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248 Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram P20 LONDON, 1 January 1942, 11.56 p.m.


My telegram P.10. [1]

After long consultation and detailed examination of the whole
problem Bruce [2] and I submit the following views. In considering
the question of Australian representation in the United Kingdom we
have to keep in mind what our objective] [3] is. In our view it is
to ensure:-

(i) The maximum practical degree of efficiency in the higher
direction of the war, and
(2) That Australia's interests and views on policy will receive
full consideration [particularly] in its formative stages.

Important as (2) is its accomplishment would be of little value
without (1). The question, therefore, is how (1) can be achieved.

The War Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the present instrument
for higher direction of the war. It has shown weaknesses and
defects. Do we attempt to cure these or to create a new
instrument? Such new instrument would be an Imperial War Cabinet.

With the best possible personnel it might function satisfactorily-
with lesser personnel it would be disaster.

It is impracticable under present conditions to get an Imperial
War Cabinet composed of outstanding personalities representing the
Empire as a whole. Australia should therefore concentrate upon
endeavouring to improve by its own efforts the working of the
existing instrument, i.e. the United Kingdom War Cabinet, to
assure its two [objectives]. This would mean for the time being
abandoning any idea of creating any new political machinery for
co-operation of the Empire as a whole in the higher direction of
the war. Other Dominions may, however, follow our lead and if they
do that co-operation would be progressively brought about. As to
the steps we should take to achieve our immediate objective we set
out our views below.

The general background of the position here is given in my
telegram P.10. The broad effect of that telegram is to show the
necessity as a result of experience here particularly during
recent critical days of our having in London a representative so
accredited that he will have access to all information however
confidential and will have full opportunity to exercise his
influence both in formulation and implementation of policy.

This is a general conclusion and in no way defines how the
information is to be obtained or influence exercised. We give an
indication later of the way in which both of these objectives may
be achieved. We feel however that vis-a-vis the United Kingdom
Government the accrediting of a special representative and request
for facilities and opportunities for him to carry out his task
should be of the most general character leaving it to the special
representative guided by his knowledge to demand and either by his
personality or by intervention of the Australian Government at his
request to obtain what is necessary. By this means we will rapidly
obtain an effective voice in the direction of policy. If we are
more specific, constitutional questions, the position of other
Dominions and similar issues may be raised involving delays which
in these critical days we cannot contemplate.

The following is an indication of the way in which we visualise
our progressively achieving our objectives with the least possible
delay or friction.

Your secret and personal telegram to the Prime Minister of 13th
December Johcu 8 [4] affords the basis from which a start can be
made. In that you state broadly the facilities you desire should
be accorded to Australia's special representative.

Based upon that telegram we at an interview with Attlee [5] and
Cranborne [6] on Monday night arrived at an agreement which
constitutes the first step towards implementing your request. That
agreement was that Australia's representative should be entitled

(1) The same distribution of communications to and from diplomatic
posts abroad as members of the War Cabinet.

(2) The same distribution of appreciations and other documents
issued by the Chief[s] of Staff Committee to members of the
Defence Committee and that all necessary facilities and contacts
would be available with Cabinet and Defence Committee's

(3) Necessary accommodation should be made available in the
Cabinet Offices.

(1) and (2) are dependent upon Churchill's acquiesence and he has
been communicated with.

If these arrangements are given effect to, they should go far to
solve the problem of obtaining necessary information.

In order to make them effective however we on out side will have
to create necessary organisation. This organisation must provide
for the closest possible contact with the War Cabinet and Defence
Committee Secretariats and the Foreign Office.

As these two Secretariats and the Foreign Office overlap it is
necessary that the contact should be by the same individual and
success of the contact will depend tremendously upon him. Keith.

Officer [7] would be the ideal appointment for this post. I have
been greatly impressed by the opinions I have heard of him and of
his work when in London from the Foreign Office and the War
Cabinet and Defence Committee Secretariat sources. I would
strongly urge that Officer should as soon as he gets away from
Tokyo be sent here.

Pending Officer's arrival for contact with the Defence Committee
Secretariat we would ask that you would agree to allow Coleman [8]
to remain in England.

With regard to information obtained on the diplomatic side the
Australian representative would have to rely upon advice and
assistance that Officer and Stirling [9] could afford him. With
regard to information an the military side the assistance of
representatives of the three services would be available and we
would propose that these three representatives should be formed
into a small committee of which Coleman would act as Secretary.

This committee would act as advisers to Australia's special
representative and their functions would be of the utmost
importance. In view of this the calibre of the committee should be
the best possible and we suggest for your consideration the
desirability of representatives of the different services being
changed from time to time and most promising and outstanding
individuals being sent here for a period.

At the moment as we have no Senior Naval Officer here the services
of Admiral Colvin [10] have been enlisted.

The above deals with the question of obtaining information and,
[plus] personal contacts which Australia's representative would
have with Senior Ministers, should meet our objective [up to the]
point when questions come up for decision in (a) the Defence
Committee and (b) the War Cabinet.

With regard to (a) the practice of our being invited to meetings
of the Defence Committee has now been established. This practice
however is based upon Australia having in the United Kingdom a
special representative on a temporary visit. When that special
representative became permanent there may be an attempt to depart
from the practice. This possibility, however, should not be
anticipated but should be dealt with if and when it arises. The
continuance of our representation on the Defence Committee is
imperative because:-

(1) It is the body which determines all questions with regard to
higher policy and strategy of the War.

