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108 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 15[A] LONDON, 21 January 1943, 8.15 p.m.


[Churchill and Roosevelt met at Casablanca between 14 and 24 January to plan global strategy for 1943 and 1944. They decided that the Mediterranean should continue to be the main theatre of operations in Europe and reaffirmed that Germany should be defeated before a full-scale offensive was launched against the Japanese.]

In view of the meeting now in progress you might well expect that the United Kingdom Government would advise you as to the broad issues to be considered or that I would be in a position to convey something officially to you.

While I am in my following telegram sending you some information this is only a personal appreciation. [1]

It is desirable that I should make clear to you how this comes about and in order to do so it is necessary to give you an impression of the Prime Minister's methods with which I imagine you are not altogether unfamiliar.

The Prime Minister went off on his present adventure without any prior discussion with the War Cabinet as to the broad lines of policy he was to follow in the discussion now taking place.

This must appear astounding to you and was even somewhat startling to me, familiar as I am with the Prime Minister's methods and the way he treats the War Cabinet.

Having some uncertainty as to whether the War Cabinet might not have been consulted without my being present, I tackled Attlee who so convinced me that nothing of the sort had happened as to lead me to make the observation to him 'that Hitler has nothing on your Prime Minister as a dictator'. [2]

The above might well create in your mind the gravest apprehensions as to the position here. Actually it is not as alarming as it sounds. The Prime Minister stands so far above his colleagues that it is inevitable he should dominate them and that being so it is probably as well that he should get on with the job in his own way as with his temperament and at his age he would be quite ineffective if he attempted to alter his methods. In practice his mind is almost entirely absorbed with the strategy and actual fighting of the war. Here he has a tremendous drive and a great imagination which at times leads him to wild conceptions from which he is saved by the efficient machine he has behind him in the Chiefs of Staff organisation, particularly the Joint Planners who produce admirably the hard facts and figures which show the impracticability of his ideas when he goes off the rails.

In regard to questions other than those concerned with the actual strategy and fighting of the war the Prime Minister shows little interest. My experience has convinced me that they are being efficiently handled and that they are the subject of much clear thinking. This, however, is being done in the majority of cases at a level below the Ministerial.

When, however, important action has to be taken it is nearly always necessary to arouse the Prime Minister's interest. This is difficult to do but if it can be done his driving force and power of putting things over with his colleagues, with Parliament and with the people ensures results.

The above I need hardly stress is for your personal information and merely to give you something of the atmosphere here.


1 See cablegram 16A of 21 January on file AA:M100, January 1943.

Bruce reported that Stalin was pressing Churchill to launch a direct frontal attack on Europe, although the Chiefs of Staff favoured a continued concentration on the Mediterranean campaign.

Bruce also told Curtin that: 'Although we have done everything we could here to bring home the necessity for a review of the position in the Pacific and have in particular stressed your man power problem my own view is that the Prime Minister is so obsessed with his difficulties in Europe that any initiative in regard to the Pacific area will have to come from the President.' 2 See Document 100.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History