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73 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Cripps

[LONDON], 11 November 1942

I went to see Cripps to ask him about the Sub-Committee of the
Cabinet to deal with the question of security of our
communications which has been brought into the forefront by the
recent heavy sinkings. What I learned from Cripps was not nearly
as satisfactory as the story I had heard about it. I have been
told that a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet had been appointed with
the Prime Minister as Chairman and Cripps as Vice-Chairman. This I
had interpreted as meaning that the Prime Minister had adopted the
suggestion I had been persistently putting up for months, namely,
that the Committee should be formed and he, the Prime Minister, as
Minister of Defence, should take the first meeting and then hand
it over to another Minister to go ahead in conducting the enquiry
with instructions to prepare a report in the shortest possible
time. This, however, was not the position as I got it from Cripps.

Cripps said that there had been one meeting to consider the
subject, at which the Prime Minister had presided, but they had
not got down to practical business but had mainly listened to
dissertations on the subject from the Prime Minister. He said that
there was a further meeting on Friday next but he felt there was
so little chance of progress being made that he had written to the
Prime Minister last night suggesting that the Prime Minister
should let him get on with investigating the question on the basis
of continuous work as against periodic meetings.

Cripps expressed considerable doubt whether the Prime Minister
would agree to this.

When I asked him who were the other members of the Committee, his
reply was that they were whoever the Prime Minister saw fit to
summon. I expressed my view to Cripps that this was a most
unsatisfactory position and was merely in line with the general
hopeless way in which questions were being dealt with.

Cripps agreed and then opened out on the subject indicating his
views as to the hopelessly unsatisfactory way in which business
was conducted and stating that there has been no improvement
recently. He then told me that he had had a long talk to Smuts in
which Smuts while recognising the position as a most intolerable
one had urged him most strongly not to resign. From what Cripps
told me it appears to me that his conversation with Smuts was
extremely like the one I had had with him. [1]

I then told Cripps that I had been having a good deal of trouble
and said I had tried to do something with Attlee, but I was afraid
he was quite hopeless. [2] With this view Cripps obviously agreed.

He then rather took the line that he did not think I had anything
particular to complain of, and stated that he had been at no
Cabinet meeting where anything of moment had been discussed that I
had not also been present at, for months past. He went so far as
to say that the last Cabinet meeting which he was at where
anything of real importance in relation to the war had been
considered was when the decision in regard to 'Torch' had been
taken. [3] Cripps said he had known nothing whatever with regard
to the preparations for 'Torch' and expressed considerable anxiety
as to whether any plans were in fact prepared for following up

For once I took the more optimistic line and said to him that I
was confident a lot of thinking had been done on the lower level
than the Chiefs of Staff. I instanced in support of this view that
however unsatisfactory the position may have been at the top there
was an almost incredible amount of first class work which had been
done in connection with the 'Torch' operation and I was quite,
sure that we would find the position rather better with regard to
following it up than he, Cripps, thought it was.

I undertook to make a few enquiries to ascertain what had been
done without disclosing to Cripps what my source of information
would be.

Cripps in this conversation confirmed the view that I have been
forming as the result of my relations with him, namely, that he
has a first class brain, would be invaluable with his assistance
in connection with any specific job, but has not the personality
to put anything over with the Prime Minister.


1 See Bruce's note of a conversation with Smuts on 3 November (on
file AA:M100, November 1942).

2 See Document 58 and Bruce's notes of conversations with Attlee
on 12 and 30 October (on file AA:M100, October 1942) and 4
November (on the file cited in note 1).

3 Following the U.K. War Cabinet's decision on 22 July that a
second front could not be opened up in Western Europe during 1942
it was decided on 24 July to proceed with landings in French North
Africa under the code name 'Torch'.

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