Skip to main content

Historical documents

57 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 165[A] LONDON, 13 October 1942, 3.49 p.m.


[Following the Allied raids on Dieppe on 19 August and on Sark on
4 October the German Govt alleged that Germans captured during the
raids had had their hands tied to prevent them destroying their
papers and in reprisal Allied troops captured by the Germans at
Dieppe were placed in irons. On 8 October the U.K. Govt announced
that an equal number of German prisoners in England would be
placed in irons and the German Govt responded by threatening to
give the same treatment to three times the number of Allied
prisoners. Bruce was concerned at the escalation of reprisal and
counter reprisal (see his cablegram 162[A] of 10 October) because
of 'the impossibility of our competing with the Germans in
frightfulness and repercussions in the United States to our
endeavouring to do so'. The Commonwealth Govt took a similar view
(see cablegram 456 of 11 October), pointing out that: 'We have
little faith in value of reprisals especially in cases where
burden will fall on helpless captives on both sides and where
competition in cruelty can be carried on indefinitely with far
more embarrassment to us than to the enemy. We are gravely
concerned at consequences to prisoners held by Japanese Cablegrams
D412-13 of 13 October reported that, following consideration by
War Cabinet of the issue (including the views of the Dominions) on
12 October, Churchill proposed to inform the House of Commons that
the U.K. Govt did not regard the tying of prisoners on the field
of battle as being subject to the Geneva Convention on prisoners
of war but that chains would be removed from German prisoners as
soon as the German Govt did the same. All cablegrams are on file
AA:A1608, K41/1/1.]

Dominions Office telegram D. 413. I was not invited to the War
Cabinet meeting referred to. While this is relatively immaterial
as I had conveyed my views to individual members of the War
Cabinet, I felt it necessary to register a protest. I accordingly
have written today the following letter to the Prime Minister:-

'During the last few days the issue with regard to prisoners of
war has been the subject of consideration at meetings of War

To none of these meetings have I, as Australian Representative in
the War Cabinet, been invited although this question could not
possibly be regarded as one of "domestic concern" to the United

That I should not have been afforded an opportunity to state the
Australian point of view to War Cabinet before decisions were
taken is contrary to the arrangement [1] made with my Government
and I must register a formal protest.'
I send this for your personal information but do not think it
desirable that you should take any action. In view of the Prime
Minister's peculiarities, it is better that I should be left to
try and work out this difficult problem of our representation in
War Cabinet. If the position becomes intolerable I will send you
all the facts and ask for your intervention.


1 See Document 15.

[FA:A3195, 1942, 1.40820]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top