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Historical documents

89 Curtin to Churchill

Cablegram 68 [1] CANBERRA, 22 March 1944


For the Prime Minister from the Prime Minister.

1. Your No. 66 [2] has been considered by the Australian Chiefs of
Staff and I have discussed it personally with General MacArthur.

2. The following are the observations of the Chiefs of Staff.-
(a) A substantial amount of information regarding facilities in
Australia has already been provided by them to the Admiralty, War
Office and Air Ministry. For example, Admiralty and Commander-in-
Chief, Eastern Fleet [3], have been supplied by Australian Naval
Board with two very complete secret publications, viz., A.C.B.

0231 [4]-development of Fleet Bases in Australia dated June, 1943,
and A.C.B. 0245 [5]-Review of local Naval Defences in Australia,
December 1943. Similarly, much information regarding facilities
for training and maintenance of Military Forces and Base
facilities for Air Forces has been supplied to the War Office and
Air Ministry respectively by Australian Army and Air Force
Departments. Much detailed information was supplied to the
Lethbridge Mission [6] and there are additional sources of
information readily available through the Australian Service
representatives in London and through the United Kingdom Army and
Air Force liaison staff in Australia.

(b) It is suggested that the information available and channels
for additional information now open should provide United Kingdom
staffs with much of their preliminary requirements for initial

(c) The experience of the Australian staffs in providing Base
organisations and maintenance for large forces on the mainland and
in New Guinea would enable them, in collaboration with the United
Kingdom liaison staff here, to prepare tentative plans for the
reception and maintenance of such British Forces as it may be
proposed to base here.

(d) United Kingdom representatives would be welcome, but in view
of the above, it may be preferable to defer sending them until
plans have progressed further when best results would probably be
obtained by sending representatives of the staffs and advance
parties of the Forces concerned.

3. In view of his responsibility for operations in the Southwest
Pacific Area, General MacArthur will gladly furnish any opinions
that may be desired on the operational aspect of the base
potentialities of Australia and the operation of Forces therefrom.

The creation and development of administrative facilities for the
Southwest Pacific Area is the responsibility of the Commander-in-
Chief under his directive [7], and appropriate procedure has been
evolved whereby the Commander-in-Chief works through the
Australian Governmental machinery and agencies, except where work
is done by Military personnel, mostly in operational areas.

4. it is noted that the proposed examination will be made on the
strictest understanding that the United Kingdom Government is
engaging upon no commitments and reaching no firm decisions. There
are two further aspects which should be kept in mind:-

(a) My cablegram 267 of 8th October [8] outlined the conclusions
of the Australian Government following a review of the nature,
extent and balance of the Australian War Effort.

In paragraph 14, I referred to the vital importance of the extent
of the Military effort that should be maintained in the Pacific by
Australia alone, or in association with other parts of the Empire.

I added that:-

'If the defeat of Japan is to await the end of the war in Europe,
the struggle in the Pacific will be more prolonged, and it is
imperative that a certain minimum effort should be maintained by
or on behalf of the British Empire in the Pacific.'

Part 6 of the cablegram referred to the question of supplies and
services for the United States Forces, and the limits to which
commitments could be accepted for their requirements.

My cablegram 5 of 4th January [9] referred to the relation of food
exports to the United Kingdom to American demands.

The capacity to base British Forces on Australia and to provide
for their requirements is accordingly a matter for consideration
by the Commonwealth Government at the highest level of policy in
its relation to the Australian War Effort.

(b) You are aware of the set-up in the Southwest Pacific Area
which was approved by the Governments concerned, and under which
the Governments have assigned their Combat Forces to operate under
the Commander-in-Chief who has appointed Commanders of the Allied
Naval, Land and Air Forces. To conform to the set-up, British
Forces could, therefore, operate in the Southwest Pacific Area
only by being assigned to the Commander-in-Chief in accordance
with the terms of his directive. A separate system of command
could not be established. Furthermore, the base facilities on the
mainland are under the control of the Commander, Allied Land
Forces, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military
Forces, the Australian Chief of the Naval Staff and the Australian
Chief of the Air Staff. As suggested in 2 (c), information should
be furnished by these sources and the administrative experts sent
to Australia should be attached to the staffs of the respective
Australian Services.


1 Sent through the U.K. Dominions Secretary.

2 Document 75.

3 Admiral Sir James Somerville.

4 Not located.

5 Not located.

6 A mission led by Maj Gen J. S. Lethbridge, sent to Australia in
October 1943 by the U.K. Chiefs of Staff to study the methods,
equipment and organisation used by Australian forces against the
Japanese in New Guinea.

7 See part 4 of Evatt's cablegram S22 of 3-4 April 1942 to Curtin,
on file AA:A981, War 33, Attachment C.

8 Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. VI,
Document 293.

9 On file AA:A5954, box 306.

[AA:A5954, BOX 560]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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