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386 U.K. Dominions Office to Sir Ronald Cross, U.K. High Commissioner in Australia

Circular cablegram Z31 LONDON, 2 March 1942, 11 p.m.


Following, which is of Utmost secrecy, for Prime Minister. [1]

The following is an appreciation of the situation in the Far East
which has been submitted by our Military Advisers. Appreciation

Japanese Intentions
1. Japan is pressing her offensive with the greatest vigour in
order to take full advantage of the general superiority she has
established. Her immediate objects appear to be to complete her
conquest of the Philippines, Sumatra and Java, and to exploit her
invasion of Burma, which would threaten Chinese ability to
continue fighting. She may also assault Port Darwin and Ceylon.

2. Japan must realise that the defeat of Germany would very
seriously prejudice her chances of ultimate victory. Her strategy,
therefore, is likely to be biased towards helping Germany in so
far as that is compatible with her own requirements.

3. Once Japan has effectively breached the Malayan barrier, she
has a clear run into the Indian Ocean, where we are dangerously
weak in all respects. By attacks on Ceylon and India, Japan might
raise serious internal security problems in India and induce
instability in Indian forces in other theatres of war. By the
occupation of Ceylon, Japan would prevent us from reinforcing
Burma by sea and achieve a position suitable for building up a
serious threat to our Indian Ocean communications. This would go
far towards meeting Japanese requirements, would help her
offensive against Burma and provide relief to Germany by
threatening India and the Middle East.

4. To the east, New Caledonia and Fiji are stepping-stones to
Australia and New Zealand. The conquest of these islands would
gravely compromise United States ability to build up forces in
those Dominions and to seize advanced bases for naval action in
the South-West Pacific.

5. To sum up, in the near future we may expect to see:-

In the A.B.D.A. Area
(a) Java attacked by superior forces
(b) Port Darwin attacked
(c) Seizure of advanced bases in the Andamans and Nicobars.

In the Indian theatre
(d) An extension of the attack on Burma and the probable loss of
(e) Naval attack on our sea communications
(f) Serious threat to Ceylon
(g) Threat of raids on the east coast of India.

In the Pacific
(h) An increased threat to Fiji and New Caledonia.

6. Our immediate object is to stabilise the situation so as to
ensure the security of bases and points vital to our prosecution
of the war in the Middle and Far East and to our eventual return
to the offensive against Japan.

Broad Strategy
7. The basis of our general strategy lies in the safety of our sea
communications, for which secure naval and air bases are

We must therefore make certain of our main bases, i.e. India,
Ceylon, Australia and New Zealand. We must do everything to hold
as much of Burma as possible. We must fight it out in Java.

Assistance from Russia
8. Offensive submarine and air activity from Siberia in the
immediate future would be of great assistance. In present
circumstances, we have not pressed Russia for this, lest it should
reduce her ability to resist Germany's spring offensive in the

Naval Situation
9. There is no naval base available from which a single combined
fleet could cover both the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Thus the
strategy in these two oceans must be dealt with separately.

For the defence of Indian Ocean sea communications, we are
building up our Eastern Fleet. At present, there is no secure base
in the Indian Ocean. Thus we must:-

(a) Secure Ceylon
(b) Develop Addu Atoll
(c) Develop additional bases for reconnaissance and striking

10. In the Pacific, it is essential to build up a superior United
States Fleet. The Allied naval forces in the Pacific may approach
parity with the Japanese by mid-April. Ultimately, a base further
westward than Hawaii is needed to exert a real threat to Japanese

In the meantime, an energetic raiding policy against Japanese
communications would influence Japanese operations in the present
theatre of war.

Our opinion is that an extension of this policy to include raids
against Japan itself would have a far-reaching diversionary
effect. This would have to be a United States responsibility but
they do not consider that it is a practical proposition at
present. The United States are however considering the
desirability of a naval base in New Zealand with a view to
advancing northward while still holding Hawaii.

The Malayan Barrier
11. With the enemy in Sumatra and the islands to the cast and west
of Java, it is very difficult to get shipping to either Batavia or
Sourabaya. These are the only good ports in Java. We have
therefore been unable to reinforce the island on such a scale that
we could expect to hold it for long. Nor could we provide adequate
reinforcements in time. If we attempted to reinforce Java, our
forces would be destroyed piecemeal leaving us without resources
to provide for the minimum security of our essential main bases.

