38 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 146[A] LONDON, 2 September 1942, 8.25 p.m.

FOR THE PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL HIMSELF

Dominions Office telegram 588. [1]

This telegram came as a complete surprise to me and to Ismay with whom I have been working in closest touch ever since your telegrams 407 and 408 [2] were received here.

The understanding with regard to your two telegrams was that after consideration by the Admiralty and Air Ministry, they were to be dealt with by the Chiefs of Staff with a view to the submission of a draft reply for consideration by the Prime Minister.

Late last night I was discussing with Ismay as to when the reports from the Admiralty and Air Ministry were likely to be considered by the Chiefs of Staff and his view was about the end of the week.

It was on the basis of this information from Ismay that I sent you my telegram 145 of yesterday's date [3], my intention being to see the Prime Minister before he considered the reply suggested by the Chiefs of Staff Since seeing Dominions Office telegram 588 I have made enquiry as to what happened and the following appears to be the position. Instead of submitting its views to the Chiefs of Staff for their consideration and transmission to the Prime Minister the Air Ministry appears to have sent a draft reply to your telegram 408 direct to 10 Downing Street, where it was initialled by the Prime Minister and sent over to the Dominions Office for despatch in the middle of last night.

The reply embodied in Dominions Office telegram 588 is as drafted by the Air Ministry and you can take it that it was not really considered by the Prime Minister who at the moment is almost entirely preoccupied with the battle in the Middle East and another extremely difficult and troublesome matter which has recently arisen. [4]

In view of this I would suggest that you should not attach too much importance to the reply which in my opinion is most unsatisfactory. It certainly cannot be regarded as a very sympathetic rejoinder to your moderate and closely reasoned statement of Australia's case embodied in your telegram 408 and your message to the President. [5] It certainly does not indicate the measure of support in Washington that we are entitled to expect.

The position can only be altered by enlisting the personal interest of the Prime Minister. This I will endeavour to obtain and, in doing so, will, subject to any instructions I receive from you [6], take the line indicated in my telegram 145.

BRUCE

1 Document 37.

2 Documents 27-8.

3 Document 36.

4 This is probably a reference to a crisis in relations between the U.K. Govt and the Free French National Committee which had been brought to a head by General de Gaulle's attempts to obtain a greater degree of French influence in Lebanon and Syria.

5 Document 31.

6 On 5 September Curtin informed Bruce: 'We are of course anxious to get support for the general case for aircraft for the R.A.A.F.

programme, though it is important not to prejudice it by over- stressing the undeniable fact that the three Spitfire squadrons are additional. As the Spitfire squadrons were a special approval given by Mr. Churchill, it is preferable to leave to him the initial reaction to our representations against their inclusion in the 30 squadrons. In any event, you should not proceed further than recalling to him my acknowledgement at the time.' See cablegram 8197 on file Defence: Special Collection II, bundle 5, Strategical policy S.W.P.A., file no 3, 48/1942. For Curtin's 'acknowledgement at the time' see Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49, vol. V, Document 505, paragraph 3.

[FA:A3195, 1942, 1.35053]