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246 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram 181 [1] CANBERRA, 19 July 1943


Reference your 177 [2], I would be glad if you could advise me
more definitely of the various matters on which you have received
reports, as it would help me to send a more precise answer. It
would also assist me in tracing the sources from which the
statements have emanated.

2. In the first place, may I say that I consider that the election
campaign should be conducted as a purely domestic matter of this
country without involving the views and policy of the United
Kingdom or any of the Dominions or the United Nations. All my
effort and influence are so directed. There are, however,
interests which seek to regard your Government as an umbrella for
their party slogans. Neither you nor myself can avoid this as it
also happened in the elections of 1940.

3. I myself have not made any speeches so far, but probably the
matter most prominently before the Australian people at the
present time has been references to a report by the Commander-in-
Chief, Home Forces, in February 1942 [3], which he submitted to
the Government and the essence of which was concentration on the
defence of the vital parts of Australia.

4. The implications of this report in relation to other parts of
Australia have given rise to controversy regarding the Australian
resources that were available for the defence of the Commonwealth
and adjacent territories after the entry of Japan into the war. In
these discussions, mention has been made of the loss of Australian
forces in Malaya, Ambon, Timor and Rabaul, and the inability to
hold these regions, together with the lack of forces to forestall
or stop the Japanese advance in New Guinea. These questions, of
course, have not involved and should not involve the policy of any
Governments except those of myself and its predecessors.

5. A matter that has come to my notice which bears directly on
your message is a statement by Mr. Menzies reported in the press
of 13th July, in which he criticised the Australian Government for
not sending an A.I.F. Division to Burma. On the following day,
this was answered by one of my Ministers [4] from the aspect of
the essential needs of Australian defence at the time.

6. Mr. Spender, another member of the Advisory War Council, is
reported in the press of 13th July as having attributed to members
of the present Government a desire to withdraw from the
Mediterranean. The only knowledge of such a proposal having been
mentioned to the United Kingdom Government was when the question
of evacuation plans in the Middle East was raised by Mr. Menzies
when he was in London in 1941, at the instance of his Government.


7. Action has been taken by me to bring your request to the notice
of Ministers but it would help me to have more specific details of
the reports made to you. [6]


1 Sent through the U.K. Dominions Office.

2 Document 245.

3 For an account of the 'Brisbane Line' controversy see Paul
Hasluck, The Government and the People 1942-1945, Australian War
Memorial, Canberra, 1970, pp. 711-17.

4 J. A. Beasley.

5 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV,
Documents 407, 410 and 413.

6 Churchill replied on 21 July that the reports mentioned in
paragraphs 5 and 6 were those that had prompted his initial
cablegram. He expressed the hope that Curtin would show the
ensuing correspondence not only to his ministerial colleagues but
also to all members of the Advisory War Council. See cablegram 180
in FA:A3195, 1943, box, Most Secret inwards master sheets from
Secdo, 1.30276.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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