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

Cablegram P52 LONDON, 24 February 1942, 9.55 p.m.


1. Reference your telegram 32 [1], the policy regarding evacuation
of Java was carefully considered by the Pacific War Council on two
occasions. As advised in my P.43 [2] the following recommendations
were made to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Washington as principles
to guide Wavell [3]:-

(1) Strenuous resistance should be maintained in Java by forces
already available there in order to gain as much time as possible
and delay further Japanese offensives.

(2) Non-Dutch troops already in Java should continue fighting
alongside the Dutch.

2. On the second occasion, as reported in paragraph 4 of my
telegram 1609 [4], the Council recommended considerably more
latitude to the Supreme Commander than on the first. It allowed
him to evacuate certain classes of personnel immediately and gave
an ultimate discretion to the local commanders to decide when
shipping must be evacuated to prevent its destruction by air
attack and who should go in them.

3. I have been informed to-day by the Chiefs of Staff that
telegram No. 70 despatched to Wavell on 22nd February by the
Combined Chiefs of Staff, Washington, after approval by the
President [5] on behalf of America and by the Prime Minister [6]
on behalf of the Pacific Council, reads as follows:-

'All men of fighting units for whom there are arms must continue
to fight without thought of evacuation, but air forces which can
more usefully operate in battle from bases outside Java and all
air personnel for whom there are no aircraft and such troops
particularly technicians as cannot contribute to the defence of
Java to be withdrawn. With respect to personnel who cannot
contribute to the defence, the general policy should be to
withdraw United States and Australian personnel to Australia.'
4. It seems quite impossible for the Councils at Washington or
here to do more at this point of time or at this distance.

Discretion as to the mode and priority of evacuation has been left
to the commanders on the spot and it is assumed that Lavarack [7]
will ensure that Australian personnel receive their allocation of
any ships available.

5. Your telegram was somewhat mutilated in transmission but am I
right in assuming that you did not ask for absolute preference for
evacuation of Australians above all other classes and fighting
nationals. [8]


1 Document 370.

2 Document 341.

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

4 See Document 370, note 1.

5 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

6 Winston Churchill.

7 Commander, I Australian Corps.

8 No reply to this query has been found.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.8164]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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