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

Cablegram P36 LONDON, 3 February 1942


At War Cabinet last night Churchill read a personal telegram from
President Roosevelt to himself setting out the American view of
your proposal of a Pacific Council sitting at Washington which has
been transmitted to you. [1] Eden [2] also read a statement which
he had just received from the Dutch on the same question. I
understand the Dutch Minister [3] will hand a copy of this to
Bruce [4] for transmission to you. [5]

The nature of these replies indicates very clearly to my mind that
before a Pacific Council along your lines could be established in
Washington there will be long argument and much water will run
under the bridge.

Unfortunately the extreme urgency of the military situation in
Malaya, Burma, East Indies, Australia and the Pacific and Indian
Oceans generally demands immediate action.

It seems to me that, whatever form of Pacific Council the
Australian Government desires to see established, the machinery
now offered by the President in Washington, and the previous
proposal for machinery in London, could be set in motion
immediately. What I have in mind is that it would be possible to
combine the Organisation in London, on the Ministerial plane as
originally proposed, with an arrangement whereby the Australian,
New Zealand and Dutch Governments had their military
representatives in Washington, who were called into consultation
where their national interests or collaboration [were] involved.

In this way the machinery in Washington and in London would be
found to be complementary. I have no doubt that a combination of
the two would be agreed to by Roosevelt and Churchill on request.

The evacuation of Malaya and the siege of Singapore emphasise the
need for immediate and continuous consideration and consultation
by all the Governments of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the
Netherlands East Indies, who have forces actually fighting there.

This would be assured under this machinery. In London Ministers of
these nations, with the British Chiefs of Staff, would in effect
constitute a Pacific Defence Committee analogous in every respect
to the British War Cabinet Defence Committee which controls all
British warlike operations. The decision of this Committee would
be transmitted to the combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, with
a report of any expression of disagreement by any Government. The
point of view of that individual Government could be reinforced or
emphasised by technical Officers in its military mission in
Washington under Roosevelt's proposal. It is essential, of course,
that they should speak with the same voice as the representatives
of their Governments in London. This combination offers a very
practical method of dealing with a complicated situation.

Certain aspects of strategy, such as the disposition of Australian
troops, especially those from the Middle East, question of a
possible evacuation of Singapore, the provision of reinforcements
of men and materials etc. are vital to Australia. On these
Australia will need to express its opinions very soon and very
emphatically. Its view would be greatly strengthened by the
support of the other Governments in London.

Under the system of absolute control handed to Wavell [6] in his
command, this is the most immediate practical method whereby
Australia can exert influence during these next few weeks that are
so critical to itself, the Empire and the world. While this
machinery is being used to deal with the immediate situation there
is no reason why you should not argue your case for whatever other
system you may ultimately desire to function.


1 See U.K. Dominions Office cablegram 144 of 2 February in
Flinders University Library: Evatt Papers, Attorney-General's Dept
file M2, Machinery including Australian-New Zealand plan.

2 U.K. Foreign Secretary.

3 Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen.

4 High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

5 See Bruce's cablegram 23A of 3 February on file AA:M100,
February 1942.

6 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area.

[AA:M100, FEBRUARY 1942]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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