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218 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Churchill

[LONDON], 10 June 1943

I had about three quarters of an hour with the Prime Minister. I
told him the reason I had wanted to see him was mainly personal
but that it had wider repercussions which justified my taking up
his time.

I then told him that my time was very nearly run out [1] and as it
was possible my Prime Minister might ask me to continue there were
two specific questions I wanted to clear up with him before making
up my mind whether I would agree to go on. The first question was
whether he had any personal dislike to me; and the second was
whether he felt any resentment or antagonism because of the Note I
had sent to him with regard to the War Cabinet, in August last.


With regard to the first question the Prime Minister was almost
overwhelming in his assurances of his regard for me personally and
he referred to the fact of the many years we had known one

With regard to the second he said 'Oh! that is the Memorandum in
which you said I was a very good Prime Minister for the emotional
period of the war'. This was somewhat of a travesty of what I had
said in the Memorandum but it showed quite clearly that he had it
in his mind and that it had caused him some feeling. He said,
however, that he had no resentment or antagonism towards me with
regard to the Note I had sent him-that he disagreed with it
entirely and then started on a dissertation justifying the way in
which he ran his Government.

I rather interrupted this on the basis that the question was
really not whether I was right or talking nonsense, the matter was
one as to the Prime Minister's attitude towards me, because of
what I had said. I then told the Prime Minister that I had
realised that he would be in complete disagreement with what I had
said and I rather expected him to send for me and ask me what the
hell I thought I was talking about and that in any event it was
none of my business how he ran his Government. This, however, he
had not done and I had really heard nothing with regard to the
matter which had left the impression on my mind that possibly he
was resentful of my action.

The Prime Minister said that he had thought of replying to my
letter but had come to the conclusion that it was better not to do
so but he hoped that it had been acknowledged. [3] He then
proceeded to say that it was unthinkable that I should not
continue and, using his pet word agreeable, he said that if there
was any question of my not going on, and it would be agreeable to
me, he would desire to cable to my Prime Minister. He then
proceeded to say why he would be so opposed to my going, down the
lines that I had been in this job for some time; that I had been
fully taken into their confidence; that I knew everything that was
going on, and it would be most unfortunate if anyone else were
substituted for me.

The strange thing about the Prime Minister is that I think he
quite sincerely believes that I have been given all the
information possible and been taken fully into their confidence.

On this aspect of the question I told the Prime Minister I was
sure that there would be no necessity for him to intervene in the
matter, but what I really wanted to clear up was that there was no
personal dislike or antagonism towards me on his part. This he
assured me was the position and was most friendly.

I then referred back to the Note I had sent him in August last,
and said I wanted to make clear to him exactly what my position
was with regard to that Note. I said that I had sent it to him
first because I believed the way one could be most helpful was by
saying exactly what one thought, even if one recognised that what
one was saying would not be very acceptable. I pointed out,
however, that there was a second and possibly a more important
reason and that was that my primary loyalty was to my own Prime
Minister to whom, holding the views I did, it was quite inevitable
I would from time to time have to send communications which would
be a reflection upon the way the War Cabinet was being run. To do
this behind his, the Prime Minister's, back without ever having
said anything to him directly would, in my view, have been the
blackest treachery and it was because of that I had felt impelled
to send him my Note.

This was clearly a new thought to the Prime Minister and one which
had not previously struck him. It clearly made an impression upon
him and I think cleared the atmosphere to the point that it left
in his mind the impression that even if at times I was a little
difficult and awkward, I was at least reasonably decent and could
be expected to so behave.

The Prime Minister then again reverted to Evatt's visit and said
that while he was here he would sit in the War Cabinet, but added
that he felt it was most desirable that I should also attend the
War Cabinet meetings so as to maintain the continuity of
representation. How far this will be acceptable to Evatt remains
to be seen.

