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41 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom

Cablegram unnumbered CANBERRA, 13 August 1941

MOST IMMEDIATE URGENT CONFIDENTIAL AND PERSONAL TO MR BRUCE

Cabinet has asked me go to London again as it feels Far Eastern
position will require important exchanges of policy and strategy.

I But, more than this, increasingly convinced that our point of
view must be pressed in British War Cabinet itself
As you know I sent my views on Dominion representation to British
War Cabinet to Mackenzie King and Smuts [2] but neither of them is
interested in it, Smuts going so far as to say in March [3] that
we Dominion Prime Ministers should mind our own business and leave
Churchill to mind his. This completely overlooks the fact that
many matters dealt with by British Cabinet and Foreign Secretary
are our business as well as Britain's and that present Cabinet set
up excludes us from a real voice at the right time. But I do not
need to explain this matter to you. Your own cables to me have
(mooted) it admirably.

I have informed my colleagues that I will put the question before
Parliament as a Minister going to London must have backing.

There has been clamouring here by a disgruntled and personally
hostile section of the press that I should resign from Premiership
and be sent to London as an ordinary Minister. I have pointed out
to my colleagues that such a course would be in my opinion fatal,
for I could scarcely hope to carry real authority or weight in
British War Cabinet if I had in fact been just rejected in my own
country. In any event great majority of Government members are
completely loyal to me.

As matter will no doubt be discussed thoroughly during next week I
would be personally most grateful if you could explore and advise
me upon following questions. In getting answers it might be worth
having a confidential chat with Beaverbrook [4] as well as going
through ordinary channels.

(1) If a Minister other than Prime Minister were sent to London
would he be given a seat in the War Cabinet.

(2) If I went to London not as Prime Minister but as an ordinary
Minister would I be given a seat in the War Cabinet.

(3) If I went as Prime Minister but after a month or two felt my
indefinite absence from Australia was creating embarrassment here
and then resigned Premiership what prospect would there be of my
being asked or allowed to continue to sit in the British War
Cabinet.

(4) What is your own opinion on the business generally.

I should add on my return to Australia Government stocks rose very
high. There had apparently been almost complete satisfaction with
my work abroad but during the past few weeks newsprint rationing
has made (recalcitrant) newspapers bitter, petty revolts among a
few members have been encouraged and whole atmosphere has become
murky though fundamentally I have more confidence in underlying
sound sense of the people than have some of my colleagues.

At the same time if you will allow a personal note I believe I am
more effective in London than here where at present a hail-fellow-
well-met technique is preferred to either information or reason.

If you could be admitted to British War Cabinet the whole question
would be answered to my perfect satisfaction but have assumed this
is not practicable owing to presence of other High Commissioners
in London. [5]

MENZIES

1 No record of this decision of Full Cabinet appears to have
survived, but see Advisory War Council minute 467 of 14 August in
AA : A2682. vol. 3.

2 See Document 1.

3 No communication from Smuts in March has been found. It is
possible that the word was incorrectly deciphered and in fact
referred to Smuts's cablegram of 10 July (see Document 1, note 4).

4 U.K. Minister of Supply.

5 On 19 August Bruce advised Menzies that there would be strong
opposition to the granting of a seat in the U.K. War Cabinet to an
Australian minister other than the Prime Minister; that if Menzies
himself went to London as an ordinary minister he would probably
be given a seat in the War Cabinet in view of the impression he
had created on his previous visit, but there would be a section in
London which would bitterly oppose it; and that if Menzies entered
the War Cabinet as Australian Prime Minister, but subsequently
resigned the latter office, his ability to remain a member of the
War Cabinet would depend on the position he had created for
himself while sitting as Prime Minister. See cablegram 10 on file
AA : M100, August 1941.


[AA : M100, AUGUST 1941]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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