424 Note by Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, of Conversation with Mr Anthony Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

Extract [LONDON], 19 March 1942

I went and had the best part of an hour with Anthony.

I opened the conversation by saying how delighted I was at our Richard's appointment [1] and expressed the view that it was a touch of genius to have got him for this particular job.

Anthony asked me if I knew how it had come about and I said I had no idea but that it had crossed my mind that possibly the Americans had pointed out to them that they had a first class man in Washington and why did not they use him.

Anthony's reply was that that was not so. He, Anthony, had suggested Casey and he then told me how it had come about.

He said that after the decision to bring Lyttelton back had been taken, they were searching their minds as to who to send to replace him. The Prime Minister [2] had asked him to suggest someone, and after going over them all he had come to the conclusion that none of them were suitable for the job. He terrified me by saying that the nearest approach to anyone suitable had been Crookshank [3] but when he had come to this conclusion he had suggested to Winston to get somebody from the Dominions.

Anthony then gave me the names that had been canvassed. He said his first suggestion was that I should be asked, but that Winston had replied that there was no chance that Australia would spare me from London. This part of the statement I have considerable doubts about, both as to whether my name was mentioned at all, and if it was whether Winston's reply was the one that Anthony indicated to me. I think the possibility was that my name was probably brought up first but that Winston showed no enthusiasm for the idea.

Anthony asked me whether I would have liked to take it on and my reply was definitely that I would not. I did not add that I was delighted the suggestion had not been made to me because nothing in the world would have induced me to accept. To take on the difficult job in the Middle East and by doing so putting oneself in the position of sharing the responsibilities of the War Cabinet here without any power at that distance to influence its policy and actions seriously would have no attraction for me whatever.

It is interesting to reflect that if Winston had offered me the job history would have been very much repeating itself as the situation would have been practically similar to what it was when little Hughes [4] asked me to join his Government in 1921.

My reply to little Hughes, when he offered me the portfolio of Trade and Customs, was that I would not accept because in such a position I would not have the power to influence adequately his actions and policy. I added, however, thinking I was on safe ground that if he had asked me to become Treasurer where I would have had real power, I would have been embarrassed to refuse.

Little Hughes to my surprise, and to a considerable extent consternation, promptly offered me the job of Treasurer, which my own previous words forced me to accept.

Had Winston approached me my reply would have had to be the same pointing out that in the Middle East I would be helpless to really influence the policy of the War Cabinet while having to take responsibility for its actions. I probably would have had to add that if he had invited me to go into the War Cabinet here I would have been in an embarrassing position but I am quite certain Winston's response would not have been the same as little Hughes'.

After canvassing my name Anthony said that Menzies [5] was considered but the result of such consideration was that he probably would not get on with the people in the Middle East, being a somewhat difficult person, and the idea of approaching him was rejected.

Anthony said that he then had a brain wave and suggested Dick Casey which the Prime Minister immediately jumped at and that that was how the position of inviting him to take on the job was arrived at. I said that in my view it was a touch of genius and Anthony asked me if I would write a personal letter to the Prime Minister and say so [6] as he (the Prime Minister) was rather worried about the matter in view of Curtin's latest statement. [7] I said I would most certainly and then went on to point out some of the qualifications I thought Richard had for the job, namely, his training as an Engineer which would be invaluable in relation to one of the probable jobs, namely the creation of necessary ports & on transport facilities in the Middle East; and his diplomatic experience, which would be extraordinarily helpful in handling the difficult problems of Syria, Irak and Iran etc. I also told Anthony of Miles Lampson's [8] admiration and affection for Richard, of which he had no knowledge.

1 As U.K. Minister of State resident in the Middle East.

2 Winston Churchill.

3 U.K. Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

4 Prime Minister 1915-23.

5 Prime Minister 1939-41. He remained a member of the Advisory War Council.

6 See Bruce's letter of 19 March on file AA:M100, March 1942.

7 See editorial note to Document 426.

8 U.K. Ambassador to Egypt.

[AA:M100, MARCH 1942]