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360 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr A. T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London

Cablegram unnumbered CANBERRA, 22 February 1942

To be decyphered by Stirling alone. To be handed by him to Sir
Stafford Cripps [1] alone.

1. We are relieved and delighted at your appointment and are sure
that the change will benefit the allied cause immediately.

2. I am very grateful at your message [2] and your sympathetic
understanding of the difficulties we have encountered with those
in the United Kingdom responsible for the higher direction of the
war. They have been employing a propaganda machine in the
Information Department which has made it very difficult to counter
them whenever public issues have emerged.

3. Three days ago we decided that our A.I.F. veterans from the
Middle East who are prevented from going to the N.E.I. to stop the
southern thrust of the Japanese should return to Australia which
in all the expert appreciations has been recognised as one of the
two fundamental bases from which the offensive against Japan must
ultimately be directed. I regret to say that in my opinion
pressure of a very unconscionable character has been and is being
exercised upon this government to revoke its decision. For this
Churchill himself is largely responsible. Page [3] has been used
to hold up the convoy and other representatives of ours have been
involved. Finally Churchill has addressed a most insolent and
peremptory telegram to the Prime Minister [4] which has arrived
this afternoon. May I hope that you will make it your business to
see it and to see our reply to it. [5] (It is numbered D.C. 233.)
4. The defences of this country are in such a state and are known
to be such that any decision by our government to permit the
A.I.F. to fight in Burma and India would cause upheaval. Rightly
or wrongly the people feel that having given all the assistance
possible to the allied cause they have been let down badly by
Churchill. Indeed his message hardly conceals his own
disinclination to help us. Moreover he endeavours to intimidate us
by using his influence with Roosevelt to prevent the United States
from sending reinforcements here for the purpose of waging war
against Japan. I know of nothing more discreditable than the
message. It is seriously calculated to alienate the relationship
between the two Governments. It is plain that the dispute must
shortly come to a head if Churchill is allowed to remain where he
is and to be permitted to address this sort of document to the
Prime Minister of a great Dominion.

5. I will make only two references to his cable. The citation of
'inexcusable betrayal' refers to the following: Churchill had
repeatedly assured us that Singapore would be defended to the
last. Our soldiers were suffering severely in Malaya where they
were acting as a rearguard to stop Japanese advances. At this
moment we were told that the Defence Committee in London was
seriously considering the evacuation of the fortress itself. We
described how this would be regarded in view of the assurances. As
it was the whole campaign was shockingly conducted and the only
leader who showed the slightest tendency to fight the Japanese was
Bennett in charge of our division. We have lost this division and
we can afford to lose nothing more or this place will be

6. It is obvious that things cannot go on as they are. Churchill
seems to have a deep hatred of labour governments and a resentment
of independent judgment which make it almost impossible for us to
work with him.

7. I do appeal to you in the interests of solidarity to do
something quickly lest the facade of unity to which you rightly
attached importance is destroyed by your own government.

8. Please also obtain through Bruce [6] cables D.O. 127, Page 28
and Page 29. [7] Bruce will help you.



1 U.K. Lord Privy Seal from 19 February.

2 Document 339.

3 Special Representative in the United Kingdom.

4 John Curtin. See Document 352.

5 See Document 357.

6 High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

7 See Documents 336 and 345 and Document 348, note 3

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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