246 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 14 LONDON, 5 January 1941


Your cablegram 24 [1] has caused me much anxious thought. In my view decision dependent on weighing political position in Australia against results you could achieve here. On former at this distance I can offer little useful comment. On latter following is my appreciation. Prompt and sufficient opportunity for consultation with Chief Ministers would be forthcoming but this of limited value. As regards major policy as this increasingly centred in Prime Minister's [2] hands and little influenced by other members of War Cabinet who frankly are not prepared to stand up to him, my view is Prime Minister would endeavour treat you in much same way-most cordial welcome-utmost courtesy-invitation to attend meetings of War Cabinet and apparently every possible opportunity for consultation. When however you tried to pin him down to definite discussions of fundamental questions of major war policy I am inclined to think you would find him discursive and elusive necessitating your either (a) taking a line that would mean a considerable show down between you or (b) leaving with a sense of frustration.

(a) would be immaterial and in fact beneficial if your visit was of sufficient duration to enable you to sort position out and re- establish cordial relations. In the limited time at your disposal this might not be possible and to have to leave with your relations at all strained with the Prime Minister would be most unfortunate.

(b) would be imperative if there were any major lines of policy on which you felt United Kingdom Government was going wrong and with regard to which you had to take a strong line. While such a position has existed in the past, e.g. reinforcements for Middle East in August and September last and maximum co-operation in regard to Far East with United States of America based on complete frankness, developments over past few months have removed all the major issues on which you would have had to take a strong line.

At the moment everything is governed by what Hitler's next move is going to be-it is difficult to see how it can be other than on the grand scale-and until it becomes clearer I see no definite line we would want to press on the United Kingdom Government in the field of major policy.

With regard to other matters you would be dealing with two about which I have cabled you recently and which appear to me to be difficult politically for you to handle (1) Reduction of Australian exports due to serious shipping position (2) Suggestions in Board of Trade memorandum re rationing and reduction of production for home consumption While I would greatly desire your visit and feel strongly you would do most valuable service in your discussions with Ministers here I have given you the points I feel you must take into account in making your decision. [3]


1 Document 243.

2 Winston S. Churchill.

3 Menzies informed Bruce on 13 January that he had decided to visit the United Kingdom, travelling via the Middle East on the outward journey and returning via the United States. On 21 January Menzies dispatched a detailed list of topics he wished to discuss in London, including British war aims, Franco-British relations, political and military strategy in the Middle East and Far East, the disposition of Australian forces and the organisation of the Australian war effort. See cablegrams 174 (on file AA:M100, January 1941) and 323 (AA:A3196, 1941, 0.0816) to Bruce.

[AA:M100, JANUARY 1941]