Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The situation in the Far East and Australia in early 1942

The Australians had temporarily kept the 9th Australian Division and some corps troops in the Middle East. The rest of the 1st Australian Corps were being sent to the Far East starting on 30 January 1942. General Lavarack, the corps comander, was sent ahead of the bulk of the corps. The men and equipment were embarked on convoys. The original plan was to send the 1st Australian Corps to Java, but the Chief of the Australian General Staff canceled the deployment to Java after the Japanese captured Singapore. The convoys were instead sent to Australia, which would sensibly be seen as a base for future attacks against the Japanese forces in the western Pacific. They really wanted to have the 9th Australian Division in Australia as soon as possible.
As was often the case, Winston Churchill had his own plans. He wanted to send the 7th Australian Division to Burma. The Australian prime minister, now Mr. Curtin, opposed the move and wanted the division in Australia. As early as 18 February 1942, the Australian government was informed that the Pacific War Council wanted the 6th Australian Division and the 9th Australian Division sbe sent to Australia, while the 7th Australian Division was wanted in Burma. They also wanted to send the 70th Division (defending Tobruk) to Burma. The Australian government was being pressured to send forces to Burma, but General Sturdee and Mr. Curtin opposed the move. The British then raised the stakes, offering to send an American division to Australia, if they would agree to the diversion to Burma. The Australians were still opposed to such a step. Winston Churchill was very upset that the Australians opposed his plan. To try to appease Churchill, Mr. Curtin offered to send to 6th Australian Division brigades to Ceylon. That was offered with the condition that the 9th Australian Division be returned to Australia "as soon as possible". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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