115 Department of External Affairs to Mr J. McEwen, Minister for External Affairs

Memorandum 27 March 1940,



1. Following upon the adoption by the League of Nations Assembly on 14th December, 1939, of a resolution appealing to League Members to assist Finland, the Commonwealth Government on 9th January [1] asked the Australian High Commissioner in London to inform the Secretary-General [2] that it was fully in accord with the Assembly's resolution, that it had decided to make a donation of A.10,000 to the Finnish Government for Red Cross purposes, and that it had approved the launching of an appeal for funds throughout Australia on behalf of the Finnish Red Cross.

Arrangements were thereupon made for payment to the Finnish Government's representative in London of the equivalent in English currency of A.10,000.

2. On 3rd February, a telegram was received from Mr. Bruce stating that the League of Nations had issued a list of supplies urgently needed in Finland. [3] The telegram, which set out those commodities referred to in the list which are produced in Australia, added that it was understood the Finns would arrange for the carriage of any commodities put at their disposal. This list of commodities was examined by the Department of Commerce with a view to determining whether it was practicable for the required supplies to be obtained in Australia. The question was then submitted to Cabinet and on 26th February the Commonwealth Government decided that a gift of A.50,000 worth of dried fruits should be made to the Finnish Government. [4]

3. On 4th March, the Department of Commerce suggested that, in advising the Australian High Commissioner of the Commonwealth Government's decision, Mr. Bruce should be informed that 1,500 tons of sultanas would be available for shipment in April. Since however no Finnish ships would be in Australian waters during April or May, Mr. Bruce should be asked to advise whether space could be secured on non-Finnish vessels bound for the United Kingdom. [5] A telegram along these lines, approved by Sir Henry Gullett [6], was forwarded to Mr. Bruce who was asked to inform the Finnish representative in London and also the United Kingdom Government of the Commonwealth Government's decision. No reply from Mr. Bruce has yet been received and no public announcement as to the Commonwealth Government's decision has so far been made.

4. It is submitted for consideration whether, in view of the cessation of hostilities between Finland and the U.S.S.R., this matter might be mentioned in Cabinet with a view to ascertaining whether the Commonwealth Government's decision is to be adhered to or whether any modification in this decision is desired. In this respect, the Commerce Department are anxious to know whether they are to proceed with purchasing and shipping arrangements. [7]

1 See unnumbered cablegram to S. M. Bruce on file AA: A981, Finland 2 and AA: A2673, vol. 1, 5 January 1940, Minute 118.

2 J. L. A. Avenol.

3 On file AA: A981, Finland 2.

4 See Full Cabinet Agendum and Minute 293 of 26 February 1940 on file AA: A2697, vol. 3B.

5 See Commerce Dept memorandum W.13/2/1 of 4 March 1940 on file AA: A981, Finland 2.

6 Minister for External Affairs. The cablegram, dispatched on 6 March 1940, is on file AA: A981, Finland 2.

7 Full Cabinet decided to proceed with the shipment of dried fruit to the value of 50 000 (including freight) to Finland (see AA:

A2697, vol. 3B, 29 March 1940, Minute 293). On 15 April, however, Bruce reported that in view of altered circumstances with regard to the possibility of sending goods to Finland the Finnish Legation in London had suggested that the matter be put in abeyance for the time being and this recommendation was accepted by the External Affairs and Commerce Depts. (See Bruce's unnumbered cablegram of 15 April and annotations thereon on file AA: A981, Finland 2.) The Commonwealth Govt also decided to give 10 000 for earthquake victims in Turkey and 10 000 for the relief of distress in Poland. (see AA: A2673, vol. 1, 5 January 1940, Minute 119 and AA:

A2697, Vol. 3B, 24 January 1940, Minute 275.)

[AA: A981, FINLAND 2]