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395 Sir Frederic Eggleston, Minister to China, to Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom

Letter CHUNGKING, 7 March 1942

One would gather from Churchill's speeches, and statements by Mr.

Curtin [1], that there is a considerable difference of opinion
between the two Governments as to the strategy and conduct of the
war in the Pacific. This appears to be confirmed by confidential
cables from Canberra but my information is neither full nor up-to-
date and I am not sure that I have the proper story.

Differences of opinion appear to have arisen on three points-one,
the dominant strategy to be applied to the Pacific, another, the
reinforcements to Australia, and lastly, the representation of
Australia in the bodies conducting the war. The last is a matter
which you know of and is not in my sphere but the other points
touch matters which affect my area and which I have closely
studied for years. I hope, therefore, that it will not be regarded
as out-of-place if I write you direct on these matters. I think it
desirable that each should know what the other is thinking. I am
sending a copy of this letter to the Minister in Canberra. [2]

The following appear to be the main points:

(a) The view has been definitely put forward that the best policy
is to concentrate on Germany and if this means that losses will
occur in the Pacific they can be recovered at leisure when victory
is secured over Germany. This is the old 'blue water' theory of
naval strategy and I have personal knowledge of the fact that it
has been held by Churchill, Alexander [3] has enunciated it, and
it may still be governing Allied strategy. I believe it to be
completely fallacious as applied to the Pacific and I put my views
in the statement 'A' annexed, which I showed to Sir Archibald
Clark Kerr, former British Ambassador here, who told me that he
entirely agreed with me.

(b) Australia's claim for reinforcements. I hold that, owing to
the way in which the war has been fought, Australia has an
unanswerable claim for reinforcements at once. Australian
personnel and munitions have been sent abroad and they would be
invaluable in Australia now. I have also put this in the form of a
summarised statement 'B' which I enclose. What the actual position
as to these reinforcements is, I am unable to say but the
reinforcements to Malaya and Burma have been grossly inadequate
and not on the scale that Churchill led us to expect in his
speech. In the last few days the Dutch had to meet Japanese fleet
and troopships with no assistance whatever except American
submarines. Planes have been sent to Java but obviously are not
sufficient to obtain air superiority. I can quite understand the
Australian Government being very alarmed at the prospect of being
treated in the same way and I feel very indignant at the tendency
in some quarters to treat them as squealers.

It is all nonsense to say that Britain and America cannot spare
anything. The whole question is one of priorities, reserves and
risk. The nett balance of resources with the Allies is very much
greater since the United States came in. A moderate amount of
specialised assistance is what is needed to make up for the
deficiencies created by the fact that Australia has been producing
for a common scheme which has broken down. I know that there is
one factor that I have been unable to estimate and that is the
claim of Russia-but it would be a strange thing to allow Australia
to fall that Russia may live-and besides, it is mainly a question
of reserves held.

Of course Britain wants to pile up reserves. Every responsible
military leader wants reserves and the sky is the limit. The
question is a just distribution of risk, (see article in 'Times'
of March 5th, 1942). It must be remembered that though Australia
in the long run cannot stand without Britain, neither can Britain
stand without the Empire. Without it she would be an over-
populated, isolated island with the occasional friendship and
fortuitous support of the United States.

Possibly you could send me information as to the position
regarding this vital matter and any other information you think
important. It could be sent addressed to this Legation and put in
the bag sent by the Foreign Office to the British Embassy here. I
think these exchanges are valuable and indeed necessary.

As to Australian representation: so far as I can see, Churchill is
less generous than Lloyd George [4] was but I do not think that
direct contact with the United States will necessarily improve the
position. The thing is to hammer our case direct to the British
Government. I have some experience of American psychology and
Americans invariably re-act unfavourably to direct appeals to
them. We want to show Britain and the United States that the
Pacific is irretrievable if Australia is lost. India and Australia
are the only bases left for a comeback and both are essential.


1 Prime Minister.

2 Dr H. V. Evatt. The copy is on file AA:A981, External Affairs
Dept 169.

3 U.K. First Lord of the Admiralty.

4 U.K. Prime Minister 1916-22.


Memoranda by Sir Frederic Eggleston


1. The doctrine that the main enemy should be defeated in the
principal theatre of war, and that other theatres can meanwhile be
let go and recovered after a victory, was mainly a doctrine of
naval strategy, and as such has been revived by the First Lord of
the Admiralty in England, and the Minister for the Navy in the
U.S.A.' It has only been valid in short periods of British
history, where victory over opposing navies would give command of
the seas generally, and in particular when the only fleets that
could be brought against the British Fleet were on the western
littoral of Europe. Germany proved its fallacy by refusing to
fight a decisive battle in the North Sea, thus immobilising the
British Fleet in that ocean.