(2) It is the body through which if and when other Dominions
follow our lead Empire co-operation and co-ordination will be
brought about.

With regard to (b) the position is somewhat different as the War
Cabinet is also His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom
responsible to Parliament and often deals with matters of purely
United Kingdom domestic concern whereas the Defence Committee
seldom deals with purely domestic questions. The practice since I
have been here has been to invite him [sic] to some but not all of
the meetings of War Cabinet. This however has been done as a
courtesy and is based upon the temporary character of my visit. We
doubt if this practice would be continued in the case of permanent
special representative. This however to our mind is not very
material as the War Cabinet is to a great extent a body which
approves of and puts its authority behind decisions arrived at
elsewhere e.g. the Defence Committee.

We would not advocate at this time that we press for Australia's
special representative to be invited to all meetings of the War
Cabinet but would suggest that the matter should be left on the
broad basis of your telegram to the Prime Minister Johcu No. 5
[11] i.e. 'opportunity through its accredited representative
present of presenting to and discussing with the War Cabinet any
suggestions as to new policy or views on policy under
consideration that Australia might from time to time desire to

If this is done the special representative could then insist on
being present at the War Cabinet when any matter which he
considered of sufficient importance was to be considered and no
doubt the Prime Minister would invite the Australian
representative to be present when any matter of particular and
direct concern to Australia was under consideration.

We would emphasise however that under no circumstances should we
acquiesce in any suggestion that the principle should be accepted
that the matter is governed by whether questions of immediate and
direct concern to Australia are to be considered.

Generally and not specifically in relation to War Cabinet there is
a tendency to adopt such an attitude which Bruce has always
resisted, maintaining that Australia is just as concerned with
great fundamental issues, e.g. our relations with Russia, as she
is with questions of immediate intervention directly concerning
here, e.g. the Pacific.

In addition to the matters dealt with above there are two other
great questions with regard to which we must actively concern
ourselves and must create the necessary machinery to enable us to
do so. They are:(a) Post war reconstruction problems in their
economic and social aspects.

(b) Questions of supply and co-ordination and full utilisation of
our total resources.

With regard to (a) we have been closely associated with these
questions in the past but our efforts will be far more effective
with the increased [status] accorded to a fully accredited
representative. The organisation for dealing with these questions
would be similar to that in regard to political and military
questions with McDougall [12] playing a similar part as is
contemplated for Coleman in regard to the Defence Committee

With regard to (b) the position here is far from satisfactory but
all our efforts in the past to effect an improvement have achieved
little success. A fully accredited representative will be in a
better position to obtain results but he will need some
organisation behind him. With regard to the character of this
organisation we will make suggestions later. It should be possible
to create it without much difficulty by utilising the services of
Colonel Coffey [13] who has done admirable work under most
difficult circumstances in the past and by utilising munitions
personnel which is just arriving in this country.

The above suggestions we believe are the most practical steps that
can be taken in order to obtain rapid results and will in no way
interfere with future developments but rather pave the way for

See also my two following telegrams. [14]


1 Document 175.

2 High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

3 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from
Bruce's copy on file AA:M100, January 1942.

4 In this cablegram (on file AA:M100, December 1941) Curtin
advised Winston Churchill that he had asked Page to remain in
London and act in the closest association with Bruce. Curtin also
asked Churchill that, in view of the situation in the Pacific, the
Commonwealth Govt should be informed of policy developments in
time for its views to be expressed before decisions were taken and
that the Australian accredited representative should be able to
raise and discuss policy matters with the U.K. War Cabinet,
Churchill and his senior ministers and important committees such
as the Defence Committee. Churchill replied on 16 December:

'Fullest opportunity for knowing all essential facts and putting
forward suggestions and views will be afforded to Page. You will
realize decisions have to be taken rapidly.' See cablegram Winch
11 on file AA:A2937, A.B.D.A. Strategic Area, 1941-1942
5 U.K. Lord Privy Seal.

6 U.K. Dominions Secretary.

7 External Affairs Officer in London 1933 37, Australian
Counsellor at the U.K. Embassy in Washington 1937-40, Counsellor
at the Legation in Washington and then at the Legation in Tokyo
8 Assistant Secretary, Air Dept, who had accompanied Page to

9 External Affairs Officer in London.

10 Chief of the Australian Naval Staff 1937-41.

11 The quotation in fact comes from cablegram Johcu 8 cited in
note 4 above.

12 Economic Adviser to the High Commissioner in the United

13 Assistant Military Liaison Officer at the High Commission in

14 See cablegrams P21-2 of 1 January on file AA:M100 January 1942.

In P21 Page suggested that he should return to Australia, leaving
Bruce to be the Australian accredited representative in London.

P22 explained the existing machinery for the higher direction of
the war.

On 7 January Curtin advised Page (cablegram 2, AA:A316, 1942,
0.629) that the views he had set out in cablegrams P20-2 had been
fully considered by War Cabinet and the Advisory War Council but
had not been concurred in. Page was instructed to remain in London
and Bruce to remain as High Commissioner. For further discussion
of this issue see Page's cablegram P24 of 8 January, Bruce's
cablegram 13A of 15 January, Curtin's cablegram [595] of 21
January and Page's cablegram P32 Of 28 January On file AA:M100,
January 1942.

[AA:A1608, H33/1/2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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