Skip to main content

Historical documents

15 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 122[A] LONDON, 2 August 1942, 11 p.m.


Following is note referred to in my immediately preceding telegram

121[A] [1]:-

'In the course of a short conversation with the Prime Minister

this evening, after dealing with matters upon which I was seeing

him, some reference was made to the question of our representation

in the War Cabinet. As the Prime Minister stated with some

emphasis that, "His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and

Northern Ireland" must have the right to sit alone, and referred

to the impending arrival of an Indian representative and Nash's

presence, it is fairly clear how his mind is working. He

visualizes the presence at meetings of War Cabinet of permanent

representatives of India and Australia, plus representatives of

other Dominions from time to time and possibly all together. This

is an impossible picture and illustrates the point on which I

differed from Page [2] when the question of our representation in

War Cabinet was in the melting pot. Page was endeavouring to

create a system under which a representative of each Dominion

would sit in the United Kingdom War Cabinet. This to my mind was a

quite unworkable proposition. I felt, however, that an immediate

crisis with Australia consequent upon demand for a voice in the

higher direction of the war following on Japan's initial successes

might be overcome if an offer was made to the Dominions of a

representative in War Cabinet but only Australia accepted. Knowing

the attitude of Mackenzie King and Smuts this seemed a reasonably

safe bet. Fraser was the only doubtful quantity, not because he

wanted a representative in the War Cabinet, but because he might

feel impelled to insist on one if an Australian representative was


In the result all went well as no Dominion other than Australia

asked for a representative in War Cabinet. On this basis it seemed

to me possible that the arrangement might work.

An examination of what Australia was asking, and what the Prime

Minister here promised, makes it clear that there were great

difficulties to be overcome if what was visualized in the exchange

of telegrams between the Prime Ministers here and in Australia was

to be realized in practice. [3] When Evatt arrived at the

beginning of May, it was clear that the arrangement had not

achieved what was hoped from it. This view Evatt held strongly and

he told me that in conversation he had with the Prime Minister at

Chequers on the Friday before he left, he had explained to the

Prime Minister the whole position and enlisted his co-operation in

putting it right. [4]

On this understanding I agreed to become Australia's accredited

representative and set out my understanding of my task in my cable

to the Prime Minister No. S.34 of 4th June (copy attached

herewith). [5]

(Note:-From copy of this telegram (S.34) I withheld the sentence

with regard to the position of United Kingdom members of War


Since I undertook the responsibilities of Australia's accredited

representative I have been trying quietly to improve the position

and was not without hope of eventual success. The visit of the

American representatives last week to discuss the broad strategy

of the war placed me in a considerable difficulty. I heard of this

visit when the Prime Minister announced it to the Cabinet on

Monday 20th July. As by Thursday I had not been summoned to any

meeting of War Cabinet either with regard to instructions to be

given to the Chiefs of Staff or to consider the results of their

discussions with Marshall and King, I felt that I should advise

the Government of the position and drafted the cable of 23rd July

[6] (copy attached herewith). This telegram I decided to think

over during the night and as I was summoned to a War Cabinet

meeting on Friday I decided to postpone sending it until after the

meeting. As a result of discussion at the meeting I decided not to

send the telegram. For it I substituted my telegram 111[A] of 25th

July (copy of which is attached herewith) [7] together with other
telegrams I have sent on the subject of Hopkins, Marshall and

King's Visit. [8]

Although the immediate problem created by the visit of American

representatives has passed the major question of implementation of

the arrangement with regard to our representation in War Cabinet

remains unsettled. The only hope of satisfactorily dealing with

this problem is by personal discussion between the Prime Minister

and myself

I am convinced that the Prime Minister is anxious to find an

effective means of honouring the obligation which he has

undertaken. The only solution which I can see is for the

Australian representative to take part in formulation of all major

questions of policy. If this, or some other arrangement that will

be reasonably satisfactory both to the United Kingdom Government

and Australian Government, cannot be acceded to, there appears to

be no alternative but to declare frankly that the contemplated

basis of Australian representation in the War Cabinet is

unworkable. The latter course would have most unfortunate results

and every effort of good sense and good will must be made to avoid


Note:-The draft telegram not sent which I refer to above I am

forwarding in my immediately following telegram 123[A]. [9]


  • 1 Document 14.
  • 2 Page had been in London as Special Representative of the
    Commonwealth Govt from October 1941 to March 1942. After a long
    illness he left London on 25 June and returned to Australia via
    the United States. He was co-opted as a member of the Advisory War
    Council on 26 August.
  • 3 See Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V,
    Documents 259, 262, 289, 304 and 319.
  • 4 See ibid., Document 508.
  • 5 On file AA:M100, June 1942.
  • 6 On file AA:M100, July 1942.
  • 7 Document 9.
  • 8 See cablegrams 112A and 114A of 25 and 27 July on the file cited
    in note 6.
  • 9 Document 16.

[FA:A3195, 1942, 1.30572]

Last Updated: 2 February 2011
Back to top