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438 Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom

Cablegram 39 WASHINGTON, 23 March 1942


Your telegram of 20th March on Russia. [1] I agree entirely with
approach which is in accordance with views expressed to you from
Australia. I have already discussed matter with President. [2] My
impression is that he has given Litvinov [3] private assurance of
agreement although he is naturally disinclined to commit himself
in writing. My own view is that, as already indicated, Clauses 2
and 3 of Atlantic Charter can be substantially satisfied. At a
Conference last night I developed position with Hopkins [4] and he
is in agreement with your views and ours though he stressed
disinclination of United States to make a written bargain. On the
whole position seems satisfactory and again Churchill should be
beholden to Australia and to you.

I wish we could do something to restore Churchill to favour in
Australia not because he is Churchill but because he is Prime
Minister. Every step taken recently suggests that the United
Kingdom is throwing exclusive responsibility for defence of
Australia and New Zealand on to shoulders of United States.

The reaction [sic] everywhere is bad. Our position in Australia
for the next two months is a desperate one. Why could not
Churchill agree to immediate deliveries to Australia of entire
United Kingdom allocation for six weeks only? This would not take
away from United Kingdom production but it might make him the
saviour of Australia. The continuous rowing over unfortunate
things and attempt to hector over more important things gravely
impair Empire solidarity. It is not for me to apportion blame but
I can assure you that the President is very disturbed and is
anxious to effect conciliation which in my opinion requires also
some earnest from United Kingdom Government.

I should be glad if you would arrange to convey to Churchill
substance of this message on the understanding that it is regarded
as confidential and personal.

Introducing it you might read the letter of introduction from W.

M. Hughes [5] which I quote:

'Dear Mr. Churchill,
This will introduce my friend the Honourable H. V. EVATT, Attorney
General and Minister for External Affairs of the Commonwealth of
Australia and Minister representing [Australia] in War Cabinet.

You know all about him-he was for ten years justice of the High
Court-a man of parts, and he comes to Britain to get help for
Australia in the hour of supreme peril.

He will tell you all about our position-Australia will fight, do
not doubt for a moment-but the enemy is strong, fired by fanatical
zeal and has complete local command of the sea-and great
superiority in the air.

We want planes, fighters and bombers-dive bombers-and, of course,
ships and we want all these now.

Dr. Evatt will put the position in detail before you.

We must hold Australia. We will fight as you bade the English do-
on the beaches, on the roads, in every hamlet-but we want planes-
and now.

I ought to say I have known Dr. Evatt for the last thirty years;

he has, like all of us, an intense admiration for you; and he has
great influence in Australia.

I commend (him to) you and I am,
Yours truly,
(Signed) W. M. HUGHES.'
Finally with regard to 9th Division could you not arrange for
Churchill to withdraw suggestion that 9th Division should be
retained in the Middle East?
Recently we made decision over Ceylon on express understanding
that this Division was to return home.

Equally President made it clear now [sic] Division from United
States was not conditional on any decision of ours in relation to
Australian Imperial Forces.

I think Prime Minister should be reminded of undertaking he gave
to Australia and New Zealand on 11th August 1940. [6] Cable of
that date in paragraph (4) read as follows:-

'A final question arises whether Japan having declared war would
attempt to invade Australia or New Zealand with a considerable
army. We think this very unlikely because Japan is first absorbed
in China, secondly, would be gathering rich prizes in Dutch East
Indies, and thirdly, would fear very much to send important part
of her fleet far to the southwards leaving American fleet between
it and home. If however contrary to prudence and self-interest
Japan set about invading Australia or New Zealand on a large scale
I have the explicit authority of the Cabinet to assure you that we
should then cut our losses in the Mediterranean and proceed to
your aid sacrificing every interest except only defence position
of this island on which all depends.'
Prime Minister will see significance of this in relation to
Australian Imperial Forces and other vital matters. It would be
fine gesture if he now (unselfishly) consented to what is
essential to morale of Australia.


1 Document 430.

2 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

3 U.S.S.R. Ambassador to the United States.

4 Adviser to Roosevelt.

5 United Australia Party M.H.R. for North Sydney, member of the
Advisory War Council and Prime Minister 1915-23.

6 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV,
Document 64.

[AA:M100, MARCH 1942]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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