The Prime Minister also referred to the importance of the Monday
night Cabinet meetings, and I believe he is honestly under the
delusion that they are very important and the right to attend them
means that one is being taken completely into the Government's

I did not feel it worth while challenging this view. He then made
a general reference to the question of Australia's representation
in the War Cabinet and pointed out that neither Smuts nor
Mackenzie King had desired to pursue the same course and added
that in any event the necessity for it had been lessened by the
departure of the Australian troops from the Middle East and the
removal of the immediate danger of invasion from Australia. This I
challenged and said I would never accept that view as it seemed to
me to be a complete misconception of the relations between this
country and the Dominions.

At this stage the argument looked like becoming a little hectic,
but the incident passed over by my maintaining my attitude as to
the actual position of a Dominion Representative in the War
Cabinet. This part of the conversation, however, demonstrated once
more that the Prime
Minister has no conception of the new relationships between the
different parts of the Empire.

I then put to the Prime Minister two points with regard to my
position if I were to continue as Australia's Accredited
Representative. I told him that while I thought Bridges tried to
be helpful, the general attitude seemed to be that nothing should
be sent to me which was distributed to the War Cabinet unless
there was a very good and special reason for sending it. I urged
that the very reverse should be the attitude and that everything
that was distributed to the War Cabinet should be sent to me
unless there was some very good reason why it should not.

To this the Prime Minister went into one of his usual
dissertations on the subject of the necessity of confining the
running of a war to the fewest number of people and stressed that
about once a month he had to send a special note round in order to
ensure that distribution of secret and confidential documents was
kept to the smallest number possible.

This matter was left on the basis that the Prime Minister would
have a word with Bridges. The next point I raised was the question
of my sending Notes from time to time on particular subjects where
I had any thoughts which seemed to me worth while the Prime
Minister considering. He said he would welcome such notes and that
[they] would be most carefully considered and he suggested that
anything I had sent in the past had received such consideration.

With this I told him I entirely agreed, but it seemed to me it was
all being dealt with on too formal a basis. What I wanted was to
have an understanding with him that I could send him any thoughts
I had and that after looking at them he would either send me a
Note saying they were damn nonsense or would ask me to come and
have a talk with him. He immediately proceeded to say that he
would never think of doing the first of those things, to which I
replied that I wished to heaven he would.

The final point I got on to was the question of his seeing me, and
I think he had a certain guilty conscience on this subject that
there was something in what I was saying.

I pointed out to him that although I had been the Australian
Representative of the War Cabinet for nearly 12 months he had
never on any occasion of his own volition sent for me. I suggested
that that was very nearly insulting to me, in view of the position
I was supposed to hold. His reply was that he saw very few people,
instanced that probably he did not see a fifth of the number of
people that the President saw, and stressed that he did nearly all
his work by dictated notes. I replied that I quite appreciated how
heavily pressed he was, but that after all from time to time he
did see a number of people and all I was suggesting was that
occasionally he might send for me. This, as I indicated above, I
felt he regarded as being rather a point he had overlooked.

The conversation also covered some aspects of the war situation
but they were not very material as I managed to steer him off
every time he started off down this line.

We also had some conversation with regard to Evatt's gift of the
Duckbill Platypus, upon which the Prime Minister was quite
humorous and left the impression on my mind that he regarded
Evatt's great gesture of sending the Platypus as sheer nonsense.


The conversation was quite cordial throughout and I think has done
a good deal to clear the air.


1 Bruce's appointment as High Commissioner was due to expire in

2 While Bruce had sent Churchill a note in August (see Documents
14 and 15), he is here referring to a note written and forwarded
to Churchill in September (see Document 52, First Enclosure).

3 See Document 55.

4 The platypus was dispatched from Australia in September 1943 but
died on the voyage to England. Churchill subsequently asked Evatt
if the Royal College of Surgeons could have the animal stuffed to
replace a specimen lost in the blitz on London. See Evatt's
cablegram 252 of 25 October (FA:A3196, 1943, 0.29331) and
Churchill's cablegram 357 of 22 November (on file AA:A989,

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