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243 Evatt to Curtin

Cablegram E173 WASHINGTON, 12 July 1943, 7.27 p.m.


Your telegram L.68 [1] is of course the first intimation I have
had that an additional Spitfire squadron was raised from reserves
and despatched to New Guinea. Your telegram says that the action
was concurred in by the Air Ministry in London. I would say that
this seems hardly in conformity, with arrangements made during my
visit to London last year which are stated in writing. [2] It was
intended that the Spitfire reserves should be devoted exclusively
to effectual maintenance of the three squadrons, otherwise the
result might be that the three squadrons would be weakened. That
in effect is what has happened.

2. I have discussed most confidentially with Churchill the
question of providing one or two additional squadrons for the
South West Pacific. This is for your most confidential information
as the result of our discussions may not be known for some little
time. I think it quite possible that I could obtain the additional
30 Spitfires, but the suggested way of dealing with the matter is
not quite satisfactory.

3. On receipt of your wire I immediately telegraphed to Bruce as

'Please do nothing at present re Canberra 102 until I communicate
with Curtin. I have already been active in connection with the
matter.' [3]

4. I propose, with your permission, to communicate with Churchill
to whom I can frankly explain the matter. I would also ask that
you confirm with Bruce that he takes no action at present. [4] The
moment he makes informal enquiries of the Air Ministry the whole
situation will have to be disclosed to Churchill who, for all
practical purposes, is in charge of the Air.

5. Please telegraph at once whether you will let me make approach
as I recommend. [5]

Best wishes.

1 See Document 240, note 1.

2 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V,
Document 500.

3 See cablegram E4 of 12 July on file AA:M100, July 1943. Curtin's
cablegram 102 is published as Document 240.

4 Curtin conveyed this instruction to Bruce on 13 July. See
cablegram 105 on the file cited in note 3.

5 No cablegram from Curtin has been found, but on 14 July Shedden
advised Evatt that Curtin had taken exception to the action of the
Air Dept in arranging with the U.K. Air Ministry for the formation
of the fourth Spitfire squadron without informing the Commonwealth
Govt; for this reason the matter had been raised through Evatt
rather than directly with the U.K. Govt. Evatt appears to have
regarded Shedden's cablegram as an authority to proceed in the
matter and he replied on 18 July 'I entirely agree with Prime
Minister's attitude and will wire you as soon as I hear from
Churchill'. See cablegrams L78 to, and E181 from, Evatt on file
AA:MP1217, box 474, visit abroad of Dr H. V. Evatt . . . 1943. For
Churchill's reply see Document 265.

[AA:A4764, 3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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