Skip to main content

Historical documents

296 External Affairs Department to Bruce

Cablegram 9583 CANBERRA, 12 October 1943

Your 180. [1] You should inform United Kingdom Committee at once
that exclusion of these so-called merchant seamen is entirely due
to security considerations which all competent military
authorities here regarded as vital.

2. A close check has been made by the Intelligence Services of
qualifications and records of these men. It has been ascertained
that every one of them is a deep sea diver so that their release
would be a source of incalculable benefit to the Japanese war
effort in salvaging operations. In the light of Japanese shipping
losses this aspect is of vital importance.

3. Both Security and Military Intelligence Services are emphatic
that these men should on no account be released. A similar view
has been expressed by the Admiralty reporting officers here.

4. The proposed exchange is a continuation of the first as regards
areas only. The character of the personnel is quite different, and
Japan never raised the question of seamen previously. In our view
it has been raised for the express purpose of getting back these
deep sea divers. Japanese Government has already been advised that
seamen had to be treated as prisoners of war and not as ordinary

5. Further, as far back as 15th January, we raised the question of
these men in regard to repatriation so that we should have a clear
understanding, vide my 524. [2] In reply your 1911 of 1st March
[3] definitely stated War Office view was that they should be
regarded as prisoners of war and not be eligible for repatriation.

6. We would be glad to be informed whether you have been made
aware of the facts stated in this message and also whether you
have indicated that you are making the recommendation referred to
in the last sentence of your telegram. [4] If you cannot attend
the Committee meetings Dr. Evatt suggests that Stirling should go
as he is fully aware of our policy and special difficulties.

1 Document 294.

2 FA:A3196, 1943, 0.1537.

3 FA:A3195, 1943, 1.9901.

4 Bruce replied the same day that although he had understood that
the Commonwealth Govt objected to the inclusion of the Japanese
seamen he had not been aware of the grounds of objection in detail
until he read paragraphs 2 and 3 of cablegram 9583; he also
pointed out that the U.K. Admiralty had no security objection to
the return of the seamen. See cablegram 10101 on file AA:M100,
October 1943.

On 13 October Bruce cabled further: 'I have taken matter up with
United Kingdom and made the points included in your telegram. An
urgent examination of further information contained in paragraphs
3 and 4 is being made and United Kingdom have promised to let me
have their views immediately.' See cablegram 185A on the file
cited above in this note.

[AA:A989, 43/460/10/2, ii]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top