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

Cablegram 21 CANBERRA, 13 February 1942


1. Your P.38 [1] received and noted.

2. The last comprehensive appreciation received from London was in
Dominions Office cablegram M.476 of 23rd December. [2] In this it
was stated that to achieve our object we must hold among other
vital points:-

(i) Singapore Island and Southern Malaya to give depth to defence;

(ii) Java and Southern Sumatra;

(iii) Timor.

3. As the Japanese have absorbed Malaya and are established on
Singapore Island the immediate consideration is the situation at
Singapore and the prospects of holding it, including the plans for
its reinforcement and relief. Please advise urgently on these

4. The next points are the effect on the general strategic plan
should Singapore be lost, or should the Japanese in addition to
besieging Singapore use their seapower against the Netherlands
East Indies, Portuguese Timor or Australia. It is of vital
importance in thinking of the ABDA Area always to associate with
it the relation of the Anzac Area as it is probable that the
Japanese will continue their southward move from New Guinea to the
islands to the east of Australia or to Northern Australia. You
should obtain an early appreciation on the Pacific situation
generally and on these points in particular.

5. You will have observed from cablegram No. 117 to the Dominions
OffiCe [3] that the ultimate disposition of the A.I.F. is
necessarily dependent upon the strategical position resulting from
the rapidly changing situation, on which Wavell [4] has been asked
to keep us posted.

6. In another cablegram to Wavell regarding the despatch of a
further A.I.F. battalion to Koepang we have drawn his attention to
the report of a Japanese aircraft carrier and four heavy cruisers
off the south coast of Java on 9th February. [5] In regard to the
transfer of two divisions of the A.I.F. from the Middle East to
the N.E.I., Dominions Office cablegram No.31 of 7th January [6]
stated that at no time in the next few months are the Navy likely
to be able to furnish escorts for troop convoys approaching the
south-west Pacific area on a scale such as to provide that degree
of security in relation to the possible scale of attack which has
been feasible hitherto. The question of escorts and the relation
of the changing strategical situation to the destination of the
A.I.F. divisions should be kept constantly under review.

7. On 14th January the Secretary of State cabled me personally the
programme of Army and Air reinforcements for Malaya. [7] It is
desired to obtain a supplementary statement bringing this
information up-to-date, including additional reinforcements
authorised, in order that the picture will be constantly before
us. You should also state your impression of the relative volume
of the stream flowing to Burma as compared with that going to the
Malayan and N.E.I. part of the ABDA Area.

8. Churchill when in Washington cabled that he believed the United
States would be quite willing to reinforce our Home Defence troops
with 40 or 50 thousand Americans. [8] I cabled a statement by the
Chiefs of Staff on the need for these forces on 21St January. [9]
You should ascertain urgently the present position.


1 Dispatched 11 February. On file AA:A2937, Pacific War Council.

It defined the scope of the Pacific War Council in London, and
outlined its procedures for operation.

2 Document 215.

3 Document 329, note 1.

4 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area. See Document 329.

5 See cablegram 25 of 12 February (AA:A3196, 1942, 0.4382).

6 In Australian War Memorial: Page Collection, Box 118A, File No.

2. Far Eastern Situation. Action since outbreak of war with Japan
7.12.41 up to fall of Singapore 15.2.42.

7 See cablegram Winch 8 (AA:A3195, 1941, 1.1624).

8 See Document 262.

9 See Document 287.

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.4519]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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