250 Beasley to Evatt

Letter (extracts) LONDON, 14 February 1947


The signing of the Treaties passed off quietly and there was no great enthusiasm either among the delegates or the people in the streets. I felt that whilst we were signing for Peace there was an atmosphere of doubt as to whether real peace had been established in the countries participating. No doubt the long drawn out struggle at the Paris Conference, the difficulties still in Germany and the constant doubt about Russia were all contributing factors.

We assembled in what is called the 'Clock Room' at the French Foreign Office. I am told that the discussions in connection with the Peace Treaty arising from the First World War actually took place in this room but the signing was carried out at Versailles.

Bidault took the Chair, all dressed for the occasion, and said his piece. He referred to a little past history of France, the two world wars, the disastrous consequences etc., taking only a few minutes to deliver his brief speech. He then invited the enemy countries' representatives to take a seat at the table. Duly escorted in by our tall friend who looks after the protocol, they sat down and were briefly addressed by Bidault. He certified to the copies they were to sign, pointed out the duty to honour the decisions and then immediately called upon the U.S.S.R. to sign.

The signing took place in another room and each representative had to rise from the table in the Clock Room, escorted by either one, two or more, according to their desires, and go to this adjourning room, which had a table in the centre, and duly sign on behalf of his country. The Russian Minister had an escort of four to follow him and stand by during the signing. After Russia, then the United Kingdom, United States of America and China, France and then Australia. Dr. Walker accompanied me to the table and the signature was duly attached.

The Signing consists of what they called several meetings. At 11.0 a.m. Italy, which lasted about 45 minutes; 3.0 p.m. Rumania; 4.15 p.m. Bulgaria; 5.30 p.m. Hungary, and 6.0 p.m. Finland. Each took less time in fact-the Finnish for instance only took 15 minutes.

Outside the Quai d'Orsay about 150 people assembled to watch the cars come and go so the public interest was not aroused.

That evening the President gave a dinner to the Delegates at the Palais d l'Elysee. The Premier, Thorez, and several Ministers and heads of the French Forces were also in attendance. I sat alongside Felix Gouin, ex-Premier who enquired after you.

Altogether about 45 sat down to the dinner. It was well done-the decorations and the table setting were really beautiful. At 10.0 p.m. there was a general reception at which all the wives and other V.I.P. attended. This was also at the Palais and lasted until about midnight. The President, who no doubt you know, looks rather on the aged side but quite a friendly type and said a few kindly words to me about Australia. [1]

Next day Bidault put on a luncheon at the Foreign Office inviting not only allied delegates but also the representatives of the enemy countries. It was even a better effort than the President's, the night before, at least about 50 attending. I sat alongside the Hungarian Foreign Minister on one side and the French Minister for the Colonies on the other. No speeches were made at either function, in fact no toasts were drunk either.

[matter omitted]

As you so well know the kind of struggle it was from the moment the gong sounded and you entered the ring during the first half hour, there has been left a real respect for the principles advanced and the fight waged to have them embodied in the Treaties. This arises from the trend of events since the Conference, particularly to the Italian position over both Reparations and ceded territory. No one is satisfied because, as you said so often, it was just blind stabbing rushing to compromise with the Soviet trying to get some kind of a Treaty without having any regard for the aftermath.

I am certain as time goes on the case for Australia will be vindicated over and over again and it reminds me of thoughts I often expressed to you about lifting the thinking of the average Australian to a broader level and showing that his interest in the world did not centre around domestic affairs in his own country but that the problems of the world were as much his concern as any body else's.

To this end I feel your contribution is certainly reaping its reward at home. The elections were evidence of that fact and therefore I am most appreciative of the point you made in the telephone conversation we had a fortnight ago as to how important it is to see that the source of all this work is properly placed to the credit of yourself and the Government at home.

[matter omitted]

[handwritten postscript]

Thanks for the opportunity of representing Australia. It was an honour. I really do appreciate it very much.


1 M. Vincent Auriol was 63.