Thus, our sound policy strategically is to withhold major
reinforcements from Java and to concentrate on Burma, Ceylon,
India, Australia and New Zealand.

12. It is of the utmost importance that the enemy should not
acquire gains cheaply.

The East Indies should be defended with the utmost resolution by
all forces at present in the area. Every day gained is of

13. Burma is the eastern outpost of the defence of India, the only
supply line to China, whose resistance we must maintain, and a
base for future offensive operations.

In view of the imminent threat to Rangoon, our policy must be to
reinforce Burma strongly as long as we can do so. If Rangoon and
Lower Burma fall, every effort must be made to continue resistance
in Upper Burma to the limit of administrative capacity, whilst
pressing on with the development of overland lines of
communication from Assam into Burma and China.

14. The loss of Ceylon would imperil the whole British war effort
in the Middle and Far East, owing to its position in relation to
our sea communications.

Immediate measures are being taken to provide the island with
adequate defences, particularly air forces, anti-aircraft guns and
increased R.D.F. [2]

15. The maintenance of India's war effort depends both on security
against external attack and on the preservation of internal
security and morale.

For both reasons, additional land and air forces must be sent to
India as soon as possible.

16. Port Darwin is principally of value while we retain any hold
on the Malayan Barrier, but is not strategically essential for the
eventual offensive. The remainder of Australia, in particular the
cast and southwest, will be one of the main bases from which the
offensive against Japan will eventually be launched. Australia is
insecure at present but, as we have not the forces available,
United States must be largely responsible for reinforcing this

New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia
17. Before invading New Zealand, Japan would be likely to seize
Fiji and New Caledonia, two points essential to the United States
reinforcement route and which the United States are assisting to

The threat to New Zealand is not immediate, but steps must be
taken to improve her defences in view of the possible loss of Fiji
and New Caledonia, and her importance as a channel of
communications to the U.S.A. and as a base for future action.

Reinforcement of Far East
18. It is clear from the foregoing that considerable
reinforcements will be essential if we are to stabilise the Far
East theatre. Shortage of shipping and the time factor compel us
to find them at the expense of the Middle East.

We must accept great risks in the Middle East, for the security of
which we must largely depend on the successful resistance of
Russia in the Ukraine and upon a favourable situation in Turkey.

Shipping Situation
19. The shipping situation is very grave, and, unless ways and
means of increasing our shipping resources and of using these
resources to the greater advantage of our war effort can be
discovered, we shall be unable to move the forces overseas
demanded by our strategic requirements. In fact, our strategy must
be governed in 1942 and probably in 1943 largely by shipping.

To move overseas from England the land and air forces necessary to
replace the formations in the Middle East and give additional
strength in the Far East we must exploit our shipping resources to
the utmost and, if necessary, incur a temporary reduction in our
import programme.

20. Thus our policy in the near future must be:-

(a) to provide for the safety of our sea communications by
building up our Eastern Fleet and by safeguarding the bases
necessary to its use;

(b) to withhold major reinforcements from Java but defend the
island with the available forces with the utmost resolution;

(c) to provide reinforcements as quickly as possible to safeguard
the essential points vital to the continuance of the struggle
against Japan, namely Ceylon, Australia, India and, if possible,

(d) to accept risks in the Middle East to stabilise the Far East;

(e) to exploit our shipping resources to the utmost in the
interests of our strategy.

21. The United States should undertake:-

(f) offensive operations against Japanese sea communications;

(g) the protection of the essential air and naval bases in the air
reinforcement route across the Pacific;

(h) the concentration of air and land forces in Australia;

(i) the building up of a strong Pacific Fleet;

(j) the reinforcement of the garrisons of Fiji and New Caledonia,
and the improvement of New Zealand's defences in view of the
possible loss of Fiji and New Caledonia, and her importance as a
channel of communications to the United States and as a base for
future action.

Appreciation and message ends.

1 John Curtin.

2 Radio Direction-Finder.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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