426 Mr Clement Attlee, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr John Curtin, Prime Minister

Cablegram 326 LONDON, 19 March 1942, 9.20 p.m.


[On 19 March Winston Churchill informed the House of Commons that R. G. Casey, then Minister to the United States, was to be appointed U.K. Minister Of State resident in the Middle East. The announcement was broadcast on the B.B.C. news received in Canberra at 10 p.m. the same evening and Curtin immediately telephoned the U.K. High Commissioner in Australia, Sir Ronald Cross, to complain that he had been given no warning of the conclusion of the agreement with Casey. Curtin, whom Cross reported to be 'extremely angry, and at one moment bitter', said that the U.K. Govt should not have made the announcement without assuring itself that Casey had resigned from his present post, which in fact he had not done, and without making arrangements for the simultaneous release of the news in Australia. Curtin informed Cross that he intended to state publicly that the Commonwealth Govt had been ignored, but Cross persuaded him to 'soft pedal' with the press and at midnight Curtin issued a statement saying only that while the Commonwealth Govt would prefer Casey to remain in Washington he would not be instructed to do so. See Cross's cablegram 334 to the U.K.

Dominions Office (in PRO: DO 35/1009, ii), Canberra Times, 20 March 1942, p.1 and Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March 1942, p.5.]

Following for Prime Minister from Prime Minister:-

I cannot reconcile your public statement as reported here with your Johcu 26. [1] I have met most fully the conditions you there suggested by telling Casey that he should do all that is necessary and take whatever time is required to make Dr. Evatt [2] thoroughly acquainted with the situation. I do not therefore understand the tone and substance of your statement and I shall be forced to quote your telegram to me above-mentioned, unless in some way or other you can clear up the situation.

1 Document 413.

2 Minister for External Affairs.

[AA:A3195, 1942, 1.11420]