12 Curtin to Churchill
Cablegram Johcu 38 CANBERRA, 30 July 1942
MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET
With reference to Dominions Office cablegram No. 532 , the
Government is appreciative of your own personal acknowledgement in
Part 2 of the difficulties which confront it in this matter.
2. It is frankly disappointed that the review of the Chiefs of
Staff dwells at some length on the strategical position in the
Middle East but does not even mention the position in the Pacific.
We know that we can count on an understanding by you of how
vitally important the Pacific must loom before the Australian
Government in reaching a decision on the disposition of its
3. It can be asserted that since the outbreak of war we have never
received from the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff an appreciation
that has indicated a full realisation of the possibilities of the
situation in the Pacific, either in respect of offensive action by
Japan or offensive action by the United Nations to defeat Japan.
4. Australia has been critically threatened on two occasions-
firstly following the fall of the Malay Barrier, and secondly
following the threatened advance through the Coral Sea. Japan is
now consolidating her position in New Guinea and the Solomon
Islands and has made a landing in Papua which threatens our
important advanced base at Port Moresby, which is vital to the
defence of the north-eastern coast against enemy landings and the
maintenance of the passage through Torres Strait for the supply of
5. It is imperative to force the enemy back to his bases in the
Mandated Islands in the north-east and to drive him out of Timor
in the north-west. The Government desires that the Commander-in-
Chief, South-West Pacific Area, shall have at his disposal for the
defence of his base and for offensive operations in the Pacific
all the Australian Forces it can place at his disposal.
Furthermore, superior seapower and airpower are vital to wrest the
initiative from Japan and are essential to assure the defensive
position in the South-West Pacific Area.
6. For the reasons stated, it is impossible for us to do more than
agree to an extension of the period for the temporary retention of
the 9th Division in the Middle East. As the Commander-in-Chief of
the Australian Military Forces strongly advises against the
breaking up of ancillary units for reinforcements because of the
effect on morale, approval has been given for the despatch of two
months' reinforcements on the average scale of activity, the total
number being 1,989. These, with the 3,203 reinforcements recently
available in the Middle East, will provide a total of 5,192 for 2
1/2 months' reinforcements on the intense scale of activity. The
Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East will therefore need to have
these facts in mind in his use of the Division.
7. The Commander-in-Chief, South-West Pacific Area, has had
assigned to him all the combat naval, land and air forces of the
Commonwealth, but we are gravely concerned about developing the
air strength for which we are capable of providing the personnel
and which our own advisers and the Commander-in-Chief, South-West
Pacific Area, consider the minimum for the defence of Australia.
This arises from the inability to obtain a definite assurance on
the supply of equipment. The Government's willing agreement to the
temporary retention of the 9th Division in the Middle East is
therefore conditional on an assurance being given by the United
Kingdom Government that, in conformity with Ismay's letter to
Evatt , its representatives in Washington will be instructed to
do their utmost to ensure the allotment of the aircraft required
for the re-equipment of the R.A.A.F. and the provision, as
personnel is trained and squadrons are organised, of the equipment
required for the programme of a total of 73 squadrons by June,
1943. The case for equipment is supported by the fact that 7,800
trained personnel have been sent overseas under the Empire Air
Training Scheme. It is also desired to raise the question of the
regular allotment to the South-West Pacific Area of Australian
squadrons with operational experience.
1 Document 10.
2 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V,