500 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister
Cablegram ET30  LONDON, 28 May 1942, 2.25 a.m.
MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET FOR CURTIN ALONE
It is now possible to summarize the work of our mission so far as
the London end is concerned.
(A) Grand Strategy of the War
(1) I have ascertained that during the visit of Churchill to
Washington in December and January last the grand strategy of the
war was agreed upon in accordance with Annexure A to this
telegram.  As I have already suggested the substance of this
agreement was that notwithstanding the entrance of Japan into the
war Germany would still remain the primary enemy. The strategy
contemplated Germany's defeat before that of Japan. In a phrase,
it was 'beat Hitler first'.
(2) The existence of this written arrangement came as a great
surprise to myself and, I have no doubt, to you. We were not
consulted about the matter and neither Page  nor Casey  ever
reported to us about it. Owing apparently to the U.S. Government's
desire for secrecy it took some little insistence to get the
(3) You will also remember that when Colonel Knox, Secretary of
U.S. Navy, and Alexander  here spoke publicly in the strain
'beat Hitler first' and there were protests from Australia 
both speakers rather repudiated the meaning put upon their words.
(4) However, in spite of the general strategy, clause 18 of
Annexure A insisted that the security of Australia must be
(5) The next document on the grand strategy is an aide-memoire of
recent origin which is Annexure B to this telegram.  You will
note that clauses 14 and 15 directly affect Australia. In
substance clause 15 repeats the strategy agreed upon between
Churchill and Roosevelt. Clause 14, however, asserts for a number
of reasons, some of them very unconvincing, that a full-scale
invasion of Australia is unlikely.
(6) The phrase 'full-scale invasion' was, I have no doubt, used
because, in telegram of August 11th 1940 from the Secretary of
State for Dominion Affairs through the High Commissioner for the
United Kingdom , Mr Churchill said, if Japan set about invading
Australia or New Zealand on a large scale, Britain would cut her
losses in the Mediterranean and proceed to our aid sacrificing
every interest except only the defence position of the United
(7) I should add that the Prime Minister and Chiefs of Staff
adhere to the view that a full-scale invasion of Australia is
still highly improbable.
(8) The third document on grand strategy is Z.57 from the
Dominions Office which you received from Bruce.  It contains
the substance of the plan put forward by General Marshall 
involving a concentration against Germany in Western Europe.
Clause 4(a) of the document also asserts that it is essential to
safeguard amongst other things the defence of Australia and
adequate forces must be allocated for such a task.
(9) I think that we can now appreciate the background in which
General MacArthur's  directive was drafted. The strategy
defined in it was primarily defensive in character. The offensive
was to take place in the future.
(10) On all these matters I have emphasized three points, viz. (a)
we were never consulted as to the agreed strategy; (b) a strong
case can be made against the agreed strategy; (c) however,
accepting the agreed strategy, there is a joint obligation upon
United States and the United Kingdom to provide the South-West
Pacific Commander with sufficient forces to carry out that portion
of the grand strategy which is laid down in General MacArthur's
(11) In the first instance, I have concentrated mainly upon the
last point. If there is to be any modification of the grand
strategy it is plain that we shall have to insist (a) upon prior
consultation to a greater degree, (b) upon stronger representation
both in Washington and London, (c) upon better organization of
existing service representatives under Bruce  here and Dixon
 in Washington. For instance I am satisfied that Wardell 
knew the substance of the agreed grand strategy although
apparently Bruce was not informed.
(12) In the United States the main protagonist of the present
grand strategy is Marshall. On the other hand, Admiral King 
is sceptic[al] of it and resolved to concentrate on the Pacific
war against Japan.
(B) Probable Developments
(1) It seems quite likely that either as a result of opportunity
or necessity a second European front may be developed before this
year ends. The factor of major importance governing the issue and
the extent of such a development will be the movements on the
Russian front. If Russia is able to hold the German attack and
prevent the loss of anything really vital to her existence an
opportunity to create a second front will it is believed be
created. If the Russians do not hold the Germans the necessity for
a second front will certainly be created. The same applies but
with less emphasis to the Middle East where a big attack by the
enemy is believed to be impending. You know Marshall is most
anxious that the United States should take part in an offensive
against Germany as early as possible. Molotov's  main purpose
in visiting here and Washington is to hasten the establishment of
a second European front.
(2) The fate of Malta is still in the balance for it is becoming
increasingly difficult to provide supplies to enable the defence
to be maintained and to prevent starvation. Recent air successes
against the enemy were obtained by the loan of an American
aircraft carrier from which fighters were flown in but operations
such as this will be most difficult to repeat now that the element
of surprise is eliminated.
(3) While unrest in occupied countries continues to grow there is
as yet no authentic news of any slackening in the morale of the
German army or the determination of the German people.
