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

Cablegram 1637 LONDON, 24 February 1942, 12.52 a.m.


Further to my telegram 1613 [1] the Prime Minister [2] has
informed me that he is very sorry that I was not kept more closely
informed of the movements of the convoy and is sure that I will
understand how this happened in the very disturbed position of the
war. As well, you will realize how involved has been the United
Kingdom political situation. During these few days there has been
a complete re-casting of British Cabinet and Saturday particularly
was a day of exceptional preoccupation for the Prime Minister and
Officers most concerned.

2. The Responsible Officer has reported to the Prime Minister that
when he gave me the information on Thursday which was telegraphed
to you in my telegram P.48 [3] that the convoy was steaming on its
course to Australia, it was absolutely correct. [4] It was not
till late Friday evening after despatch of the Prime Minister's
cable 233 [5] that he, confident of an affirmative answer to his
appeal to divert the convoy, instructed the Admiralty to order the
convoy to proceed northwards.

3. The Admiralty, anticipating that your reply to 233 would be
received in time for the convoy either to go to Rangoon or proceed
to Australia without any complication, issued the necessary
instructions. Meanwhile the Admiralty had got anxious about the
fuel position and telegraphed to the Commander-in-Chief Eastern
Fleet [6] as to how far north the fleet could go and still have
enough fuel if your reply was unfavourable. The reply received
indicated that some ships had by that time not got enough fuel to
proceed direct to Australia and on the recommendation of the
Chiefs of Staff the Prime Minister despatched his telegram 241.


4. I was pleased to note the restrained tone of your reply 139 [8]
which undoubtedly will assist future relations between our
Governments. Since establishment of the new system of consultation
I have been kept very fully and promptly informed of all matters
of concern to Australia and am satisfied that the delay in
informing you and me in this instance while most unfortunate in
the circumstances was due to inadvertence.


1 Document 365.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 Document 351.

4 See the note from Maj Gen Sir Hastings Ismay (Deputy Secretary
(Military) of the U.K. War Cabinet) to Churchill on his discussion
with Page. This document was sent to Page on 23 February by Sir
Edward Bridges (Permanent Secretary of the U.K. Cabinet Office).

See Australian War Memorial: Page collection, Box 118A, File no.

3. Far Eastern Situation. Action since fall of Singapore 15/2/42
to 14/4/42.

5 Document 352.

6 Vice-Admiral Sir James Somerville.

7 Document 362.

8 Document 366.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.7053]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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