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349 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to General Sir Thomas Blamey, Allied Deputy Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East

Cablegram 8 CANBERRA, 20 February 1942


With further reference to my No. 4 [1] Government, after most
anxious consideration, has decided that it cannot agree to
proposal of Pacific War Council that 7th A.I.F. Division be
diverted to Burma.

2. This proposal was based on recommendation of Wavell [2] and his
conclusion that A.I.F. Divisions be not despatched to Netherlands
East Indies to which we had agreed earlier.

3. Wavell also recommended that 6th Division proceed to Burma if
both could be administratively received and maintained. [3] He has
later recommended that the Australian Corps be diverted to Burma
and, if Burma is unable to receive the whole at present, part
should be landed at Calcutta as reserve for Burma. [4]

4. Lengthy reply has been furnished to Page [5] for Pacific War
Council stating our viewpoint. We are repeating this to you.6
Briefly put, as Malaya and Singapore have gone and the Netherlands
East Indies is indefensible, both the bastion of Empire defence in
the south-western Pacific and the outer screen to Australia leave
Australia bare. It is the main base from which a counter-offensive
against Japan can be launched with American aid and it must be
safeguarded. In view of the unsatisfactory strength of our
defences in Australia, the destination of the A.I.F. should be

5. It is desired that you arrange to return here as speedily as
possible. Please advise probable date of departure and method of
travel. Also state arrangements recommended for command and
administration of A.I.F. in Middle East after your departure.

6. On receipt of reply United Kingdom Government will be advised
regarding your appointment of Deputy Commander-in-Chief
7. Also furnish appreciation on position in Middle East before you


1 Dispatched 7 February (AA: A3196, 1942, 0.3858). It outlined
possible ways in which Blamey might be fitted into the A.B.D.A.

Command structure after the proposed move of the remainder of the
A.I.F. to the A.B.D.A. Area.

2 Allied Supreme Commander of the A.B.D.A. Area. For his
recommendations see U.K. Dominions Office cablegram 219 of 18
February on file AA:A816, 52/302/142.

3 See the cablegram cited in note 2.

4 See Wavell's cablegram 01517 of 18 February on file AA:A2937,
Far East position 1942.

5 Special Representative in the United Kingdom. See Curtin's
cablegram 29 of 19 February on the file cited in note 2.

6 See Curtin's cablegram 12 of 21 February (AA:A3196, 1942,

[AA:A3196, 1942, 0.5295]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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