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432 Mr Clement Attlee, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 330 LONDON, 20 March 1942, 7.30 p.m.

SECRET IMMEDIATE

From the Prime Minister [1], for the Prime Minister:-(Begins):

1. I have to acknowledge your No. 207 [2] informing us of the
arrangements which you propose to make with the United States on
the subject of air co-operation between the United States and
Australia.

2. Your No. 208. [3] We note the opinions you have expressed and
fully understand your point of view. It would not be possible for
us as you suggest to uncover the whole of our sea communications
with the Middle East, on which the life of the considerable armies
fighting there depends. Neither would it be possible for us to
neglect the security of Ceylon so far as it is in our power to
preserve it, or to deprive ourselves of the means of reinforcing
or defending India.

The despatch to the Pacific of three out of four of our fast
armoured aircraft carriers would as you perceive leave any
battleships we have placed or may place in the Indian Ocean
entirely unprotected from air attack and consequently unable to
operate. This would expose all our convoys to the Middle East and
India averaging nearly 50,000 men a month to destruction at the
hands of two or three fast Japanese cruisers or battle-cruisers
supported by perhaps a single aircraft carrier.

While admiring the offensive spirit of your memorandum and sharing
your desire for an early acquisition of the initiative we do not
feel that we should be justified in disregarding all other risks
and duties in the manner you suggest. These matters will, however,
no doubt form part of the discussions which will take place in
Washington when agreement has been reached upon the new
organisation proposed by the President upon which I have sent you
the views which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom
have transmitted to the President. [4]

4. A more detailed commentary will be telegraphed when your
proposals have been further studied by the Staffs.

(Ends).

1 Winston Churchill.

2 Dispatched 19 March. On file AA:A2937, Far East position 1942.

3 Document 422.

4 In the London copy (on the file cited in note 2) this last
sentence appeared as a separate paragraph numbered 3. The text of
the U.K. Govt's message to President Franklin D. Roosevelt was
transmitted to the Commonwealth Govt on 17 March in cablegram 319
(on the file cited in note 2).


[AA:A2684, 904]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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