph 2 (a) contemplates early provision of 50 single-engined
fighters. These, however, are required to complete existing
squadrons and their reserves (paragraph 2 of part 2 Singapore). It
makes no contribution towards the four additional fighter
squadrons plus 100% reserves asked for. The provision of these is
an A.1 priority and as they cannot be flown but must be sent by
sea immediate action to ship them where days may count should be
taken. Under these circumstances the examination (paragraph 3 of
872) should be at once completed and insofar as the necessary
forces cannot be provided from the Middle East, the point from
which the Far East can be reinforced in the minimum of time, the
necessity of the United States providing the balance by immediate
shipment should be put up in the strongest terms.

Paragraph 2 (b). This provides for two of the four bomber
squadrons asked for with 100% additional reserves in the case of
Hudsons. Bombers, unlike fighters, can be flown to the Far East,
and the necessity is so great that an additional two squadrons of
Blenheims should, in my view, be despatched to the Far East

Paragraph 3 indicates that the effect of doing so on the Middle
East theatre is being examined. I cannot believe that this
examination should require much time in view of the fact that
aircraft in the Middle East are in the region of 800, and it is
difficult to believe that the extraction of two squadrons would
have a vital effect in this area, though it well might in the Far

Paragraph 2 (c). This is not so important. I cannot, however,
accept the attitude with regard to an escort flight of 'cannot be
provided'. The question is when it can be provided, and if too
late to meet the immediate situation in the Far East then it
should fall into the pool I suggest below being formed in
Australia. The same would apply to the transport flight, and it
also has to be considered in relation to the Middle East if
anything was immediately to be done. In this case I can see that
possibly the needs of the Middle East are more important than
those of the Far East.

With regard to consideration of further reinforcements (paragraph
5 of 872) I am urging that a definite time-table of air
reinforcements both from here and the United States, either direct
or by replacing of air forces despatched from the Middle East,
should be laid down.

I am concentrating on the air because I believe that this is the
most important.

In regard to air reinforcements, both immediate and more
longranged, I am urging that in view of possible developments in
the Far East, Australia should be used as the point through which
air reinforcements, so far as practicable, would flow. This would
enable them in the light of developments either to be passed on to
Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies or the Philippines, or to be
retained in Australia for her defence and that of New Zealand in
the event of seriously adverse developments.

In regard to the longer term programme, I am stressing Australia's
potential for building Beauforts which, being a torpedo-carrying
bomber, [is of the] [4] utmost value, [and] should be fully
developed. In order to do this, agreement should be reached on the
highest plane between the United Kingdom and the United States and
immediate instructions despatched for the earliest possible
shipment, both from here and the United States, of all your
requirements to carry out the maximum programme.

Insofar as you agree with the above views, I suggest the
desirability of your conveying them to Washington.


1 Dispatched 23 December. On file AA:A981, War 33, attachment B.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 See cablegram 862 of 21 December on the file cited in note 1.

4 Inserted from Bruce's copy On file AA:M100, December 1941.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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