34 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Circular cablegram M215 LONDON, 6 August 1941, 12.55 a.m.


Following for Prime Minister.

My Circular M.213 of 5th August. [1]

The question of giving an assurance to the Netherlands Government has been under prolonged consideration here and has been the subject of frequent approaches by the Netherlands Government, more particularly in relation to the recommendations of the Singapore Conference. [2] But we have not hitherto felt able to enter into definite commitment, owing largely to uncertainty as to the attitude of the United States Government.

2. When the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs [3] saw the Netherlands Minister [4] on 1st August, however, he said that as a result of recent consideration of the whole Far Eastern question he was in a position to tell him that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom deemed themselves already to have assumed the duty of safeguarding and restoring the possessions and rights of the Netherlands to the best of their ability during war and at peace. It followed, therefore, that an attack on the Netherlands East Indies would lead His Majesty's Government to do the utmost in their power, though His Majesty's Government must remain the sole judge of what action or military measures were practicable and likely to achieve a common purpose. Mr. Eden added that of course much would depend on the attitude of the United States Government since supporting action by them would render many things possible which could not be undertaken now.

3. The Netherlands Minister expressed satisfaction that Mr. Eden had been able to speak in this sense, since our delay in giving any reply to the Netherlands Government's approach had begun to cause anxiety particularly to the Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies [5], who perhaps did not understand as well as the Netherlands Government in London the difficulties of our position. [6]

1. On file AA : A981, Japan 174, ii.

2 For previous discussion of this question see Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. IV, index entry:

Netherlands, Far East joint declaration, possible participation in.

3 Anthony Eden.

4. Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen.

5 Jonkheer Dr A. W. L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer.

6. S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, viewed Eden's statement as 'a delaying action' pending Churchill's discussions with President Roosevelt. Bruce also commented that, in the light of a conversation he had had with the Netherlands Minister, the U.K. Govt's description of Michiels van Verduynen's reaction was 'hardly accurate' and that the Netherlands Govt had been 'growing increasingly impatient' at the delay in giving a guarantee. See Bruce's cablegram 619 of 6 August on file AA :

A981, Japan 185B, ii.

[AA : A981, JAPAN 185B, ii]