165 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner in Australia

Cablegram 334 LONDON, [8] [1] October 1940, 5.35 p.m.


My telegram Circular Z.291 of 7th October, 1940, paragraph 2. 2] Please inform the Prime Minister [3] for his most secret and personal information that His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington [4] has reported that in conversation between him and United States authorities the suggestion was made that there should be immediate preliminary talks in London to be followed as soon as possible by talks in Washington. We have replied to him gladly supporting this suggestion, and a further telegram will follow as soon as we have been able to consider detailed arrangements.

2. It seems to us that it may be desirable that conversations should take place on two planes, i.e.

(a) First in the United Kingdom and then in the United States, where broader considerations should be reviewed;

(b) In the Far East, where particular problems should be discussed.

We feel sure that the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments would welcome a proposal for the inclusion of United States authorities in discussions on problems in the Far East, and we have therefore authorised His Majesty's Ambassador to invite the United States to send representatives to attend the Conference which, as indicated in my telegram to the Commonwealth Government, No. 384, we hope the Commonwealth Government will agree should be held at Singapore in the very near future. [5] It was explained to His Majesty's Ambassador that this conference is intended to cover the whole defence problem in the Far East, including that of the Netherlands East Indies if the Dutch participate, and, if the United States are agreeable, the Philippines also.

3. In telegrams to His Majesty's Ambassador we stated that it was possible that the United States Government might think this too public, but that we felt, if it could be arranged for United States representatives to be present in Singapore during the Conference, they could be kept fully au courant with proceedings and discussions with them could be arranged without their attending formal meetings if this were thought undesirable. We added that we noted the objections of the United States authorities to the suggested visit of a United States Squadron to Singapore, but that should the visit of any naval unit coincide with the presence of the United States representatives at the Conference, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would naturally welcome it.

4. We are now considering approach to the Dutch.

5. In connection with the Singapore Conference, please explain to the Commonwealth Government that we have now heard that the Commander in Chief, China [6], will be able to attend the Conference and it is now proposed that he should preside since he will be the senior Commander present.

We are very glad to note from New Zealand Government's telegram 409 of 8th October [7] that the New Zealand Government approve of the proposal that the Conference should be at Singapore; we share their view that the conference should be held at the earliest possible date and we hope the Commonwealth Government will also be able to concur in the proposal without delay. [8]

1 Corrected from the Foreign Office copy in PRO: PO 371/24709.

2 Document 162.

3 R. G. Menzies.

4 Lord Lothian.

5 On 5 September the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Shenton Thomas, dispatched an unnumbered cablegram to the Commonwealth Govt suggesting that a Far Eastern conference should be held to consider the defence implications of the Far Eastern appreciation contained in Document 66. The Commonwealth Govt replied on 26 September suggesting that the conference be held in Melbourne, but on 5 October the UK Govt recommended (cablegram 384) that it should be held in Singapore so that military commanders in the Far East could attend. All cablegrams are on file AA:A1608, X27/1/1.

6 Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton.

7 On file AA:A1608, E41/1/1.

8 This cablegram crossed in transmission one from the Commonwealth Govt agreeing that the conference should be held at Singapore as soon as possible. See cablegram 521 of 8 October on file AA:A008, X27/1/1.

[AA:A981, FAR EAST 26A]