56 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London

Cablegram unnumbered8 August 1940,

MOST SECRET

Please communicate following to United Kingdom Government- The following message was communicated by the Netherlands Consul- General [1] to the Commonwealth Government on August 7th-(begins) The Netherlands Government fear that recent Japanese action and statements indicate increased Japanese activity in the Far East possibly also directed against the Netherlands Indies. The British Government have enquired confidentially whether the Netherlands Government, in case of a Japanese attack, would defend the Netherlands Indies, to which a reply has been in the affirmative.

The British Government gave no reply to an enquiry by the Netherlands Government as to whether in that case assistance from Great Britain could be expected.

It appears to the Netherlands Government that the British Government's attitude of aloofness is contrary to direct Australian interests involved. This they have pointed out to the Australian High Commissioner in London [2] but I have been instructed also locally to sound the Commonwealth Government's views (ends).

As we have had no information that approach referred to in this message was made by the United Kingdom Government, would appreciate if you could indicate what steps were actually taken and views of United Kingdom Government on question raised in the Consul-General's communication. [3]

MENZIES

1 Tom Elink Schuurman.

2 See file AA:M100, August 1940, for S.M. Bruce's notes of conversation with Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen (Netherlands Ambassador to the United Kingdom) on 5 August and C. J. I. M.

Welter (Netherlands Minister for colonies) on 7 August. In these conversations Bruce agreed that Australia and the Netherlands should combine to press for a more definite U.K. policy on the Netherlands East Indies, but pointed out that the reluctance of the United States to elucidate its own Far Eastern policy made it very difficult for the U.K. Govt to state what action it would take in the event of a Japanese attack.

2 There is no evidence that Bruce replied directly to this cablegram, but on 13 August the U.K. Govt dispatched to Menzies a cablegram (D414 on file AA:A1608, B41/1/9, i) reporting that the Netherlands East Indies would resist a Japanese attack and destroy all oil supplies before they could fall into Japanese hands. In the event of Japan attacking Hong Kong only, the Netherlands would probably remain non-belligerent, but if an attack on Singapore seemed likely the Netherlands would almost inevitably be involved.

[AA:A3196, 1940, 0.5585]