24 Commonwealth Government to Cranborne

Cablegram 29 CANBERRA, 5 February 1945

TOP SECRET MOST IMMEDIATE

Your telegram D. 193. [1]

The Australian Government feels that considerations which lead you to contemplate arrangements with the Soviet Government including a provision as in paragraph 4 of your telegram do not apply in case of Australian personnel recovered from German prison camps. These men are all volunteers, many of them airmen. It would be impossible to justify it to public opinion in Australia if, on their release from a rigorous and in many cases prolonged captivity, they were subjected to compulsion to labour service for whatever purpose.

We recognise the possibility of introducing certain safeguards as proposed by you in paragraph 5 of your telegram but consider that even if these were fully accepted by the Soviet authorities the strongest objection in principle to the proposed arrangement would remain. In this respect we entirely agree with the views the South African Government has expressed. [2]

We regret therefore that the Australian Government cannot be a party to any arrangement with the Soviet Government which includes a provision such as that in paragraph 4 of your telegram. The only attitude which we feel it possible to take is that we expect and assume that on release Australian prisoners-of-war will automatically resume their military status and that the Soviet authorities will be ready to cooperate in arranging their immediate repatriation.

1 Document 22.

2 In cablegram 123 to London, dispatched 2 February, repeated to Canberra as no. 8. On file AA:A1066, IC45/6/2/1, i.

[AA: A5954, BOX 673]