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211 Attlee to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 127 LONDON, 4 June 1943, 2.55 p.m.


Your telegram of 28th May, No. 128. [1]

1. Your paragraph 1. Priority. Please see my immediately following
telegram. [2]

2. Your paragraphs 2 to 10. His Majesty's Government in the United
Kingdom note views of His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth
of Australia. Before however passing these on to Japanese
Government they would like Commonwealth Government to review the
matter in light of following considerations.

3. Our object in the present exchange is twofold. The first to
obtain the return of certain persons of use to war effort and the
second to effect repatriation of a maximum number of British and
Allied subjects (particularly children and mothers with young
children) whose plight especially in Hong Kong is extremely
precarious. It is no exaggeration to say that if they remain much
longer in Japanese hands many of them will certainly die.

4. From our point of view with our large number of officials and
civilians left in Malaya and elsewhere, we are no less anxious
than the Commonwealth Government to see extension of the exchange
to other areas. The Netherlands Government who have at least
70,000 European Netherlands citizens in the Netherlands East
Indies alone are even more anxious for extension of areas but
realise that in view of reported and categorical refusal by
Japanese it is useless to press further for extension. The
position of the Governments of India and Burma is similar.

5. The only Governments who are able to put Japanese internees
into a common pool are those of the British Commonwealth,
Netherlands and Fighting French and these Governments have been
prepared to co-operate in this manner in order that not only their
own nationals but also those of other Allies such as Belgium,
Greece, Czechoslovakia and Poland may benefit.

6. It will be seen from my telegram of 22nd May No. 115, repeated
to New Zealand No. 124 [3], that largest contribution of Japanese
internees will come from India. As the Japanese have for political
reasons interned few Indian subjects under the present
arrangement, the proportion of Indians being repatriated compared
with number of Japanese released by Government of India will be
very low. In spite however of the difficult political position the
Government of India have agreed generally to the scheme in the
interests of the common Allied cause and on humanitarian grounds.

7. The other main source of internees is the Netherlands East
Indies and Netherlands Government have similarly agreed to join in
the scheme although the proportion of Netherlands subjects they
will get under present arrangements is also trivial.

8. If the Commonwealth Government are not prepared to take part in
the exchange except on the basis set out in your telegram under
reference, this will make it very difficult for the Governments of
India and the Netherlands to justify their continued participation
in the scheme and the result will be possibly its abandonment and
certainly a very considerable delay with the effect upon our
internees already explained in paragraph 3 above. Such an action
would of course also offer excellent material to Japanese

9. In the light of the above considerations we strongly hope that
the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to come into the
exchange on the same basis as the other Governments. If however
they feel it necessary to maintain their attitude as set out in
your telegram under reference, the United Kingdom Government feel
the only course is for separate communication to be made on behalf
of the Commonwealth Government to the Protecting Power. [4] In
order to ensure that there can be no possible misunderstanding
they would prefer it if the Commonwealth Government could
undertake to supply the exact text of communication which they
would wish to have made on their behalf. In view of the urgency of
the matter a very early reply to this telegram would be

1 Document 202.

2 Cablegram 128 (on file AA:A989, 43/460/10/2, i) indicated that
the U.K. Govt agreed with the Commonwealth Govt's views on

3 On the file cited in note 2. This cablegram was in fact
dispatched on 24 May.

4 Switzerland.

[AA:A989, 43/460/10/2, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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