Skip to main content

Historical documents

377 Note by Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, of Conversation with Mr Clement Attlee, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

I saw Attlee this afternoon and told him I was very concerned at
the obvious strained relations that were growing up between the
United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government. [1]

I said quite frankly that Winston's attitude was one of extreme
annoyance with the Australian Government and an attitude that they
were taking up an impossible and unreasonable position.

I suggested that this was not the situation but that the
Australian Government definitely believed that there was no true
appreciation here of the importance of Australia as a base or
adequate plans for reinforcing it and consequently they felt
compelled to insist on the return of their own Divisions.

Attlee did not challenge my description of Winston's attitude but
expressed every desire to get rid of the present friction.

I put to him that the way that could be brought about was by
showing Australia that there was a real appreciation of the
defence of Australia as a great base in the Pacific and the
jumping off spot for a counter offensive against the Japanese when
the time came.

To convince Australia of this it was necessary to show them that
there was a definite plan for the reinforcement of Australia and
the time and manner in which it was contemplated to carry it out.

I put it to Attlee that if accompanying the proposal for the
diversion of the 7th Division to Burma there had been information
of any such plan, I felt that the reply from the Government in
Australia would have been very different.

Attlee quite realised this and said that there was no doubt but
that the importance of Australia as a base was fully recognised
and was at this moment the subject matter of an exchange of views
between the Chiefs of Staff and the Chiefs of Staff Committee in

I admitted that that was probably true but I stressed the
necessity for getting the machinery working more rapidly and more
efficiently. I said a good deal on this subject, from none of
which Attlee dissented. It is another question, however, whether
he will take any action to bring about the desired result.


[AA:M100, FEBRUARY 1942]

1 Bruce reported this conversation to the Prime Minister, John
Curtin, in cablegram 35[A] of 27 February (on file AA:A816,

[LONDON], 26 February 1942
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top