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481 Note by Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, of Conversation with Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs

I lunched with Evatt and had about 3 hours with him. I had given
him previously the Note on the Prime Minister's cablegram with
regard to diverting the 2nd British Infantry Division and the
Armoured Division to Australia [1]; the Note on Australian
Representation in the United Kingdom [2]; and my cablegram to the
Prime Minister with regard to the sinking of the two cruisers and
the Hermes [3]; and my 4 Notes on the Air versus the Sea. [4]

We discussed these various documents which I had given him.

1. The Diversion of the two Divisions
On this question we had a considerable conversation on the whole
subject of the united strategy and methods by which it should be

Evatt is very emphatic that at the moment it is not being so
coordinated and my impression is that he did not accomplish a
great deal in America. He feels strongly that the Prime Minister
[5] and President [6] are rather regarding the running of the war
as a private and personal matter between them and his intention is
to have at the Prime Minister on this point. The future will show
how far he does so.

In the discussion on the strategic problems the impression I
gained was that Evatt is not too sound and has not got in his mind
the whole picture but is too inclined to think in terms of
Australia only. I think, however, while he is over here his vision
will be enlarged and that he can play a most useful part.

2. Australian Representation in London
Evatt is very emphatic that this situation has to be straightened
out. I urged him, however, to wait until he has had personal
experience before taking any action. I made clear to him that if
he had not been coming I would have felt compelled to take action
myself, and stressed that it was not sufficient that the position
should be put on a satisfactory basis for the period that he was
here but that I would not be prepared to continue in the job as
Australia's accredited representative on the basis I had occupied
that position during the past three weeks.

Evatt was in complete agreement that this had to be done and was
emphatic in his determination to ensure that it was.

3. Air against the Sea
Evatt expressed his complete agreement with the views set out in
my four Notes and said that he thought the President would
entirely agree with them. He indicated his intention of taking
action on this question also.

The conversation, apart from dealing with the three specific
points above, was of a general character and Evatt was most
cordial and expressed his own and the Government's appreciation of
the work I had been doing here.

Evatt gave me a good deal of the political background in
Australia, but this is not worth recording. From what he said it
would appear clear that Menzies [7] has not behaved at all well
and Fadden [8] was quite unsuited for the position of Prime
Minister. One point that emerged, which is of some interest, was
that when Menzies was trying to persuade the Advisory War Council
to agree to his returning to London, he apparently read to them
the personal cablegram I sent him in reply to his personal cable
to me. [9] I rather gathered he did not read the whole cablegram
and when pressed for copies of it, and also for copies of the
cablegram he had sent to me, to which mine was a response, refused
to do so. Menzies' production of a personal telegram to me hardly
appears to be a very proper action.


[AA:M100, MAY 1942]

1 John Curtin's cablegram is published as Document 476. Bruce's
note (dated 30 April) is on file AA:M100, May 1942.

2 Dated 3 May. On file AA:M100, May 1942. See also Document 499.

3 Document 463.

4 See Document 461, note 6.

5 Winston Churchill.

6 Franklin D. Roosevelt.

7 United Australia Party M.H.R. for Kooyong, member of the
Advisory War Council and Prime Minister April 1939-August 1941.

8 Country Party M.H.R. for Darting Downs, member of the Advisory
War Council and Prime Minister August-October 1941.

9 See Document 43. The minutes of the Advisory War Council meeting
on 14 August 1941 (AA:A2682, vol. 3, minute 467) make no reference
to these cablegrams.

[LONDON], 3 May 1942
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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