41 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom

Cablegram unnumbered CANBERRA, 13 August 1941


Cabinet has asked me go to London again as it feels Far Eastern position will require important exchanges of policy and strategy.

I But, more than this, increasingly convinced that our point of view must be pressed in British War Cabinet itself As you know I sent my views on Dominion representation to British War Cabinet to Mackenzie King and Smuts [2] but neither of them is interested in it, Smuts going so far as to say in March [3] that we Dominion Prime Ministers should mind our own business and leave Churchill to mind his. This completely overlooks the fact that many matters dealt with by British Cabinet and Foreign Secretary are our business as well as Britain's and that present Cabinet set up excludes us from a real voice at the right time. But I do not need to explain this matter to you. Your own cables to me have (mooted) it admirably.

I have informed my colleagues that I will put the question before Parliament as a Minister going to London must have backing.

There has been clamouring here by a disgruntled and personally hostile section of the press that I should resign from Premiership and be sent to London as an ordinary Minister. I have pointed out to my colleagues that such a course would be in my opinion fatal, for I could scarcely hope to carry real authority or weight in British War Cabinet if I had in fact been just rejected in my own country. In any event great majority of Government members are completely loyal to me.

As matter will no doubt be discussed thoroughly during next week I would be personally most grateful if you could explore and advise me upon following questions. In getting answers it might be worth having a confidential chat with Beaverbrook [4] as well as going through ordinary channels.

(1) If a Minister other than Prime Minister were sent to London would he be given a seat in the War Cabinet.

(2) If I went to London not as Prime Minister but as an ordinary Minister would I be given a seat in the War Cabinet.

(3) If I went as Prime Minister but after a month or two felt my indefinite absence from Australia was creating embarrassment here and then resigned Premiership what prospect would there be of my being asked or allowed to continue to sit in the British War Cabinet.

(4) What is your own opinion on the business generally.

I should add on my return to Australia Government stocks rose very high. There had apparently been almost complete satisfaction with my work abroad but during the past few weeks newsprint rationing has made (recalcitrant) newspapers bitter, petty revolts among a few members have been encouraged and whole atmosphere has become murky though fundamentally I have more confidence in underlying sound sense of the people than have some of my colleagues.

At the same time if you will allow a personal note I believe I am more effective in London than here where at present a hail-fellow- well-met technique is preferred to either information or reason.

If you could be admitted to British War Cabinet the whole question would be answered to my perfect satisfaction but have assumed this is not practicable owing to presence of other High Commissioners in London. [5]


1 No record of this decision of Full Cabinet appears to have survived, but see Advisory War Council minute 467 of 14 August in AA : A2682. vol. 3.

2 See Document 1.

3 No communication from Smuts in March has been found. It is possible that the word was incorrectly deciphered and in fact referred to Smuts's cablegram of 10 July (see Document 1, note 4).

4 U.K. Minister of Supply.

5 On 19 August Bruce advised Menzies that there would be strong opposition to the granting of a seat in the U.K. War Cabinet to an Australian minister other than the Prime Minister; that if Menzies himself went to London as an ordinary minister he would probably be given a seat in the War Cabinet in view of the impression he had created on his previous visit, but there would be a section in London which would bitterly oppose it; and that if Menzies entered the War Cabinet as Australian Prime Minister, but subsequently resigned the latter office, his ability to remain a member of the War Cabinet would depend on the position he had created for himself while sitting as Prime Minister. See cablegram 10 on file AA : M100, August 1941.

[AA : M100, AUGUST 1941]