318 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 140A LONDON, 13 October 1944, 7.15 p.m.

SECRET

Addressed to the Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin. Italy. Future of Colonies.

You will have seen Dominions Office telegram No. 1526 of the 12th of October [1] advising that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was asked whether in view of Ministry of Information pamphlet 'The First to Be Free' (copy sent by air mail to External Affairs) setting out details of Italian maladministration in Eritrea and Somaliland, he would assure the House that the United Kingdom Government was opposed to the return of the colonies to Italy, and that their declaration that the Italian Empire in Africa was irrevocably lost would be strictly adhered to-to which Eden replied 'Yes, sir'.

The declaration referred to was a statement which the Prime Minister made in a broadcast on the 21st of September last year.

You will also have seen Dominions Office telegram D. No. 1527 [2] setting out the Italian reactions to Eden's answer.

You will recall my telegrams numbers 60A of the 26th of April and 61A of the 28th of April, 1944 [3], summarising preliminary United Kingdom views on the future of Italian Empire, the latter telegram dealing with the strategic aspect.

Although there seemed to be general agreement that it would be undesirable to leave Eritrea or Italian Somaliland in Italy's hands, the question of whether Tripolitania should be returned to Italy was left open.

The view was expressed by the Chiefs of Staff organisation that, provided Tripolitania were demilitarised and British airfield rights were secured, there would be no objection on strategic grounds to returning this colony to Italy.

From the point of view of encouraging Italian post-war co- operation there is a good deal to be said for letting Italy have Tripolitania back. [4]

In any case the question of the future of the Italian Empire in Africa is one of considerable importance and is of concern to us, not only because of the position of these colonies along the Mediterrranean and Red Sea routes, but because of the part Australian Forces played in North Africa.

I have emphasised to the Dominions Secretary that there should have been further consultation before so categorical a statement was made.

BRUCE

1 On file AA:A989, 44/735/525/2. Bruce in fact confused cablegram D1526 with D1527.

2 Dispatched 12 October, on the file cited in note 1.

3 Both cablegrams are on the file cited in note 1.

4 Bruce repeated this point of view to Curtin in cablegram 150A, dispatched 25 October (on the file cited in note 1), and commented that there was 'a trend' towards the view expressed by the Chiefs of Staff.

[AA:A989, 44/735/525/2]