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38 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 146[A] LONDON, 2 September 1942, 8.25 p.m.


Dominions Office telegram 588. [1]

This telegram came as a complete surprise to me and to Ismay with
whom I have been working in closest touch ever since your
telegrams 407 and 408 [2] were received here.

The understanding with regard to your two telegrams was that after
consideration by the Admiralty and Air Ministry, they were to be
dealt with by the Chiefs of Staff with a view to the submission of
a draft reply for consideration by the Prime Minister.

Late last night I was discussing with Ismay as to when the reports
from the Admiralty and Air Ministry were likely to be considered
by the Chiefs of Staff and his view was about the end of the week.

It was on the basis of this information from Ismay that I sent you
my telegram 145 of yesterday's date [3], my intention being to see
the Prime Minister before he considered the reply suggested by the
Chiefs of Staff Since seeing Dominions Office telegram 588 I have
made enquiry as to what happened and the following appears to be
the position. Instead of submitting its views to the Chiefs of
Staff for their consideration and transmission to the Prime
Minister the Air Ministry appears to have sent a draft reply to
your telegram 408 direct to 10 Downing Street, where it was
initialled by the Prime Minister and sent over to the Dominions
Office for despatch in the middle of last night.

The reply embodied in Dominions Office telegram 588 is as drafted
by the Air Ministry and you can take it that it was not really
considered by the Prime Minister who at the moment is almost
entirely preoccupied with the battle in the Middle East and
another extremely difficult and troublesome matter which has
recently arisen. [4]

In view of this I would suggest that you should not attach too
much importance to the reply which in my opinion is most
unsatisfactory. It certainly cannot be regarded as a very
sympathetic rejoinder to your moderate and closely reasoned
statement of Australia's case embodied in your telegram 408 and
your message to the President. [5] It certainly does not indicate
the measure of support in Washington that we are entitled to

The position can only be altered by enlisting the personal
interest of the Prime Minister. This I will endeavour to obtain
and, in doing so, will, subject to any instructions I receive from
you [6], take the line indicated in my telegram 145.


1 Document 37.

2 Documents 27-8.

3 Document 36.

4 This is probably a reference to a crisis in relations between
the U.K. Govt and the Free French National Committee which had
been brought to a head by General de Gaulle's attempts to obtain a
greater degree of French influence in Lebanon and Syria.

5 Document 31.

6 On 5 September Curtin informed Bruce: 'We are of course anxious
to get support for the general case for aircraft for the R.A.A.F.

programme, though it is important not to prejudice it by over-
stressing the undeniable fact that the three Spitfire squadrons
are additional. As the Spitfire squadrons were a special approval
given by Mr. Churchill, it is preferable to leave to him the
initial reaction to our representations against their inclusion in
the 30 squadrons. In any event, you should not proceed further
than recalling to him my acknowledgement at the time.' See
cablegram 8197 on file Defence: Special Collection II, bundle 5,
Strategical policy S.W.P.A., file no 3, 48/1942. For Curtin's
'acknowledgement at the time' see Documents on Australian Foreign
Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Document 505, paragraph 3.

[FA:A3195, 1942, 1.35053]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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