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335 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Sir Stafford Cripps

Cablegram unnumbered (draft) CANBERRA, [16 February 1942] [1]

Personal from Evatt for Sir Stafford Cripps alone. [2]

To be decyphered by Stirling. [3]

1. I should like to say how refreshing is your independent outlook
on present position. We came into office here in October. Prior to
that Commonwealth war preparations had been based on the tacit
assumption that Japan would never come in or would be negligible
after coming in. There had also been much Foreign Office covert
hostility to Russia evidenced by long delay in facing position
over Finland, Roumania and Hungary. During Hull-Kurusu talks [4]
chances of modus vivendi were obstructed at crucial point by U.K.

demarche: Hull was not prepared to proceed with modus vivendi
owing to 'the little support from British Government' (his own
phrase). [5] From that moment war became a certainty.

2. Thence forward we have repeatedly warned and pleaded with
Churchill about the danger to Singapore and the subsequent threat
that Japan would command all the seas. The result was assurances
that Singapore could not fall, much rhetoric, a few promises but
less performance. We find ourselves cut off from our troops in the
Middle East, the flower of our airmen in Britain, and having to
suffer rebukes from a section of the Tory press in England
supported by our Munich-minded political opponents here whom the
country now utterly distrusts and detests.

3. Churchill's references to Australia in his speech' were very
ungenerous and are bitterly resented. He implied that we were
asking for the return to Australia of the A.I.F. from the Middle
East and that he was generously consenting. In fact it was he who
suggested such a transfer. He took occasion to praise soldiers and
airmen of every nation engaged in the Rommel [7] campaign except
Australians. True our A.I.F. was not engaged but our air-force
squadrons had performed magnificently. His references to people
getting rattled were more applicable to his Tory associates in the
U.K. than to the people of this country. He went out of his way to
praise Menzies [8] solely in order to make political play against
our Prime Minister. [9] Incidentally Menzies privately described
Churchill as suffering from a dictatorship complex which
approaches megalomania and which habitually compels the military
experts to yield.

4. The result of all this has been a growing conviction here that
we cannot win this war without great and drastic changes in higher
direction. Three recent events, the reduction of Singapore (which
Churchill described as impregnable), the collapse in Cyrenaica,
and the escape of the battleships from Brest [10], confirm this
conviction. Moreover, the reports of the A.I.F. Commander [11] and
of our official representatives in Malaya and Singapore have shown
a condition of affairs in the Commands which was shocking and must
soon be revealed publicly.

5. I am satisfied that the Pacific Council machinery has been
deliberately set up by Churchill in order to prevent the countries
so closely concerned in the Pacific theatre as Australia and China
from meeting in common council to decide upon common policy
against Japan. The Council meets in London once a week. The U.S.A.

and China are not on it. Churchill then is supposed to focus
divergent views and communicate with U. S.A.-British Chiefs of
Staff in Washington. The whole set-up is a preposterous example of

6. I do not know your intentions though I do feel sure you will
play a great part at this critical hour. I should like to assure
you that as far as possible I should like to help you to destroy
complacency and to cooperate now to secure victory and a life
worth living for all peoples.

7. These are my confidential views. It is vital that someone in
England should realise that we must find greater air support from
U.S. and U.K.: we are short in everything because we have poured
out our resources to help the common cause everywhere in the


1 Inserted from Cripps's reply (Document 339). The original
typescript of this draft was extensively altered by Evatt and it
is possible that further amendments were made before the cablegram
was dispatched.

2 Cripps had formerly been U.K. Ambassador to the U.S.S.R. and on
19 February assumed office as U.K. Lord Privy Seal and Leader of
the House of Commons. In a speech at Bristol on 8 February he had
called for a greater war effort and 'a clear lead to the world on
peace aims' and advocated the fullest support for the U.S.S.R. on
the eastern front. See the Times, 9 February 1942, P.2.

3 External Affairs Officer in London.

4 For detailed information on the talks between the U.S. Secretary
of State and the Japanese special envoy to the United States
during November 1941 see under Hull in Index of Persons.

5 See Sir Llewellyn Woodward, British Foreign Policy in the Second
World War, vol. II, H.M.S.O., London, 1971, p.166, and Document

6 This is presumably a reference to Churchill's speech on 27
January. See House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, 5th series,
vol. 377, col. 614.

7 German Commander-in-Chief in North Africa.

8 United Australia Party M.H.R. for Kooyong, member of the
Advisory War Council and Prime Minister 1939-41. He remained a
member of the Advisory War Council.

9 John Curtin.

10 On the night of 11-12 February the German battle cruisers
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the cruiser Prinz Eugen escaped from
Brest and sailed up the English Channel to Germany.

11 Maj Gen H. G. Bennett.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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