Skip to main content

Historical documents

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

Cablegram 390 LONDON, 30 April 1942, 11.55 p.m.



Your No.267. [2]

1. Please see my Winch No.20 [3] which defines the conditions in
which alone we should be justified in diverting divisions to
Australia as they round the Cape. Since then no signs have
appeared of a heavy mass invasion of Australia, although attacks
at Port Moresby and Port Darwin are possible. The danger to India
has been increased by the events in Burma as well as by an
inevitable delay due to needs in home waters in building up the
Eastern Fleet. We should certainly be judged to have acted wrongly
if we sent to an uninvaded Australia troops needed for an invaded
India. The most noticeable strategic movement of Japanese forces
has been the reinforcement by three divisions of their army of
twenty divisions in Manchuria towards Siberian Russia. We must
continue to decide where to send our limited reinforcements
according to the situation.

2. The arrangements General Macarthur [4] proposes of sending the
2nd Division and the Armoured Division to Australia temporarily
pending the return of the remainder of the 6th Australian Division
and the 9th Australian Division would seem to involve the maximum
expenditure and dislocation of shipping and escorts.

3. We hope to relieve the Australian troops in Ceylon by 2 Brigade
Groups of our 5th Division which is now in the Indian Ocean, at
about the end of May.

4. None of the three armoured aircraft carriers, ILLUSTRIOUS,
FORMIDABLE and INDOMITABLE, can be taken from the Eastern Fleet.

To remove one would be to destroy its chances of fighting a Fleet
action this summer. The small carrier HERMES which we had hoped to
send you has been sunk, and no other carrier is available.

5. I cannot hold out any prospect of our being able to increase
the British allocation of shipping on the Australian-American run.

The whole of our tonnage is engaged to the utmost in transporting
munitions to Russia, in the heavy troop convoys of about 50,000
men a month we are sending round the Cape, and in the very sharply
straitened supply to this island.

6. Nevertheless you may be sure that General MacArthur's
recommendations will continue to be studied here, and I have also
reported them to the President [5] in case he may feel able to
take any further action. I am also looking forward to discussing
the position with Dr. Evatt [6], who will soon be here. Ends.


1 Winston Churchill.

2 Document 476.

3 Document 447.

4 Allied Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific Area.

5 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

6 Minister for External Affairs, then in Washington.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top