364 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 33A LONDON, 23 February 1942

MOST IMMEDIATE CLEAR THE LINE FOR PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL HIMSELF

Have just seen copy of telegram the Prime Minister [1] has sent to you this afternoon. [2] While Page [3] is dealing with it officially, and will no doubt have much to say to the Prime Minister with regard to it, I feel I must send you privately my reactions; [I] am appalled by it and its possible repercussions.

It is arrogant and offensive and contradicts the assurances given to Page that the Convoy was not being diverted from its direct route to Australia. Any reaction on your part would be justified.

None the less I urge restraint in your reply. I hold no brief for the Prime Minister and feel strongly that had he not effected the recent alterations in the structure of the War Cabinet it would have been essential that he should go and that quickly.

Nevertheless I feel that the alterations having been effected, the best instrument we have to our hand having been created and being at a desperate and possibly the determining point of the war, a crisis in the relations between Australia and the United Kingdom arising out of the action of one man must be avoided.

To check my view I have just seen Cripps [4] and fully discussed the matter with him. He also urges restraint in your reply. He stressed the fact that at the moment the Prime Minister is so near the end of his tether owing to the strain of the war situation-the work involved in the Cabinet reconstruction and preparation for Tuesday's critical debate-that allowance must be made for the tone of his telegram.

He also urged that just when by the creation of the new Cabinet there was a chance of getting on to a direct co-operative working basis it was essential to avoid a first class row.

Reinforced with Cripps' view I urge that despite the provocation you should maintain in your reply the admirable tone and reasoned argument of your recent cables on the subject of the Burma diversion.

BRUCE

1 Winston Churchill.

2 Document 362.

3 Special Representative in the United Kingdom.

4 U.K. Lord Privy Seal.

[AA:M100, FEBRUARY 1942]