Skip to main content

Historical documents

54 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Prime Minister

Cablegram 608 LONDON, 31 August 1941, 9.03 p.m.


The following is a personal and secret message from the Prime
Minister [1] for Mr. Fadden:-

'Events about Japan seem to have taken a favourable turn in the
last month. The Japanese were then threatening to invade Siam as
well as to make jumping off grounds in Indo-China on approaches to
Singapore. However, as you will have seen from telegrams sent you
about our Atlantic conference, I persuaded the President [2] to
take a hard line against further Japanese encroachments in the
South Pacific, and he was also willing to add the North Western
Pacific. You will have seen the Notes delivered by the United
States Government to Japan. [3] The President and the State
Department think it a good thing to gain time, be it thirty days
or ninety days, so long as there are no further encroachments and
the Japanese seem disposed to parley on this basis. Our interests
are served by a standstill, and the Japanese for their part want
to know what is going to happen to Russia.

2. As soon as the President had made these declarations, I made
the statement in my broadcast which conformed to all we had agreed
upon with you and the other dominions beforehand and has since
been endorsed by all. Encouraged by this, Russia comes along with
a very stiff answer to the Japanese complaint about American
supplies entering Vladivostock. The Russian Siberian Army has been
very little diminished so far and their Air Force is capable of
heavy and much dreaded bombing of Japan. We have thus got very
heavy forces, to wit, British and Russian, coming into line with
the United States in the van, and in addition Japan is sprawled in
China. They would thus have about three-quarters of the human race
against them, and I do not wonder that they are plunged in deep
anxiety and hesitation. I cannot believe that the Japanese will
face the encounter now developing around them. We may therefore
regard the situation not only as more favourable but as less
tense. [4]

3. Nevertheless the growth of our battleship strength, ravages
made in the German Navy, which is now reduced, apart from TIRPITZ
and U-boats, to very modest proportions, and the measure we now
have of the Italian Navy, will make it possible in the near future
for us to place heavy ships in the Indian Ocean. The Admiralty are
carefully considering what is the best disposition to make. But I
should like to let you know that as they become available we
contemplate placing a force of capital ships, including first
class units, in the triangle Aden-Singapore-Simonstown, before the
end of the year. All this will be without prejudice to our control
of the Eastern Mediterranean. I can assure you that we are giving
constant attention to all this, and you may be sure that we shall
never let you down if real danger comes.

You may communicate the above to your Cabinet. [5]


1 Winston Churchill.

2 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3 See Document 52, note 1.

4 S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, regarded
these views as 'somewhat over optimistic'. See cablegram 24 of 1
September on file AA: M 100, September 1941.

5 In cablegram 582 of 4 September (on file AA: A1608, B41/119,i)
Fadden thanked Churchill for his message (which had been
communicated to War Cabinet), concluding with the reminder that:

'The southward movement by Japan and the absence of a British or
American fleet at or near Singapore has aroused a feeling of
uneasiness in the minds of many people here, and these factors
have undoubtedly had an adverse effect on recruiting for service

[AA:A3195, 1941, 1.16523]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top