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490 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 4501 LONDON, 17 May 1942, 4.30 a.m.


Your P.M.62, 13th May [1], was duly received by me on Thursday. It
was so important and convincing as a general summary of the
position in Australia that I at once made the analysis contained
in it available to the Prime Minister. [2] It was referred to at a
special Cabinet held on Thursday afternoon and it was then decided
to circulate it amongst the Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff.

2. On Thursday night I left London with the Prime Minister and
have Just returned from visiting various Air Squadrons, armoured
units, factories and cities in Yorkshire and Durham.

3. In my opinion the argument of yourself and General MacArthur
[3] is very timely. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister is impressed
and tonight he communicated with the highest quarters in
Washington in relation to the matter.

4. One small point arises from your first paragraph. I have never
suggested that any obligation rests on MacArthur to obtain the
forces needed to implement the orders contained in his directive.

I have merely suggested that in the first instance it is for him
to indicate what is necessary to fulfil his mission. This has been
done. Undoubtedly it is the obligation of the United Nations to
provide the forces required to achieve the stated objective. Under
the present machinery his recommendations have to be considered by
the United States Chiefs of Staff or the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Committee. As you know the Supreme Commander in every theatre
makes recommendations and I am told that Wavell's [4] and
Auchinleck's [5] have been drastically cut down an many occasions.

5. In reference to paragraph 3 I have done everything to bring
before the Prime Minister and the Service Chiefs a realisation of
the grave threat to Australia. I think the realisation is much
greater than it was but it still falls short of what it should be.

I can assure you it is a continual struggle to make the
authorities here appreciative of our danger. The fact is that when
Churchill visited Roosevelt the strategy agreed on was primarily
to concentrate on the defeat of Hitler. Moreover the Chiefs of
Staff here still think an attempt at invasion of Australia is
unlikely. Churchill expressed a high opinion of Sir Guy Royle [6]
and any signal by him to me for Churchill personally would be well

6. My difficulty arises from the necessity of being persistent
without being importunate. You know that I am going all out. I
have stressed that the Government here should intervene in
Washington to get their staff representatives to support MacArthur
a great deal more than has yet been done. The Prime Minister said
only an hour ago tonight (Saturday) when we concluded the tour
that more would have to be done for Australia but that he is
perplexed as to the source from which it should come. It would be
easy enough to force the issue to finality but I am afraid that if
I go too far I may adversely affect the relationship which has
been built up during my fortnight here and thereby injure

7. In the last six months very large numbers of planes and
equipment have been sent to Russia from here and the United States
under the protocol of September last. The exact number of combat
planes is not easy to ascertain but I think it exceeds 2,000.

There is an agitation led by Lord Beaverbrook [7] to further
increase Russian supplies but you will be interested to hear that
in Leeds today before an enormous open air gathering Churchill's
references to Russia were received in dead silence while every
reference to Australia was cheered. Churchill has popular backing
everywhere outside Parliament.

8. It is difficult also to obtain details of air equipment in this
country but I am making enquiries. Certainly the United Kingdom is
over insured against the danger of invasion so far as air position
is concerned. In answer to that it will of course be stated that
hundreds of aircraft will be used for heavy bombing raids against
Germany every night unless weather is impossible. Churchill calls
these his non-stop bombing programme.

9. Of course I am very anxious to complete the mission here then
hurry back to Washington and thence return home and report to you.

I have told the Prime Minister of my anxiety on this score tonight
but he specially wants me to stay at least another week. Smith [8]
has cabled that I should go back to Washington quickly [9] but of
course I must be guided by what the Prime Minister here
practically directs me to do over the next week.

10. Up to date I have seen representative members from four
Australian Air Squadrons. They are all extremely anxious to be
back home in the fighting. A very serious part of the position is
that if landings took place in Australia it would be impossible to
ignore the desire of these airmen or of those in the Middle East.

Be sure that Churchill fully understands the overwhelming pressure
to which any Australian Government would be subject in this

11. Page [10] is convalescing but it will be six weeks at least
before he is fit to resume any official duties here. After I leave
Bruce [11] I would have to carry on for the time being.


1 Document 487.

2 Winston Churchill.

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

4 U.K. Commander-in-Chief, India.

5 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East.

6 Chief of the Naval Staff.

7 U.K. Minister of State.

8 Secretary of the Supply and Development Dept, then in

9 The cablegram has not been found.

10 Formerly Special Representative in the United Kingdom. See
Document 439, note 8. 11 High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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