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2 Attlee to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 497 LONDON, 6 July 1942, 11.35 p.m.


In order that British-Japanese exchange can take place at Lourenco

Marques on 20th August 1942, as agreed, we have to embark Japanese

personnel on 13th July. But this depends on the conclusion of

negotiations with the Japanese. Only outstanding points are

release of certain prisoners and release of Bowden and Ross. As

only seven days remain it is now extremely urgent to clear these

points up.

2. It appears from my telegram No. 488 of 2nd July [1] that

Japanese are not in fact in a position to surrender Bowden and

there is reason for thinking that Ross may now not be in Japanese

hands. [2] The Japanese reply to the reminder which we sent on 2nd

July may therefore be that they are not in a position to surrender

him either.

3. We strongly sympathise with your desire and understand your

obligation to recover both Bowden and Ross if at all possible and

have, as you know, backed your request with the Japanese by

offering a substantial concession. [3] But if, as now appears very

likely, it proves impossible for the Japanese to do what you ask,

we should be glad to know whether you will agree to allow the

whole exchange to take place as planned.

4. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs fears that to

endeavour to arrange that exchange shall take place with the

exclusion of eight official and unknown number of unofficial

Australians and twenty-five official and thirty-one unofficial

Japanese originating in Australia may well wreck the whole

exchange scheme. This would mean that the repatriation of 1800

British and Allied nationals from the Far East would be prevented.

You will appreciate the difficulty with which we should be faced

in relation to our own public opinion and the Allied Governments

if the exchange broke down on such grounds, having regard to the

doubt as to whether the Japanese are in a position to produce

either or both of these men.

5. In all circumstances we very much hope that, if the Japanese

answer regarding Ross is as we fear, you will agree to proceed

with the exchange scheme as a whole and would be most grateful for

earliest possible indication of your views.

1 On file AA: A981, Consuls 13, ii. It conveyed a message from the

Japanese Govt stating that V. G. Bowden (formerly Official

Representative in Singapore) had left Singapore for the

Netherlands East Indies at about the end of January and that his

present whereabouts were unknown. Bowden had, in fact, left

Singapore on 14 February with a group of refugees, but three days

later had been captured and executed by Japanese troops on Banka

Island. News of his death was not received in Australia until the

end of the war. See also Documents an Australian Foreign Policy

1937-49, vol. V, Document 333.

2 David Ross, formerly Consul in Dili, had been released from

captivity by the Japanese in June to convey a message demanding

the surrender of Australian forces still fighting in Portuguese

Timor. The troops had refused to surrender and Ross had

subsequently been evacuated to Australia. See also ibid.,

Documents 528 and 533.

3 That if Bowden and Ross were released the U.K. Govt would permit

one or two Japanese officials en route to Japanese missions in

Europe to travel on the evacuation ships. See ibid., Document 516.

[AA:A981, CONSULS 13, ii]

Last Updated: 2 February 2011
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