(4) Japan it is believed hopes not only to eliminate China but to
attack Russia. Molotov contemplates an attack on Russia by Japan
and the form of yesterday's treaty shows great anxiety not to
(5) There is a fear in some quarters in the United States that
Japan will attack Alaska.
(6) Ceylon it is believed will be held with the naval forces now
being concentrated in the Indian Ocean.
(7) India presents a much more difficult problem owing to the
growing unrest and fear among the native population due to
intensive Japanese propaganda.
(C) Difficulties Confronting Australia
(1) With Russia fighting for its life it is difficult for the
United States or this country to resist the strong and insistently
repeated complaints of shortage of aircraft and munitions. In the
case of Russia there is a protocol entitling them to a flow of
supplies. One of the purposes of Molotov's visit here was to
demand great increases in supply. There are also urgent and
sometimes piteous appeals from China and from Wavell who is in
charge of India and Ceylon. It is also alleged that the United
States production of aircraft is below expectations.
(2) The most recent development is that the President  has
advised the British Government that the United States has now
decided that its aircraft must be manned and operated wherever
possible by American personnel. It is in fulfilment of this ruling
that allocations from American aircraft production to the United
Kingdom have been suspended for the time being. The policy of
Arnold, United States Air Chief, has been to oppose the
allocations of American aircraft unless American personnel is in
charge. Arnold has just arrived here and unless the matter is
adjusted Churchill will probably make a special trip to see the
President. It was evident in Washington that Arnold was very
little interested in the equipping of the R.A.A.F. but was keen on
developing the United States Air Forces in Australia and
(3) Prior to our arrival the arrangement as to operational
responsibility for areas had made the British Government and
Service Chiefs less directly interested in the provision of forces
for Australia. On the other hand under the Munitions Assignment
machinery the United States authorities are still inclined to
regard the United Kingdom requisitions as covering not only the
United Kingdom but all the Dominions.
(4) I believe that by continuous pressure we can overcome many
difficulties caused by competition of other theatres and the other
factors. However we must appreciate them.
(D) General Results
(1) The Prime Minister and Service Chiefs take the view that it is
very unwise to divert large land forces to Australia until it is
reasonably clear that the enemy will strike heavily against
Australia. If the event occurs he will immediately divert forces
now en route to India or the Middle East. One division, an
armoured one, left here a few days ago and will be at the Cape in
about two weeks' time. From there it can be diverted if the
(2) Instructions have been given that the two brigades now at
Ceylon are to be returned to Australia at the very earliest
possible moment. A brigade engaged at Madagascar will go to Ceylon
and two brigades will then be sent to Australia.
(3) With regard to the return to Australia of the 9th Division,
feeling that this is a matter of highest Government policy, I
think any request should be made from Australia. At the same time
I have emphasized that the division is only being retained
temporarily and that it would certainly have to be recalled in the
event of attempted invasion. My personal opinion on the matter
corresponds with that of Blamey , but I would like to discuss
the proposal with you in Australia in the light of the latest
(4) So far as the naval position is concerned, no firm undertaking
to allocate an aircraft carrier can yet be made. But this matter
will be kept continuously under review. The Prime Minister
emphasizes that the U.S. Navy has accepted primary naval
responsibility for the area and although he complains about
Admiral King's secrecy he is satisfied that the U.S. Navy will
strike again and again as the occasion requires. He is confident
that the rapid building up of strong British fleet in the Indian
Ocean will be a strong deterrent against Japanese southward move
against Eastern Australia and that it is now strong enough to
prevent attacks against Western Australia. Above all there is a
growing opinion amongst Service Chiefs as to the correctness of
Sir [Guy] Royle's  thesis as to the necessity for
concentration of British and United States fleets. Pound  does
not accept the thesis but Portal  and Brooke  are strongly
inclined to do so. I advise continuous pressure on this point by
Royle to the Admiralty and Leary. 
(5) With regard to the equipment of land forces I submitted to
Churchill a list of additional land equipment prepared after
consultation with Robinson  and Coffey  and urgently
sought his support for immediate allocation. Churchill instructed
the Minister for Production (Lyttelton) to do the utmost to meet
[A detailed list of munitions allocations has been omitted.]
(7) While allotments fall short of the full request I am satisfied
that every effort has been and will be made to get them for us,
and these allotments with the substantial increases already
obtained in March, April and May should prove most helpful.
Ordnance expert, General Macready , asserts that the
Australian Army will very shortly be the best equipped in the
(8) With regard to my suggestion that the Government should adopt
an emergency plan for air reinforcement, the Prime Minister has
decided to send a special detachment of three fully equipped
Spitfire squadrons from the United Kingdom to Australia in the
near future. Two will be R.A.A.F. squadrons (No. 452 and 457) and
one an R.A.F. squadron No. 54.
