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338 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 30[A] LONDON, 17 February 1942, 5.59 p.m.


Since Cripps' return from Russia [1] I have been in touch with him
and last night had a long conversation. [2] In addition to his
outstanding capacity he has character and guts, and is in my view
the hope of the side.

The Prime Minister invited him to enter Cabinet as Minister of
Supply (this is most confidential) but he declined unless the
structure of War Cabinet altered contending that as at present
constituted it is a quite inefficient instrument and working with
it no one could hope by his individual efforts to bring about a
satisfactory higher direction of the war.

In my view this attitude and opinion are fully justified.

The present position is that he is waiting on events which however
are moving rapidly, the fall of Singapore and the disastrous
episode in the Channel [3] having occurred since his conversations
with Churchill.

These happenings have so shaken public confidence here in the
Prime Minister that in my view if he does not face a drastic
alteration in the structure and personnel of the War Cabinet there
will be considerable danger of [hiS] [4] defeat, not immediately
but after a certain lapse of time determined by the pace of war

The former is the consummation devoutly to be wished:

(a) [Because] reconstruction of War Cabinet under Churchill with
Cripps included down the lines he and I discussed last night and
were agreed upon would [provide] the best instrument to our hand
for efficient conduct of the war. The alteration to the structure
and personnel of the War Cabinet which we discussed I do not feel
at liberty to give you as the conversation was a personal one in
which we expressed our views very freely.

(b) Because Cripps in my opinion is the only man to succeed

If (a) achieved Cripps by his ability and personality would
establish himself as Churchill's successor as and when one was

If (a) not achieved but Churchill eventually had to go I do not
believe that Cripps would succeed him. At the moment having just
returned [from] his successful mission to Moscow which the people
believe resulted in bringing Russia into the war on our side and
following his admirable broadcasts Cripps' stock in the country is
very high.

Owing to his relations with the Labour Party before the war he is
not persona grata with it and has implacable enemies in its ranks.

He is also anathema to many sections of the Conservative Party.

Today these forces are powerless against him. Given time their
combined [subterranean machinations] will undermine his position
in the country.

Holding [the above views] I am doing what I can in an entirely
personal capacity and with the utmost discretion to further them.

I feel however that I should let you know what I am doing. While
we would properly resent any interference in our domestic politics
by the United Kingdom representative I feel strongly that the
pressent issue[s] far transcend any domestic issues and that I am
entitled to do anything I can to assist in finding a solution of
what is a question of vital importance to the Empire and in fact
to the world.

I need not stress how personal the foregoing is.


1 Sir Stafford Cripps had until earlier that month been U.K.

Ambassador to the U.S.S.R.

2 See Bruce's record of this conversation on 16 February on file
AA:M100, February 1942. Bruce described Cripps as 'the first
person I have come across who I think could stand up to, work with
and influence Winston', and was anxious to see him take up a
leading role in the Churchill Govt. Bruce also told Cripps that he
'had found the present [Commonwealth] Government more responsive
to suggestions than its predecessors and that it was extremely
clear thinking and did not hesitate to express its views', but
that 'it was extremely suspicious and attributed to the Government
here a degree of cunning and intelligence which unhappily it did
not possess'. In the U.K. War Cabinet reorganisation on 19
February Cripps became Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of
Commons and Clement Attlee replaced Lord Cranborne as Dominions

3 See Document 335, note 10.

4 Words in square brackets have been corrected/inserted from
Bruce's copy oil file AA:M100, February 1942.

[AA:A1608, B33/1/2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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