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237 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Evatt

[LONDON], 6 July 1943

Evatt asked me to dine privately with him in view of his departure tomorrow. [1] We dined alone in the main room of the flat with a large dinner party raging in the next room. Evatt was amazingly cordial and proceeded to tell me that it was essential that I should go on as the Accredited Representative of the Australian Government in the event of the present Government being returned at the election. He said that of course he did not know what the attitude of the Opposition would be if they came into office. He said that he had told the Press this and had referred to it at several private functions.

Evatt then told me that he had had a talk to the Prime Minister when he was down at Chequers and the Prime Minister had referred to my letter of August last [2] but had expressed the greatest personal regard for me. I told Evatt that I had had a conversation recently with the Prime Minister when we had discussed this same letter. [3] That while quite obviously the Prime Minister had had some feeling with regard to the matter, I did not think since our conversation he felt any resentment in connection with it.

Evatt then somewhat staggered me by saying that there was no doubt it was a very good thing I had written the letter and in doing so I had maintained Australia's position. This was a little surprising in view of the antics of Evatt and Robinson in the early days of this year when they were quite obviously out to use the letter to get me out of the position of Accredited Representative. [4] I naturally did not refer to this.

It is interesting that Evatt should, in his statement to me about the Prime Minister having mentioned my letter, definitely [have] given the impression that this was the first that he, Evatt, had heard of it.

Evatt also said that it was a great thing we had done in establishing the right to have an Accredited Representative and he implied that the other Dominions were now regretting that they had allowed Australia to get away with a privileged position.

I tried to get at what he bases this thought upon but could not get any daylight and I am inclined to think he had no grounds for making the observation.

Evatt then told me that he gathered from his conversation with the Prime Minister that in the event of my ceasing to be the Accredited Representative the Prime Minister would not be prepared to continue the arrangement. To this attitude of the Prime Minister Evatt appeared to take no exception, which is only another evidence of the complete domination the Prime Minister seems to have established over him. For my part I would not accept such an attitude for a moment and the fact that the Prime Minister feels he can adopt it is only another demonstration of the fact that he just cannot understand the new status that the Dominions have acquired. I did not, however, pursue the matter with Evatt.

He then referred to the cablegram which was sent at the weekend with regard to post-war civil aviation [5] and expressed a considerable indignation that the telegram had been sent without a further meeting with him. He said that he had written to Cranborne with regard to the matter, but added that while nothing could be done about it he had written a letter in order to assist me in claiming the right of proper consultation. [6]

I pointed out to Evatt that this was only another example of the difficulties of consultation with the United Kingdom Government. I also explained to him the position with regard to the United Kingdom Government always insisting on sorting out their internal troubles before they were prepared to discuss any question with the Dominions. This led to the position that when the Dominions were consulted the United Kingdom had already made up its mind and its own line of policy and it was at that stage very difficult to shift them from it. This episode over the question of post-war civil aviation was a very good lesson to Evatt, that even with his presence here consultation did not take place.

I then asked him whether he had been consulted with regard to the question of post-war policy and his reply was that it had not been discussed with him.

I next told him that I had very good information that the matter was under active consideration in the United Kingdom Cabinet, but that they had not spoken to him merely showed their incurable reluctance to really consult even when there was a senior Dominion Minister in London.

He then told me that he had had a meeting with Eden and Attlee with regard to TIMOR, and we had some discussion with regard to the question-it is not necessary, however, to set out the lines of discussion as the position is made quite clear in the communications which have been exchanged with Australia. [7]

He then referred to the question of getting Drummond as Chief of the Air Staff in Australia. [8] I asked him whether he had any information as to the developments since he left Australia and I found that he had had none. I accordingly took him over what has occurred and told him the story with regard to Joubert and Longmore. I then discovered that Lady Astor [9] had been talking to him about Joubert and had expressed the view that Joubert was one of the outstanding personalities here. Lady Astor had apparently told Evatt that Joubert's troubles had all arisen from the fact that lie was too good a broadcaster and the Prime Minister had become jealous of his success. I told Evatt that this was a gross exaggeration, but it was quite evident my observations did not impress him and he is accepting Lady Astor's story.

We then went on to discuss the position in Australia and Evatt said that both Jones and Bostock were hopeless and he also expressed the view that we had very little up to date information as to modern developments in the air against the sea war.

I told him that on the latter point I agreed, but then outlined to him the possibility of Tizard going to Australia as being a solution of this problem. This Evatt bit onto, and proceeded to take a note of Tizard and Joubert's names with a view he told me of sending a telegram to the Prime Minister recommending Tizard should be officially invited to Australia and that they should take a risk and get Joubert out as Chief of the Air Staff even if only for a limited time.

During our conversation we had some discussion on the election prospects in Australia and Evatt's view was that the Government would be returned and I think he feels they will have an increased majority. It is clear, however, that some doubts are in his mind and these have probably come from his conversations with the Editors who are over here [10]

and from the information that Robinson has probably received from Australia.

The whole atmosphere, on Evatt's part, was most cordial and this is a somewhat amusing position in view of our earlier clash. [11]


1 To return to the United States and Australia.

2 See Document 218, note 2.

3 See Document 218.

4 No documentation of this episode has been found, but see Alfred Stirling, Lord Bruce: The London Years, Hawthorn Press, Melbourne, 1974, pp. 311-13.

Churchill had commented to Attlee on 12 February 'I hear that Bruce is writing a lot of hostile stuff to his Government' and suggested that 'he should be brought up with a round turn'. See minute M49/3 in PRO:PREM 4/50/11.

5 See circular cablegrams D388-9 of 2 and 3 July on file AA:A989, 43/735/832/1, i.

6 Not found on Commonwealth Govt files.

7 See Documents 233-4.

8 On 15 April War Cabinet had decided 'to obtain the services of a suitable Australian officer serving in the R.A.F.' to fill a new position entitled Air Officer Commanding, R.A.A.F., thus ending the existing unsatisfactory situation whereby administrative control of the R.A.A.F. was exercised by the Chief of the Air Staff and operational control by the Commander, Allied Air Forces in the South-West Pacific Area, who in turn delegated the function to the senior R.A.A.F. officer in the Area (see AA:A2671, 107/1943). The Commonwealth Govt wanted the new post to be filled by Air Marshal Sir Peter Drummond (Air Member for Training, U.K.

Air Council), but the U.K. Govt was not prepared to release him.

Bruce then suggested that, as there appeared to be no other suitably qualified Australians in the R.A.F., consideration should be given to the appointment of either Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert (Inspector-General of the R.A.F.) or Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Longmore (who had retired in 1942 after a distinguished career in the R.A.F. and had been a member of the U.K. Air Mission to Australia and New Zealand in 1939) Curtin and MacArthur considered Bruce's suggestion, but in the end decided to continue the existing system of dual control of the R.A.A.F. See documents in series AA:M100, files April 1943, May 1943 and June 1943 and Curtin's cablegram 89 of 11 June in FA:A3196, 1943, folder, outwards Most Secret master sheets, 0 15858.

9 Unionist M.P. for Plymouth (Sutton) and wife of Viscount Astor, owner of the Observer and Chairman of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

10 See Document 236, note 4.

11 See Document 225.

[AA:M100, JULY 1943]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History