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81 Note by Bruce of Conversation with Eden

[LONDON], 25 November 1942

I went and had half an hour with Eden. He was looking very tired and worried and I am rather doubtful whether he will be able to stand the strain of his dual position of Leader of the House of Commons and Foreign Minister.

The main thing I went to see him about was the question of our POST-WAR POLITICAL Aims. I told him that considerable progress had been made in our thinking with regard to the social and economic problems and I knew of the developments that had taken place in regard to the Colonial problem, but I had seen nothing dealing with the question of our aims in connection with Security and Freedom from Aggression in the post-war world.

I stressed to him that it was essential we should clear our minds on this issue in view of the amount of thinking which was going on in Washington on the subject, and in this regard I instanced Welles' speech of the 17th November [1] and I gave Eden the information I had obtained from McDougall as a result of his visit to Washington. [2]

Eden then told me that a lot of thought had been given to the problem in the Foreign Office where two papers had been prepared.

These he promised to send to me. [3]

Eden told me that he was having some trouble in getting the Prime Minister to face this question but he was hopeful-they were having a special Cabinet meeting next Friday to consider the matter.

We then had some discussion round the problem and I stressed to Eden what a pity it was that the Prime Minister was so opposed to my being in on these discussions. From this I went on to tell Eden of some of the difficulties with which I am faced and I told him frankly that about a month ago I had got to the point where I really was thinking I could stand it very little longer. I had, however, decided as a result of conversations with Smuts [4] that I had got to try and keep going for the present at all events.

Eden then told me that he had his own difficulties with the Prime Minister, which I can readily believe. He, however, had also been obviously talking to Smuts who had taken with him very much the same line as he had with me, that these things were trials and tribulations we had to put up with.

We then had some talk round the Darlan problem in North Africa [5] but beyond showing how distasteful the position was to him Eden had nothing to suggest as to how the problem was eventually to be solved.

The conversation finished on the note that it was a terrible pity that there were no people in the War Cabinet from whom Eden could really get any help.

In the course of the conversation I told Eden the story of the recent developments in regard to the NINTH DIVISION. The only point that is worth recording being that Eden expressed his surprise at the attitude of acquiescence which the Prime Minister had taken in the Cabinet on Monday.

The impression Eden left on my mind was that he is developing all the time but basically he has not got the strength for the position that he is gradually being steered into.


1 This is probably a reference to Welles's speech of 7 November, which is summarised in note 1 to Document 86.

2 See Documents 74 and 78.

3 Not found on Commonwealth Govt files.

4 See Bruce's notes of conversations with Smuts on 14 October (on file AA:M100, October 1942) and 3 November (on file AA:M100, November 1942) and Document 77.

5 Following the Allied landings in French North Africa on 8 November the commander of the Allied forces, General Dwight D.

Eisenhower, found it necessary, in order to gain the co-operation of the local population, to recognise Admiral J. F. Darlan as French High Commissioner in North Africa. Darlan had collaborated with the Germans and continued to assert his allegiance to Marshal Philippe Petain's Vichy Govt. The U.K. Govt was concerned at the appointment of a man of such dubious loyalty to the Allied cause and feared that Darlan would seek to maintain his authority beyond the period in which his co-operation was militarily necessary. In fact Darlan was assassinated by a French royalist group on 24 December and the Allies decided to replace him with General Henri Giraud, who had remained independent of both Vichy and the Free French.

[AA:M10,0 NOVEMBER 1942]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History