438 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom

Cablegram 39 WASHINGTON, 23 March 1942


Your telegram of 20th March on Russia. [1] I agree entirely with approach which is in accordance with views expressed to you from Australia. I have already discussed matter with President. [2] My impression is that he has given Litvinov [3] private assurance of agreement although he is naturally disinclined to commit himself in writing. My own view is that, as already indicated, Clauses 2 and 3 of Atlantic Charter can be substantially satisfied. At a Conference last night I developed position with Hopkins [4] and he is in agreement with your views and ours though he stressed disinclination of United States to make a written bargain. On the whole position seems satisfactory and again Churchill should be beholden to Australia and to you.

I wish we could do something to restore Churchill to favour in Australia not because he is Churchill but because he is Prime Minister. Every step taken recently suggests that the United Kingdom is throwing exclusive responsibility for defence of Australia and New Zealand on to shoulders of United States.

The reaction [sic] everywhere is bad. Our position in Australia for the next two months is a desperate one. Why could not Churchill agree to immediate deliveries to Australia of entire United Kingdom allocation for six weeks only? This would not take away from United Kingdom production but it might make him the saviour of Australia. The continuous rowing over unfortunate things and attempt to hector over more important things gravely impair Empire solidarity. It is not for me to apportion blame but I can assure you that the President is very disturbed and is anxious to effect conciliation which in my opinion requires also some earnest from United Kingdom Government.

I should be glad if you would arrange to convey to Churchill substance of this message on the understanding that it is regarded as confidential and personal.

Introducing it you might read the letter of introduction from W.

M. Hughes [5] which I quote:

'Dear Mr. Churchill, This will introduce my friend the Honourable H. V. EVATT, Attorney General and Minister for External Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia and Minister representing [Australia] in War Cabinet.

You know all about him-he was for ten years justice of the High Court-a man of parts, and he comes to Britain to get help for Australia in the hour of supreme peril.

He will tell you all about our position-Australia will fight, do not doubt for a moment-but the enemy is strong, fired by fanatical zeal and has complete local command of the sea-and great superiority in the air.

We want planes, fighters and bombers-dive bombers-and, of course, ships and we want all these now.

Dr. Evatt will put the position in detail before you.

We must hold Australia. We will fight as you bade the English do- on the beaches, on the roads, in every hamlet-but we want planes- and now.

I ought to say I have known Dr. Evatt for the last thirty years;

he has, like all of us, an intense admiration for you; and he has great influence in Australia.

I commend (him to) you and I am, Yours truly, (Signed) W. M. HUGHES.' Finally with regard to 9th Division could you not arrange for Churchill to withdraw suggestion that 9th Division should be retained in the Middle East? Recently we made decision over Ceylon on express understanding that this Division was to return home.

Equally President made it clear now [sic] Division from United States was not conditional on any decision of ours in relation to Australian Imperial Forces.

I think Prime Minister should be reminded of undertaking he gave to Australia and New Zealand on 11th August 1940. [6] Cable of that date in paragraph (4) read as follows:-

'A final question arises whether Japan having declared war would attempt to invade Australia or New Zealand with a considerable army. We think this very unlikely because Japan is first absorbed in China, secondly, would be gathering rich prizes in Dutch East Indies, and thirdly, would fear very much to send important part of her fleet far to the southwards leaving American fleet between it and home. If however contrary to prudence and self-interest Japan set about invading Australia or New Zealand on a large scale I have the explicit authority of the Cabinet to assure you that we should then cut our losses in the Mediterranean and proceed to your aid sacrificing every interest except only defence position of this island on which all depends.' Prime Minister will see significance of this in relation to Australian Imperial Forces and other vital matters. It would be fine gesture if he now (unselfishly) consented to what is essential to morale of Australia.


1 Document 430.

2 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3 U.S.S.R. Ambassador to the United States.

4 Adviser to Roosevelt.

5 United Australia Party M.H.R. for North Sydney, member of the Advisory War Council and Prime Minister 1915-23.

6 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV, Document 64.

[AA:M100, MARCH 1942]