Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Planning for the future from March 1942 onwards

Back on 10 March 1942, Winston Churchill had sent the Australian prime minister, Mr. Curtin, a message regarding the 9th Australian Division. He quoted a communication from Franklin Roosevelt about an American commitment to send more divisions to the Western Pacific. In particular, he would send divisions to Australia and New Zealand. Roosevelt considered that would allow the 9th Australian Division to remain in the Middle East. Roosevelt was concerned about the "security of the Middle East, India and Ceylon." Retaining the Australians in the Middle East would economize on ship resources. Churchill also committed to sending on to Australia the two 6th Australian Division brigades that were soon to arrive in Ceylon.
The Australian Chiefs of Staff recommended to Mr. Curtin that he accept Mr. Churchill's offer. They were "being good citizens" and were concerned about global issues such as shipping resources and having to shift divisions about. They also approved of getting the 6th Australian Division brigades back to Australia soon. Mr. Curtin and his government, however, were not ready to make a snap decision. The Australian historian suggested that the government was playing a delaying game to give time to get General Blamey's input on the subject. The plan was to appoint General Blamey as "Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces". At this date, General Blamey was still in Capetown in the Queen Mary, soon to depart for Australia. He would only arrive by 23 March 1942. Another issue that bothered the Australians was Churchill's habit of trying to "push the Australian Government around." That seems to have been triggered in this case by Churchill's message. The Australian minister who arrived in Washington on 20 March 1942, Dr. Evatt, spoke with Franklin Roosevelt about the Australian Government's concern about how these matters were being negotiated. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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