2. It is entirely fallacious as applied to the present situation.

It might even be suggested that the strongest opposing fleet in
the world today should be sought out and defeated; i.e., the
Japanese Fleet, and then the fleets moved back to the Atlantic to
clear up the situation there. This illustrates the fallacy because
defeat of Japan would not ease the Allied task in the Atlantic. By
the same token, defeat of Germany would not enable the Allies to
reverse a fait accompli consolidated by Japan in the Pacific. In
other words, if the conquest by Japan of the territories in south-
east Asia reaches a certain stage of completion it may be final
and irretrievable.

3. My reasons for this statement are:-

(a) The bases or potential bases from which an attack can be
launched on Japan have been rapidly and drastically diminished,
until only three are left, i.e., Singapore, Java and Burma. [2]

(b) Successful attack on Japan requires the possession of fully-
equipped bases within striking distance of Japan. Views as to the
required distance vary, but it would be agreed that neither
Honolulu nor any part of Australia has any value except as an
ultimate base.

(c) China is an excellent base for hitting at Japan, but owing to
the inadequate equipment and organisation, it must be built up,
and, if Burma goes, it can only be used with great difficulty as a
base of attack.

(d) If, therefore, Java, Singapore and Burma fall, the Allies have
no pied-a-terre in the effective strategic area around Japan from
which to strike.

(e) Even if we retain them, a large amount of organisation will be
required before they are effective, and the holding by Japan of so
much of the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, Malaya and New Guinea
makes such equipment and organisation and the reinforcement of
Allied forces there exceedingly difficult.

(f) The same considerations (absence of bases, etc.), make it
practically impossible for the Allies to reduce Japan by blockade;

partly because that requires bases and partly because the economic
resources of the conquered territories make Japan self-sufficient
except in one respect, (that is, petrol), for which she has almost
certainly made provision. It is surprising, however, that so
little enterprise has been shown in harassing the enemy by tactics
similar to those employed by Germany in the Atlantic.

(g) One would have thought that Japan's long lines of
communication would have made her very vulnerable, [and] if the
Allied fleets could operate effectively, the whole structure would
crumble; but it is doubtful if they could challenge the Japanese
to a battle for supremacy, because such a battle would have to be
fought so much nearer the Japanese bases than our own that Japan
would have an immense advantage. I do not know whether, if the
Allies concentrated the whole of their fleets into the Pacific,
they could challenge the Japanese fleet.

4. Other considerations are:-

(a) The economic value of the area commanded by Japan is so great
that Japan will blockade the Allies rather than the reverse. This
applies even if a scorched earth policy is carried out. About 60
percent of the world's supply of rubber comes from Java and
Malaya, and about the same proportion of tin.

(b) At present no effort is being made by the Allies against
Germany which can be considered an attempt to get a final
decision; yet in the entirely defensive war on the Atlantic it is
apparently intended that the whole of the Allied naval striking
power should be concentrated-a margin of about thirty to three. It
is difficult to see how the Atlantic sea strength can turn from a
defensive state to the offensive. The present surplus of striking
power of the Allies on land, sea and in the air is concentrated in
North Africa, conquering deserts. The idea that North Africa
supplies a base for a decisive blow against Europe is somewhat
illusory. The war will probably end by exhaustion; but the one
chance of a decisive blow for victory is by the building-up of a
huge surplus of forces, especially on the land and in the air.

This is so far distant that the provision, from a growing body of
supplies, of reinforcements to save the Far East and its vast
economic power is the proper policy.

5 Political considerations are important:-

(a) If Britain is victorious, after a long titanic struggle, the
British people may not be willing to spend several more years in
recovering empires in the East.

(b) If China drives the Japanese out of their own territory, she
may not be willing to help European empires to recover lost
property in south-east Asia and the adjoining seas.

(c) Australia has sent large forces-air, land and sea-abroad, and
equipped them at the expense of her own defences, relying on the
undertaking of the British Government that an adequate force would
be sent to Singapore and that if the crisis arose, the Far East
would be given priority to the Middle East. She regards the
Alexander policy as a definite breach of faith.

