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327 Bruce to Curtin

Letter LONDON, 15 November 1943


I attach hereto copies of an exchange of letters which I have
recently had with the Prime Minister. [1] These letters speak for
themselves. It is necessary, however, that I should give you
something of the background to them.

At the end of a War Cabinet meeting, at which I was present, on
the 4th October, the Prime Minister referred to the forthcoming
Foreign Ministers' Conference in Moscow. [2] The Prime Minister's
attitude was that the Conference was of an entirely exploratory
character and the main objective would be to ascertain what was
the Russian attitude to the various matters that would come under

This attitude appeared to be accepted by all those present and it
looked as though there was to be no discussion. In these
circumstances I felt I had to intervene. The line which I took was
that the matters to be discussed at the Moscow meeting, as
embodied in the draft United Kingdom and U.S.A. Agendas, which had
been sent to the Dominions [3], were of vital importance. In these
circumstances it seemed to me it was not sufficient merely to send
the Agendas to the Dominions but that they should also be advised
as to the general instructions which were being [given] [4] to
Eden as to the line he was to follow with regard to them and as to
the direction in which he was to endeavour to steer the

This view the Prime Minister rather contested and maintained that
the Conference was only exploratory and that there was no
necessity to determine the attitude to be adopted in respect of
specific questions beforehand.

Cripps was the only person present who supported me. He urged that
it would create a very bad impression on the Russians if our
attitude was merely one of listening to what they had to say and
putting nothing constructive forward ourselves.

The upshot of the discussion was that the Prime Minister indicated
that there would be a special meeting of the War Cabinet to
consider the matter before Eden left.

I conveyed the above briefly to you in my telegram No. 178A. [5]
On the day after the Cabinet meeting, to which I have referred
above, I learnt privately that a special meeting of the War
Cabinet was being convened for that evening, to consider the
Moscow Conference Agenda, but that it was not proposed that I
should be invited to that meeting.

I felt that I could not let my not being invited go without
protest and that it was better to raise the question before,
rather than after, the meeting. I accordingly wrote my letter of
the 5th October to the Prime Minister.

On the morning of the 6th October, Cranborne told me that the
Prime Minister had asked him to see me and explain why he had not
felt able to invite me to the meeting of the War Cabinet the
previous evening. The explanation was down the lines of the Prime
Minister's letter to me of the 6th October, which I received later
in the day. [6]

I told Cranborne that in view of the importance of the questions
to be considered by the Moscow Conference I could not regard this
explanation as satisfactory. I had, however, learnt in the
interval [7] that the meeting of the War Cabinet the previous
evening had really achieved nothing, but had merely had a
discursive and academic discussion with regard to the future of
Germany and had not got down to the real issues to be considered
in Moscow. I accordingly told Cranborne that as there was to be no
further meeting of the War Cabinet to consider the matter and I
had made arrangements for an opportunity for full discussion with
both Eden and Strang [8], I would, for the moment, let the matter
rest where it was but I pointed out that I would have to raise it
again when the Moscow Conference was actually in session. This I
did in my letter of the 19th October to the Prime Minister. [9]
The rest of the correspondence speaks for itself and I need not
weary you by referring to it in detail. The upshot of it is that,
subject to your agreement, after you have read the correspondence
the matter will remain in abeyance until you come to London. This,
as a result of the last cablegram from here with regard to a Prime
Ministers' Meeting, I am hopeful will be in April. [10]

While I urged you in my personal telegram No. 107A. of the 26th
October [11] to come to London this year and am naturally
disappointed that it is impossible for you to do so, I think I
have managed to persuade everyone who matters here that owing to
the vital questions you have to deal with in Australia your
decision was a necessary one.

I trust that my having handled this matter without prior reference
to you will be in accordance with your wishes. I realised that in
view of the arrangement you made with the Prime Minister with
regard to an Australian Accredited Representative in the War
Cabinet [12] the issue was one of first importance. Because of
this realisation I have had some doubt whether I should not have
referred it to you rather than handled it myself. I felt, however,
that if I did so you would have had to take a strong line, almost
inevitably leading to considerable friction between you and the
Prime Minister and quite possibly resulting in your withdrawing
the Australian Accredited Representative in the War Cabinet on the
grounds that the arrangement entered into when he was appointed
was not being implemented in the manner that had been
contemplated. Such a result would have led to publicity and
controversy which to my mind must be avoided if by any means
possible. I also felt that both you and the Prime Minister here
are at the moment far too heavily preoccupied to be worried by
this issue.

In view of these considerations and bearing in mind that I had
placed the facts before you as to how the arrangement for an
Australian Accredited Representative was working in my letter of
the 5th March [13], to which you so generously responded on the
1st June [14], I decided, rightly or wrongly, that I had better
deal with the matter myself and attempt to find a way out without
bringing you in.

I have been influenced in taking the line I have by the fact that
the question is more one of principle than substance. As the
position has worked out we are obtaining either officially or
unofficially very full and early information with regard to all
matters of substance. We are not, however, being afforded that
full opportunity of expressing our views in the War Cabinet before
major decisions are taken that was contemplated.

In practice, owing to the way the War Cabinet functions, this is
not so serious as it sounds. A good example is the very one out of
which my correspondence with the Prime Minister arose, namely, the
Moscow Conference. The opportunities which I had of fully
discussing with both Eden and Strang all the items on the Agenda
enabled me to do far more to influence policy than I should have
been able to do had I been present at the War Cabinet meeting.

After reviewing all the facts of the situation I came to the
conclusion with a clear conscience that I could avoid involving
you in the matter at present and let it stand over until you come
here. I sincerely hope that my having done so is in accordance
with your wishes.

I do not pretend that from a personal point of view I greatly like
postponing the question. My position is a most anomalous one and I
am sure you will appreciate it is at times far from a pleasant
one. This I must put up with.

The matter will, however, have to be straightened out when you
come here, and in doing so the whole question which you recently
raised of Empire consultation and co-operation will have to be
considered. [15] With regard to this matter I hope, in the not
distant future, to send you some thoughts which may be of
assistance to you in clearing your mind as to the line you will
take on this important question.


1 In his letter to Churchill of 5 October Bruce asked to 'be
invited to attend the meeting of the War Cabinet at which the
question of the line to be taken by the Foreign Secretary in the
Moscow discussions will be considered'. This initiated an exchange
of eight letters, three of which have been published as Documents
302, 306 and 311. Two are referred to in Document 311, note 3, and
another in Document 302, note 2. The exchange was concluded with a
note of thanks from Churchill to Bruce on 13 November. All letters
are on file AA:A1608, H33/1/2.

2 See Document 302, note 1.

3 See Document 290, note 1.

4 Corrected from Bruce's copy on file AA:M100, November 1943.

5 Dispatched 5 October. On file AA:M100, October 1943.

6 See Document 302, paragraph 2.

7 See Bruce's note of conversation with Smuts of 6 October, on
file AA:M100, October 1943.

8 Strang accompanied Eden to the Foreign Ministers' Conference at

9 Document 302.

10 See Document 323, note 5.

11 This is an incorrect reference to cablegram 207A, which is
published as Document 315.

12 See Document 132, note 1.

13 Document 132.

14 Document 205.

15 See Document 272.

[AA:A1608, H33/1/2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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