57 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 165[A] LONDON, 13 October 1942, 3.49 p.m.


[Following the Allied raids on Dieppe on 19 August and on Sark on 4 October the German Govt alleged that Germans captured during the raids had had their hands tied to prevent them destroying their papers and in reprisal Allied troops captured by the Germans at Dieppe were placed in irons. On 8 October the U.K. Govt announced that an equal number of German prisoners in England would be placed in irons and the German Govt responded by threatening to give the same treatment to three times the number of Allied prisoners. Bruce was concerned at the escalation of reprisal and counter reprisal (see his cablegram 162[A] of 10 October) because of 'the impossibility of our competing with the Germans in frightfulness and repercussions in the United States to our endeavouring to do so'. The Commonwealth Govt took a similar view (see cablegram 456 of 11 October), pointing out that: 'We have little faith in value of reprisals especially in cases where burden will fall on helpless captives on both sides and where competition in cruelty can be carried on indefinitely with far more embarrassment to us than to the enemy. We are gravely concerned at consequences to prisoners held by Japanese Cablegrams D412-13 of 13 October reported that, following consideration by War Cabinet of the issue (including the views of the Dominions) on 12 October, Churchill proposed to inform the House of Commons that the U.K. Govt did not regard the tying of prisoners on the field of battle as being subject to the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war but that chains would be removed from German prisoners as soon as the German Govt did the same. All cablegrams are on file AA:A1608, K41/1/1.]

Dominions Office telegram D. 413. I was not invited to the War Cabinet meeting referred to. While this is relatively immaterial as I had conveyed my views to individual members of the War Cabinet, I felt it necessary to register a protest. I accordingly have written today the following letter to the Prime Minister:-

'During the last few days the issue with regard to prisoners of war has been the subject of consideration at meetings of War Cabinet.

To none of these meetings have I, as Australian Representative in the War Cabinet, been invited although this question could not possibly be regarded as one of "domestic concern" to the United Kingdom.

That I should not have been afforded an opportunity to state the Australian point of view to War Cabinet before decisions were taken is contrary to the arrangement [1] made with my Government and I must register a formal protest.' I send this for your personal information but do not think it desirable that you should take any action. In view of the Prime Minister's peculiarities, it is better that I should be left to try and work out this difficult problem of our representation in War Cabinet. If the position becomes intolerable I will send you all the facts and ask for your intervention.


1 See Document 15.

[FA:A3195, 1942, 1.40820]