[AA:A4144, [400]]

1 Colonel Franklin Knox.

2 In a marginal note Eggleston pointed out that this sentence had
been written about 20 January.


1. Australia has up to the present time loyally accepted the
scheme of Pacific Defence adopted by the British Authorities and
urged on her by British advisers employed by her in her three
services. This was based on the view that Singapore was an
impregnable bastion-and that everything would be done in the way
of naval, air and military support to enable it to achieve that

2. Acting on this assumption Australia organised her production in
a common Empire scheme. She produced munitions and equipment of
the type which was needed at other points, e.g. she produced
bombing aeroplanes instead of fighters and postponed the
construction of tanks in the interest of munitions required
overseas. She did the same with her manpower, incorporated the
flower of her fighting forces into the A.I.F., sent 4 divisions
overseas, joined in the Empire Air Training Scheme in pursuance of
which 10,000 air force personnel have been sent abroad, and her
fleet has been mainly used in the Mediterranean.

3. In this effort her power to defend herself from direct attack
has been gravely compromised. The things necessary for home
defence have not been made nor obtained and at times the most
fundamental necessities such as small arms ammunition have been
reduced to alarmingly meagre proportions. Australia has
conscription and training for home defence but this organisation
has been considerably impaired by the provision of personnel for
A.I.F. and other overseas forces.

4. The possibility of a landing in Australia cannot be regarded as
unlikely. A landing at Darwin is most probable and landings in
more vital points on the east and west coasts are far less remote
than an invasion of Britain. In the circumstances above described,
the difficulty of meeting these is extensive. Landings could be
made and air bases established and thus, with superiority in the
air, advances could be made. Australia would resist these by all
means in her power and by adopting a scorched earth policy could
make the Japanese advance a slow process and in this way it may be
hoped that the most important parts of the continent would be
protected until help, which we assume would then be forthcoming,
arrived. Australia's expert advisers are, however, most alarmed at
the possibilities.

5. Japanese landings could be made impossible by a moderate amount
of naval activity to supplement that of the Australian Navy which
has now only three cruisers and smaller craft. Command of the sea
is not necessary to enable communications to be attacked. What has
alarmed Australia is that after the sinking of the two battleships
there has been no British naval activity near Malaya and only one
or two spasms of American naval activity which, by the way, have
been highly successful. Australians, therefore, fear that there
will not be sufficient naval force to prevent landings or the
supplying of landed forces.

6. Resistance to advance after landings must depend on getting air
superiority which will not be possible unless we get
reinforcements of fighter planes. I should say that 10 squadrons
would be necessary or 200 planes. Resistance would be greatly
strengthened by 100 tanks. These are more important than the
return of the A.I.F. though one can easily see that there will be
a universal demand for this force. The difficulties in the way of
this are transport but as the British Government asked for the
A.I.F. to go to Burma, these difficulties cannot be regarded as

7. It is suggested that in the circumstances above set out,
Australia's claim to at least the above re-inforcements is
unanswerable and Australian Ministers resent intensely that this
appeal has been hailed in London and Washington as squealing. In
fact, the failure to send on the promised reinforcements to Burma
from Britain, India and U.S.A. shows that each of these countries
is considering its own defence first, which Australia has,
unfortunately, neglected to do.

8. The phase of the war at present is one of defence. It has not
yet passed to the offensive and it cannot do so until the
munitions to be provided by America are available. While it is in
the defensive stage, each part of the Empire inhabited by large
bodies of the British race is entitled to share in the materials
available for defence even if some risks are run by others. This
would be so unless it were decided that it was impossible to
defend any particular part without risking the lot. This stage
cannot have been reached now because the nett result of American
participation in the war is a vast accretion of actual and
potential strength, especially in the Atlantic. The only other
ground for depriving Australia of a share in the materials for
defence would be the possibility that concentrations would enable
a final victory which would bring the war nearer to an end. This
is certainly not in sight.

9. Australia is now the only remaining base in the Pacific near
enough to the vital theatre of war from which the war in the
Pacific can be won. If it is lost, victory for Japan is inevitable
and final. I always understood that this was recognised by the
British Military Authorities.

[AA:A4144, [400]]

[AA:A4144, [400]]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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