5 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Cripps
[LONDON], 13 July 1942
I had nearly an hour with Cripps this morning. I told him that I
had come to see him because of the state of complete frustration
into which I was getting. Cripps interjected at once that I was
not the only person suffering from such a feeling.
I then explained to him what was causing my present attitude. I
said it was caused by two things-the first was that as a member of
the War Cabinet I did not appear to be getting any information or
being consulted about anything and that I was not at all sure that
my position was not the position of the other members of the War
Cabinet-the second was that when one initiated anything nothing
appeared to happen. I instanced on the second point the Note I
sent to the Prime Minister with regard to the Air against the Sea.
 I then outlined to Cripps what had happened, including the
report by Slessor and Brind and Portal's rejection of it.
I found that Cripps had been in touch with Slessor and had some
knowledge of what had been happening and he added to my knowledge
the interesting information that Pound and Portal nearly came to
blows when the report was up before the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
I stressed to Cripps that this aspect showed an impossible
position. Nothing was more urgent than to get this question put on
a proper basis and yet all that had been achieved in a month was
to find ourselves at the point from which we had started plus an
intensification of the feeling between the Air Ministry and the
I suggested that this was intolerable and unless we could alter
that state of things we should end up by losing the war. Cripps
agreed and said that his mind had been turning in the direction of
an advisory body to the Minister of Defence, which would consist
of individual members of the three Services who would be
completely divorced from their particular Services. I said that I
quite agreed with that idea provided that in addition to being
advised by this body the Prime Minister would consult regularly
with his War Cabinet. I also suggested that to this body might
well be added a fourth member dealing with questions of scientific
research and new weapons.
I then told Cripps the approach that had been made to me on this
question, outlining to him the discussions with Butler and the
move on to John Anderson. 
Cripps agreed that these two questions were of major importance.
He tended to the view, which I think is probably right, that they
have to be dealt with separately, and then gave many examples of
the people who had communicated with him on the scientific side
complaining that the organisation was not working satisfactorily
and in many cases that their own individual services were not
I then urged on Cripps that it was no use our merely sitting there
and discussing the position and coming to the conclusion that
things were not as they should be, we had got to do something to
Cripps agreed with this but stressed the difficulty of handling
the Prime Minister who had such very definite preconceived
notions. In any case Cripps urged that it was necessary to know
exactly what you wanted altered, how you wanted it altered and
that the members of the War Cabinet should be agreed upon the
point. He said that it was no use the War Cabinet approaching the
Prime Minister if everyone had got different ideas; that the Prime
Minister would then play one off against the other and demonstrate
that the situation as it was, was as satisfactory as it could be.
I then reverted to the suggestion of the three military advisers
to be divorced from their respective Services, and said that that
at least would be a start and that if the Prime Minister could be
persuaded to accept that and reasonable consultation with the War
Cabinet could be ensured, the position might gradually be righted.
With this Cripps agreed, but he then showed that his own mind was
becoming worried about the position. He said quite frankly that
there were a considerable number of people in the country who
looked to him to ensure that things were all right and he clearly
was doubtful whether he was quite honouring his obligations to
them. It also came out in the conversation that Cripps has not had
any personal contact with the Prime Minister for some time. From
this I would rather gather that his visit to Chequers when he was
going to raise the question of Duncan and Sinclair, about which he
spoke to me when I last saw him , had not materialised. I
judged from the general tone of the conversation, which was very
different from that when we met before, when Cripps indicated that
he was in very close touch with the Prime Minister, that recently
he had been held more at arms length.
The conversation, which had started on the note that unless I
could get my position more satisfactorily dealt with I was
doubtful if I could go on, rather turned at the end in the
direction of Cripps feeling very much the same way in regard to
I judged that Cripps is considerably worried by the position and
is somewhat perplexed as to what line he should take. I think the
one thing which weighs with him very much is that he does not
feel, in taking a definite line, he would get any real support
from the other members of the War Cabinet.
After we had drifted for a little time into the above atmosphere
we came back to the question of what we should attempt to do, and
Cripps then sent for a Memorandum which he said he had not
prepared himself but with which he was in very considerable
agreement.  When the Memorandum arrived he gave it to me and
suggested I should glance through it. As it was a fairly long one,
and obviously dealt with the position in some detail, I said that
I was afraid that was not much use to me as I took a little time
to absorb anything. Cripps then suggested that I should take the
Memorandum with me and read it quietly. This I agreed to do and
the conversation then ended.
With regard to the Memorandum, it was a fairly long document and
broadly the proposal it made was down the lines of the three
military advisers divorced from their respective Services, but it
proposed that the Secretary of State for Air, and the Secretary of
State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty should be
abolished, and all their powers be concentrated in a new Minister
for War, who really would be the successor to the Minister for
With regard to the three particular Services it was contemplated
that a Minister should preside over the Navy Board, the Army Board
and the Air Council, but that they should all three be under the
direct control of the Minister for War.
It also contemplated the abolition of the Chiefs of Staff
organisation and the Cabinet Secretariat, the two being merged
into the War Ministry.
This proposal is working in the right direction but to attempt to
bring it all about at one blow seems to me to ignore practical
difficulties. I accordingly sent the Memorandum back to Cripps
with the letter attached hereto.