481 Note by Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, of Conversation with Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

I lunched with Evatt and had about 3 hours with him. I had given him previously the Note on the Prime Minister's cablegram with regard to diverting the 2nd British Infantry Division and the Armoured Division to Australia [1]; the Note on Australian Representation in the United Kingdom [2]; and my cablegram to the Prime Minister with regard to the sinking of the two cruisers and the Hermes [3]; and my 4 Notes on the Air versus the Sea. [4]

We discussed these various documents which I had given him.

1. The Diversion of the two Divisions On this question we had a considerable conversation on the whole subject of the united strategy and methods by which it should be coordinated.

Evatt is very emphatic that at the moment it is not being so coordinated and my impression is that he did not accomplish a great deal in America. He feels strongly that the Prime Minister [5] and President [6] are rather regarding the running of the war as a private and personal matter between them and his intention is to have at the Prime Minister on this point. The future will show how far he does so.

In the discussion on the strategic problems the impression I gained was that Evatt is not too sound and has not got in his mind the whole picture but is too inclined to think in terms of Australia only. I think, however, while he is over here his vision will be enlarged and that he can play a most useful part.

2. Australian Representation in London Evatt is very emphatic that this situation has to be straightened out. I urged him, however, to wait until he has had personal experience before taking any action. I made clear to him that if he had not been coming I would have felt compelled to take action myself, and stressed that it was not sufficient that the position should be put on a satisfactory basis for the period that he was here but that I would not be prepared to continue in the job as Australia's accredited representative on the basis I had occupied that position during the past three weeks.

Evatt was in complete agreement that this had to be done and was emphatic in his determination to ensure that it was.

3. Air against the Sea Evatt expressed his complete agreement with the views set out in my four Notes and said that he thought the President would entirely agree with them. He indicated his intention of taking action on this question also.

The conversation, apart from dealing with the three specific points above, was of a general character and Evatt was most cordial and expressed his own and the Government's appreciation of the work I had been doing here.

Evatt gave me a good deal of the political background in Australia, but this is not worth recording. From what he said it would appear clear that Menzies [7] has not behaved at all well and Fadden [8] was quite unsuited for the position of Prime Minister. One point that emerged, which is of some interest, was that when Menzies was trying to persuade the Advisory War Council to agree to his returning to London, he apparently read to them the personal cablegram I sent him in reply to his personal cable to me. [9] I rather gathered he did not read the whole cablegram and when pressed for copies of it, and also for copies of the cablegram he had sent to me, to which mine was a response, refused to do so. Menzies' production of a personal telegram to me hardly appears to be a very proper action.


[AA:M100, MAY 1942]

1 John Curtin's cablegram is published as Document 476. Bruce's note (dated 30 April) is on file AA:M100, May 1942.

2 Dated 3 May. On file AA:M100, May 1942. See also Document 499.

3 Document 463.

4 See Document 461, note 6.

5 Winston Churchill.

6 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

7 United Australia Party M.H.R. for Kooyong, member of the Advisory War Council and Prime Minister April 1939-August 1941.

8 Country Party M.H.R. for Darting Downs, member of the Advisory War Council and Prime Minister August-October 1941.

9 See Document 43. The minutes of the Advisory War Council meeting on 14 August 1941 (AA:A2682, vol. 3, minute 467) make no reference to these cablegrams.

[LONDON], 3 May 1942