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230 Mr R. G. Casey, Minister to the United States, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 1220 WASHINGTON, 27 December 1941, 2.43 a.m.


Reference Prime Minister's telegram No. 164. [1]

1. I have seen the British Chief of the Air Staff [2] and all
other relevant individuals here today and have had communication
by telephone with Churchill.

2. The British Chiefs of Staff have stated, and Churchill agrees,
that the security of Singapore is of greater importance than any
place outside the United Kingdom.

3. Churchill has had a report on Singapore-Malaya position today
and he has had many hours with the British Chiefs of Staff today
on this subject and is continuing tomorrow morning with his Chiefs
of Staff on the same subject. Whatever may have been their errors
of judgment in respect of Singapore in the past, they are
completely aware of the situation there now, from their own
information and from Australia.

4. Churchill and his Chiefs of Staff realise perfectly well the
menace to Singapore. Real difficulty is that of providing
reinforcements, particularly air reinforcements, early enough to
be of real use.

5. I have done everything possible with Churchill and with his
Chiefs of Staff and with the Americans. They ask me to suggest
where additional air reinforcements can come from, that can be got
to Malaya within a reasonable time, [in view of what they state
are the following facts.] [3]

6. I am told (in great confidence) that there are no modern
aircraft in India and that there are no British aircraft of any
consequence closer than the Middle East, other than the American
volunteer Air Force in Burma and one Buffalo squadron defending
Rangoon. Fighter aircraft (which I believe are the principal
necessity in Malaya) cannot be flown from the Middle East into
Malaya owing to Japanese control of southern Burma and northern
Malaya. There is no British aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean
which can get fighter aircraft to Malaya under a month.

7. So far as Americans are concerned, they cannot be induced to
risk sending one of their few aircraft carriers from Honolulu to
Singapore or even Australia. We have done all possible to this
end. Even if they were to do so, I am told it could not get to
Queensland coast within fourteen days at earliest.

8. Whilst there is slightest chance of Philippines holding out,
President [4] will not give orders for the American aircraft (ex
recent convoy at Brisbane) to fly from Darwin direct to East
Indies. Their present orders are to fly to Philippines, although
it is generally realised here that this is a lost cause. If and
when (but not until) this can be publicly realised it may be
possible to have an order given for these aircraft to go to
Singapore, [where] they can really do some good. Apart from air
reinforcements set out my telegram No. 1211 [5] these are the most
readily available aircraft reinforcements for Singapore.

9. As regards reinforcements from the Middle East (additional to
my telegram No. 1211) tomorrow morning Churchill and his Chiefs of
Staff are to discuss possibility of sending additional five
squadrons of Blenheims to Singapore by air from Middle East. They
would go without spares and without ground personnel and so would
represent no more than individual aircraft reinforcements to
existing Blenheim squadrons now in Singapore. If it is decided to
send them they could probably get to Singapore in about fourteen

10. The British Chief of the Air Staff states it is probable that
there are about 800 aircraft, including training aircraft, in the
Middle East theatre. He states that they are prepared to send all
possible aircraft to Singapore and Malaya even to the extent of
jeopardising the Libyan and Mediterranean situation, and to the
extent of taking a risk an Germany coming through Turkey.

11. The proposal to send four Hurricane squadrons in an aircraft
carrier (paragraph 6 my telegram No. 1211) from the Middle East
has now largely become a naval question as to whether carrier can
be defended on such a voyage.

12. I will continue to do all possible here and would be grateful
for suggestions on which I can work.


1 Document 226.

2 Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal.

3 inserted from the Washington copy on file AA:A3300, 101.

4 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

5 Document 223.

[AA:A3830, 1941, 3645]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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