Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
126 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand — [Extract]
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
Following from Prime Minister for Prime Minister:
I have carefully studied your telegram of 20 January [No. 124]. Like you I will deal in this telegram only with the proposal for a Far Eastern Defence Council in London. I cannot but think that there page 138 may have been some misunderstanding as to the precise scope of the arrangement which was discussed by the President and myself, and I think it will be best if I set out in fuller detail the whole scheme as we arranged it.
The President proposed to me the appointment of a British General as Supreme Commander in the ABDA area. As part of this arrangement the orders to the Supreme Commander on major strategy and policy will finally emanate from the President, acting on behalf of the ABDA Governments. The President will be advised by the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington. This committee consists of three United States Chiefs of Staff sitting with the British Joint Staff Mission, at the head of which I propose to place Field Marshal Dill.1 In London there will be a Far Eastern Council presided over by myself as Chairman and comprising one Ministerial representative each from Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, other Ministers and advisers being summoned to attend as necessary.
Any proposals emanating either from the Supreme Commander or from any of the ABDA Governments will be forwarded simultaneously to the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington and to London for consideration by the Far Eastern Council. I shall be responsible as Chairman of the Far Eastern Council for focussing and formulating the views of the Governments represented on the Council and for presenting them to the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington. If there are differences these will be reported. The members of the British Joint Staff Mission sitting in Washington, who are of course throughout in the closest touch with the British Chiefs of Staff in London, would be responsible not merely for bringing the views of the Far Eastern Council before the Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington, but for making sure that those views are properly understood and for clearing up any difficulties.
3. In the event of disagreement between the United States Chiefs of Staff and the British Joint Staff Mission, which would imply disagreement between the United States Chiefs of Staff and the Council of the Far East in London, the matter would be referred back to London for further consideration by the Council.
5. Such is the scheme in detail. It will be seen from it that the Far Eastern Council in London, so far from being an advisory body, will be the centre on which the views of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands Governments are focussed and formulated, on the Staff as well as on the Ministerial plane, and effective decisions reached; and further, that no decision can be taken either in Washington or in London which does not take full account of the views of the Australian, New Zealand and the Netherlands Governments.
6. If the orders of the ABDA powers to the Supreme Commander were to be framed by a body in Washington representing all those powers, the representatives of the Governments concerned, other than of the United States, would be less favourably placed for expressing the views of their Governments, since under the arrangement proposed the Australian and New Zealand Governments will be represented in London, not merely on the Ministerial plane as full members of the Far Eastern Council having an equal voice in its decisions, but also on the joint planning level their representatives on the Council will be able to speak with the knowledge of the strategic and other considerations which have been taken into account in the formation of detailed plans.
7. The above is the plan to which the President was prepared to agree, and I feel that it is the one which offers the best opportunity to New Zealand to make her voice effectively heard in the Allied councils. It is not possible for the United States both to give the command in the Pacific to a British General and to entrust their interests to a representative sitting in London as one of the members of a Far Eastern Council here. On the other hand, we cannot have two Far Eastern Councils, one sitting in Washington and the other in London. The result would only lead to confusion and to machinery so cumbrous that it would fall to the ground of its own weight.page 140
8. I hope, therefore, that on studying this fuller explanation of the scheme New Zealand will agree to take part in the Far Eastern Council in London in the manner suggested above. Pending your reply we will proceed on the assumption that the Far Eastern Council here will come into being as proposed….1
1 The text of a telegram sent by Mr Churchill to Mr Curtin on the same subject has been omitted.