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Historical documents

100 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Attlee

[LONDON], 13 January 1943

I saw Attlee this morning and he had in front of him my letter to
the Prime Minister indicating that I wanted to see him. [1]
Attlee asked me whether there was anything he could do and I
replied somewhat brusquely I feared that there was not. Attlee
explained to me why it was impossible for me to see the Prime
Minister at the moment and we left the matter there. [2]
I then said to Attlee that I understood there had been a number of
meetings of the War Cabinet last week, but that he had not advised
me of anything that had taken place in accordance with our
arrangement. [3] Attlee said there had been meetings of the War
Cabinet but nothing had taken place at them save the consideration
of domestic questions. As an after thought he said that at one
meeting, held yesterday, the question of what action should be
taken in the event of Gandhi indulging in a hunger strike had been
In replying to this assurance of Attlee's I said I, of course,
accepted his word that that was the position, but that it seemed
to me to be a most extraordinary situation. We were now nearly
half way through January in the most critical period of the war
and from what he told me apparently there had not been a War
Cabinet meeting this month at which anything of moment had been
discussed other than the ordinary Monday meetings at which it
seemed to me nothing of world rocking importance had been
considered. I said that if this was so it appeared to me that
Hitler had nothing on the Prime Minister of this country as a
To this outburst on my part Attlee had nothing to say, which
rather stamped him for what he is; either he should be prepared to
admit that is the position, and discuss with one the necessity of
giving the Prime Minister a free hand, or else ask me what the
hell I thought I was talking about. Attlee's feeble attitude drove
me to the point of saying to him that I had suggested the other
day that he should send Durbin [4] to see me, but that it seemed
to me that not the slightest purpose would be served by my
discussing anything with Durbin, and I would ask that he did not
send him.
To this equally Attlee had no comment to make. I am somewhat
ashamed of being quite so rough with Attlee as it is
extraordinarily like hitting a child, but he really is so hopeless
that one is almost forced to be offensive.

1 Dated 12 January. On file AA:M100, January 1943 See also
Document 101.
2 Churchill had departed for Cairo to attend the Casablanca
3 Attlee had agreed that on receiving the minutes of War Cabinet
meetings he would send for Bruce and inform him of what had taken
place. See Bruce's note of his conversation with Attlee on 4
November 1942 on file AA:M100, November 1942.
4 Personal Assistant to Attlee.

[AA:M100, JANUARY 1943]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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