165 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 119 LONDON, 6 December 1941, 1.27 p.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE FOR THE PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

Your telegram 7614 [1], and my telegram 118. [2]

The Palace Authorities have now replied that as they see the position: (1) Only a Minister of the Crown can counter-sign the instrument (I gather that the Canadian High Commissioner [3] proposed to counter-sign a similar instrument in the case of Canada's declaration of war against Germany but this was refused).

(2) Transmission of the draft instrument by picturegram would be inappropriate as counter-signature cannot properly be affixed until after the King has signed. (I pointed out that in the past there had been at least one case of prior counter-signature but they say that they do not wish this to happen again.) They have suggested the following modification in the procedure:-

(a) As time is short the King should treat your telegram of instructions to me as a formal advice from the Commonwealth Government advising him to issue the instrument;

(b) that I should prepare and submit forthwith draft instrument for the King's signature;

(c) immediately after signature a telegram would be sent to the Commonwealth Government so that the proclamation could be issued at once;

(d) the instrument would be forwarded to the Commonwealth Government by air mail for counter-signature in due course by the Prime Minister;

They hoped that this alternative would meet your desire-with which they cordially agree-to express clearly the unbroken chain of prerogative authority and at the same time make it clear that the King was acting exclusively on the advice of his Ministers in the Commonwealth. I said that although the matter was one of urgency I would have to refer their suggestion back to you.

While I urged as strongly as possible the adoption of the procedure in your telegram, nevertheless in view of the fact that our main desiderata are secured would suggest that we should waive the point of counter-signature by me or alternatively transmit the picturegrammed instrument previously counter-signed by you and that you instruct me to submit the instrument to the King as soon as possible down the lines suggested above.

BRUCE

1 Document 156.

2 Dispatched 5 December. On file AA:A1608, 0.41/1/2.

3 Vincent Massey.

[AA:A1608, 0.41/1/2]