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
2. It appears from my telegram No. 488 of 2nd July  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.  The Japanese reply to the reminder which we sent on 2nd
July may therefore be that they are not in a position to surrender
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.  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]