1 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Field Marshal J. C. Smuts, South African Prime Minister, and to Mr W L. Mackenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister
Cablegram 46/2  CANBERRA, 3 July 
MOST SECRET AND PERSONAL
I have been much exercised about the relations of the Dominions to
the important matter of central control of war policy.
We all have the greatest admiration for the genius, personality
and work of Churchill, but I was greatly struck in London by the
following facts: -
1.Churchill carries far too great an individual burden, and this
has obvious dangers in a long war;
2.The constitution of the War Cabinet is such that members of it
have much departmental work, involving heavy pre-occupation with
detail. For example, Beaverbrook has the far-reaching portfolio of
Supply, Bevin the complex problems of the Labour Department, and
Kingsley Wood the Exchequer. This inevitably means that such
Ministers have little time for the perusal of major reports,
access to the heads of the Fighting Services, and those studies
and reflections which are necessary to see the war and the world
as a whole.
3.Under the existing system, I frankly think that there is
inadequate consideration of long range policy in relation to the
winning of the war, an insufficiently comprehensive view of how
the productive capacity of the Empire and the United States can be
marshalled for the best results, and an unsatisfactory direction
of foreign policy, which can at a time like this no longer be left
to one Minister, but should represent the joint wisdom and
decision of an authoritative Cabinet.
4.Apart from an occasional visit by a Dominions Prime Minister
there has been an absence of effective consultation with the
Dominions to elicit their point of view in regard to major
questions of policy. This is in no sense intentional but results
naturally from the fact that the Dominions Secretary  is not a
member of the War Cabinet or the Defence Committee and is
therefore little more than a channel of communication.
5.Churchill being absorbed for long hours every day in the
supremely important tasks of strategy and the leading and
stimulating of the public mind, financial and economic questions
which are of vast importance not only now but in the post war
period tend to slip into the background and to have somewhat
I am strongly of the opinion that there should be a War Cabinet in
the real sense, meeting daily, thinking out and discussing large
matters, and in which Churchill would have constructively critical
colleagues who, being free of minor activities, would be able to
give him the support and advice which even the greatest man must
have if he is to reach his highest effectiveness.
In such a Cabinet I believe that a Dominions Prime Minister
should, if one is available, have a place. In the absence of such
an arrangement, we will find ourselves conferring by cable, with
all the attendant delays and ambiguities about matters which
require constant consideration and prompt decision.
You will, I am sure, share my feeling that these matters are of
the first importance if we are to avoid from time to time a state
of affairs which may create real difficulties, particularly of
public opinion, in the various Empire countries.
I frankly recognise the complexities of the problem.
TO FIELD MARSHAL SMUTS ONLY:
Your own superb work in South Africa fills me with unqualified
admiration, but it may be that the nature of your problems will
not permit a long absence from your own country. I hope that this
is not so.
TO MR. MACKENZIE KING ONLY:
I well remember our discussion on these matters when I had the
honour of seeing you at Ottawa, and I know your own problems and
point of view.
CONTINUE TO BOTH:-Nevertheless, I feel that if we could all be in
London at the one time for a short meeting of Dominion Prime
Ministers we could jointly exercise a powerful influence in the
re-shaping of the machinery of central control and out of such a
conference we might be able to evolve not some practical
impossibility like an Imperial War Cabinet but effective Dominions
representation in a British War Cabinet, reduced in size and so
constituted as to bring about the results of which I have written
Please do not think that in making these suggestions I am in any
way proposing something which would be calculated to weaken the
position or authority of the leader. On the contrary, I feel that
he is so outstanding and important to all of us that he must be
given the greatest possible help in such a way as to secure the
maximum united effort on the part of all British countries.
There is some reason to believe that Fraser  could be induced
to remain in London until the end of August. My own political
difficulties are considerable, since I have a practically non-
existent majority, but I would be prepared to take any political
risk at home if by going to London for the suggested conference I
could contribute to what I feel is an essential change.
I would be glad to have quite confidentially to myself your own
impressions on these matters. 
I have communicated in similar terms with Mr. Mackenzie King/Field
1 Repeated to the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom as no
2 Lord Cranborne.
3 N.Z. Prime Minister.
4 Smuts replied on 10 July (cablegram 40, AA : A3195, 1941,
[1.12021]) that although he agreed that the holding of an Imperial
war conference in London would be highly desirable he could not
leave South Africa until later in the year. He doubted the wisdom
of including a Dominion Prime Minister as a permanent member of
the U.K. War Cabinet and made it clear that he believed it was
Churchill's right to decide the membership of that body. He also
pointed out that because of the campaigns in Africa and the Middle
East and the possibility of war in the Far East there was less
reason to concentrate war leadership in London than there had been
in the First World War.
Mackenzie King replied on 2 August (cablegram 2, AA : A3195, 1941,
1.14055) that commitments in Canada ruled out any possibility of
his attending a protracted Imperial war conference or joining an
Imperial war cabinet. He believed that the existing machinery for
consultation between the U.K. and Dominion Govts was adequate,
that there was not a clearly defined 'Dominions' as opposed to
'United Kingdom' viewpoint which could be satisfactorily
represented in London by one Dominion Prime Minister and that
although the individual burden carried by Churchill was far too
great he could only be relieved of it by his own action or by that
of the British Parliament and people. The cablegram is published
in Documents on Canadian External Relations, vol. VII, Department
of External Affairs, Ottawa, 1974, Document 588.
[AA : A3196, 1941, 0.9131-2]