127 Attlee to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 34 LONDON, 23 February 1943, 7 p.m.


Your telegram No. 20, 21st January, 1943. [1] Representation of Vichy interests in Australia.

1. As regards possibility that Swiss would refuse to look after Vichy interests in Australia on informal basis as proposed in last paragraph of my telegram No. 9 of 14th January [2], position here is: (A) so far as we are aware Swiss Government have not demurred to intimation from United States Government that representation by Swiss Government of Vichy interest in United States is on an informal basis only.

(B) Swiss Government have accepted Italian Government's intimation that latter only recognise Swiss representation of British interests in Greece and part of Yugoslavia on de facto basis.

In these circumstances it appears to us unlikely that Swiss Government would object to undertaking representation of Vichy interests in Australia on an informal basis. Such an informal arrangement would not preclude handing over of archives of Vichy French Consulate General to Swiss representatives, or their actual assumption of representation of Vichy interests in Australia.

Arrangement could be purely provisional so that it could be revoked at will by Commonwealth Government.

2. We attach great importance to maintenance of common Allied front where Vichy interests are concerned in view of difficulties and complications which may arise when the time comes to recognise a new French Government.

3. We have, therefore, deferred reply to Swiss Government as in last paragraph of your telegram under reference, in the hope that Commonwealth Government on reconsideration of the matter, in the light of the above considerations, will be willing to adopt policy similar to that of United Kingdom and United States Governments, that is, that Swiss Government is to act only on an informal basis. Effect of this would be that their protection would extend only to such French Nationals and Institutions in Australia as wish to avail themselves of it, and would be without prejudice to the activities of the Fighting French representative.

Please telegram Commonwealth Government decision. [3]

4. Swiss Government have now been asked by Vichy Government to safeguard French interests in New Zealand also. Separate telegram as to this is being sent to New Zealand Government with suggestion that they should consider adoption of policy as in paragraph 3, above.

1 Document 107.

2 Document 103.

3 The Commonwealth Govt advised Attlee on 26 February that it was now agreeable to the Swiss Govt being requested to act on an informal basis only. See cablegram 49 on File AA:A1608, D33/1/5.

[AA:A1608, D33/1/5]