(9) The despatch of the two crack R.A.A.F. squadrons is not in any
sense a recall of squadrons by us, but a special contribution of
front-line fighting squadrons to help us in our need. These are
the only Australian Spitfire squadrons in this country and they
have gained a tremendous reputation. Truscott  who is now in
Australia was attached to one. The Prime Minister himself
initiated the scheme of sending three squadrons as a wing and
insisted that a first-class R.A.F. squadron should be instructed
to keep the flag flying'.
(10) This contribution amounts to a small air expeditionary force.
Each squadron will be sent out completely on the basis of U.K.
establishment, with the addition of a maintenance echelon and
specialist personnel. The R.A.A.F. squadrons will be manned as far
as possible by Australians and the R.A.F. squadron will be manned
entirely by R.A.F. personnel.
(11) The equipment will be of the most modern character. 
 tropicalised Spitfire V.C.s (with universal wing) will be
sent, together with erection equipment, unit equipment,
specialized M-T and three months requirements of maintenance
spares. Any deficiencies which are made necessary by a shortage of
particular items of equipment will be made good as soon as
possible. The equipment of jigs and drawings to enable major
overhauls to be taken in Australia will also be sent. Further to
the above, 15 Spitfire V.C.s with addition [all maintenance spares
will be despatched in each month thereafter to replace wastage.
(12) The personnel will be despatched in a convoy leaving about
the middle of June and equipment will be split up between about
three ships and should leave before the end of June. This wing is
being despatched with the utmost secrecy and the Prime Minister is
extremely keen on Australia regarding it as a special gesture in
the present emergency. As you see, it will involve the immediate
provision of 48 of the best fighters in the world and a flow of
180 machines per annum. McNamara  is [aware of] the movement
and is co-operating with Air Chief Marshal Portal who is
determined to make a big success of the scheme. I know you will
accept this contribution in the spirit in which it is made. I
suggest that you send an appropriate message.
(13) With regard to the general question of additional aircraft it
has been especially laid down that the despatch of the Spitfire
wing is not in any way to prejudice our applications for
allocations either here or in Washington.
(14) While insisting upon absolute secrecy of announcing details
of movement of Spitfire squadrons no doubt you might make some
public statement in general terms indicating your appreciation of
how the Prime Minister is helping.
(15) It seems probable that the whole question of aircraft
allocation will be reviewed in Washington in the very near future
following upon Arnold's visit here and I shall of course give
Dixon the fullest information and help.
(16) Many difficulties arise because of the fact that control is
divided between London and Washington. One result has been that
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee at Washington has not yet
approved of the 73 squadron plan  and their support is
required before MacArthur can get the necessary equipment either
for the approved number of squadrons or for some smaller number.
(17) This crisscross between Washington and London is most
irritating and I am now endeavouring to get an instruction from
the Chiefs of Staff here to their representatives on the Chiefs of
Staff Committee at Washington, requiring all possible support to
MacArthur and Australia.
(18) Considering the difficulties created by the agreed grand
strategy on which we were never consulted, the dramatic
improvement in air fighting over the last three months in the
Australian area, the fact that the United States accepted a
primary responsibility for the Pacific and that [a] certain
soreness had to be healed, I feel that the work of the mission
here has been successful. We have greatly increased the personal
concern of the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff in our area,
we certainly have made the British public and press more alive to
our dangers and difficulties and I think we are now assured of far
greater support in Washington from the British representatives
there. The key is to retain the active interest and support of
Churchill. He is supreme in the Cabinet and in the country and I
suggest your making the fullest use of your right of confidential
communication with him.
(19) As you know, I am far from satisfied that Page has been
sufficiently consulted in relation to the higher direction of war
and the war policy generally. Before leaving I am to discuss with
Bruce the existing machinery of consultation so far as concerns
Australia's accredited representative. But the point is not so
much that the Prime Minister has taken important decisions without
prior reference to Page but without reference to the War Cabinet.
As you know this may well be justified on special occasions.
Furthermore, the United States Chiefs are extremely secretive
about their grand strategy. I propose to discuss the matter
frankly here with Bruce and Churchill and to avoid any formal
complaint or protest. For the time being good results will flow by
your greater use of the instrument of confidential communication
with Churchill. Page's recovery has been delayed and obviously
Bruce will have to carry on after I leave at the week-end. When I
return to Australia shortly the position of the machinery can be
(20) Robinson's assistance here and Smith's from Washington have
been invaluable. May I add that your personal prestige here could
not possibly be higher.
(21) I am expecting a letter from Churchill's Chief of Staff 
which I will send you in full and which should show that
instructions are being sent to British representatives in
Washington along the lines suggested by me.