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482 Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister, to Mr A. T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London

Cablegram SL12 CANBERRA, 5 May 1942


Following for Evatt [1] from Curtin.

Please see telegrams D.226 [2] and No. 393 [3] from Dominions
Office to US.

Negotiations for mutual repatriation of Japanese and British
Commonwealth (except Canadian) officials and non-official Japanese
nationals have almost reached finality. We are concerned, however,
that Japanese Government is refusing our request for inclusion of
Bowden and staff from Singapore [4] and Ross from Dilli. [5] You
will recall we assured Bowden we would insist on his inclusion in
any scheme of exchange. [6] Position is, so far as Australia is
concerned, that if scheme as now proposed is accepted, we would be
repatriating to Japan all Japanese non-officials interned in
Australia totalling 1,120 and all diplomatic and consular staff
and officials totalling 23. In return, Japan would repatriate to
Australia personnel of Australian Legation, Tokyo, totalling 8,
and probably a proportion only of Australian nationals in Japan,
total number of whom is believed to be less than 45. We think that
reasonable arrangement in view of large disparity of numbers both
officials and non-officials would be for Japanese to include
Bowden and staff of 2, as well as Ross. Difficulty is that if we
insist on inclusion of Bowden and Ross we may prejudice scheme
either in its entirety or at least so far as Australian exchange
is concerned. On the other hand, acceptance of the scheme as it
now stands would result in Bowden and staff being detained for the
duration of the war. I may add that enquiry regarding welfare of
Bowden and staff was made through Argentine Government on 23rd
February last and two reminders have been sent, but Japanese have
not deigned to reply. [7]

Glad if you would consult appropriate United Kingdom authorities
and let me have your views as to our most appropriate course.

1 Minister for External Affairs (in London).

2 Dispatched 29 April. On file AA:A981, Consuls 13, i. It outlined
discussions between the Allied and Japanese Govts for a reciprocal
exchange of officials and other non-military personnel.

3 Dispatched 2 May. On the file cited in note 2. It conveyed the
Japanese Govt's decision that officials from Singapore and Timor
were not to be included in the reciprocal exchange.

4 See Document 333, note i. News of Bowden's death was not
received in Australia until the end of the war.

5 See Document 337, note 5. For Ross's return to Australia see
Documents 528 and 533.

6 See Document 326.

7 See unnumbered cablegrams of 23 February and 29 April and
cablegram 123 of 27 March (sent through Stirling) to Sir Esmond
Ovey, U.K. Ambassador to Argentina. Ovey reported on 7 May that an
Argentinian official was continuing to press the Japanese for
information and on 28 May that the Japanese had stated that Bowden
had left Singapore for the Netherlands East Indies at the end of
January and his present whereabouts were unknown. All cablegrams
are on file AA:A981, Australia 237B.

[AA:A981, CONSULS 13, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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