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58 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Attlee

[LONDON], 14 October 1942

I went to see Attlee this morning. I asked him if he had suggested

to the Prime Minister that I should be present at the meeting on
Monday night. [1] He said that he had, but that the Prime Minister
felt the meeting should be confined to United Kingdom Members of
the War Cabinet.

I asked Attlee what line he had taken with the Prime Minister on
this point, and after some hesitation he said that he agreed with
the Prime Minister.

I then suggested to Attlee that he and I had agreed in August that
we would work together to try and implement without friction the
arrangement made with the Australian Government but that if his
attitude was that everything had to be discussed by the United
Kingdom Members of the War Cabinet without my being present, I did
not quite see how we were going to succeed in the task we had set
ourselves. [2]

Attlee said that he did [? not] mean what I had suggested but when
pressed as to what he did mean I had some difficulty in

I then put it flatly to Attlee that the position was becoming
quite impossible and I could not go on being treated as a cipher.

He rather moaned that the position was very difficult, to which I
replied that might be so but the United Kingdom Government ought
to have thought of that before they agreed to give Australia
representation in the War Cabinet.

I then said that quite apart from the meeting on Monday the
position was getting quite intolerable as even papers to be
considered by the War Cabinet were not distributed to me and I
instanced Sinclair's paper upon which Lyttelton/Cripps Committee
had been appointed. [3]

Attlee then tried to argue that that paper was one which merely
concerned United Kingdom domestic productions.

When I put it to him that that could hardly be so as if I was
right in my information the Committee's job was to determine the
types of aircraft we were going to build on a long range
programme. I pointed out that if that were so, the widest
strategical consideration must come into the picture and we were
vitally concerned in such consideration.

On the question as to exactly what the Cripps/Lyttelton Committee
was going to do, Attlee appeared to be very confused and
eventually I asked him to let me see the Minutes of the War
Cabinet meeting appointing the Committee. This he somewhat
nervously suggested he was hardly at liberty to do and our
conversation ended by my saying that he had better look at the
Minute and make up his mind if he could let me have a copy and if
he felt he could not I would then have to take the matter up on a
more official basis through Bridges.

I then again reiterated to him how impossible the position was
becoming and showed him a copy of the letter I had written to the
Prime Minister. [4]

At the end of the conversation I put it to him that the position
was becoming so intolerable that I would have to seriously
consider whether I could go on-that it seemed to me that it would
be a great pity if I were forced to refuse to continue and it
seemed to me absurd that such a position should be created where
with a little good will the whole trouble could be overcome.

I put to Attlee why could they not let me see everything that was
distributed to the War Cabinet. I had shown in the past, and I
instanced the case of Torch [5], that I was extremely discreet and
even by my nondisclosure of Torch to my own Government was running
the danger of their considering I should have done so. If,
however, they had not confidence in me then the sooner I got out
and someone else tried to do the job the better.

Attlee's whole attitude was that of course I must not give up the
job, but his contribution as to how my position was to be made
less intolerable so that I could go on was not very helpful.

1 A few hours before the U.K. War Cabinet meeting on 12 October
Bruce had told Attlee that the matter to be discussed, the
shackling of prisoners of war, could not be described as one of
U.K. domestic concern and asked him 'to have at the Prime
Minister' and insist on his, Bruce's, presence at the meeting.

Attlee had 'very half-heartedly' agreed to do this. See Bruce's
note of the conversation on file AA:M100, October 1942.

2 See Document 14.

3 Bruce had learned from Cripps on 7 October that War Cabinet had,
the previous evening, appointed a committee consisting of
Lyttelton, Cripps, Sinclair and Llewellin to further examine U.K.

air policy. Bruce found it 'interesting to observe that the Prime
Minister did not invite me to this meeting, notwithstanding the
fact that I have had more to do with stirring up the issue than
anyone else'. See his note of conversation on the file cited

4 See Document 52.

5 The projected Allied landing in French North Africa.

[AA:M100, October 1942]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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