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204 Bruce to Curtin and Evatt

Cablegram 89A LONDON, 26 June 1944, 7.40 p.m.


For the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs.


I took advantage of a meeting with the Turkish Ambassador [1] with reference to Peter Lalor's sword [2] to have a long talk with him.

He raised the current topic of flying bombs and I devoted my time to trying to put into his head how little real damage they had done, with a view to his so reporting to his Government. I then expressed my pleasure at how greatly the atmosphere had improved since we last met (my telegram 73A of 15th May). [3] I said this was due to Turkey's action regarding chrome for Germany [4] and settlement of the trouble of ships passing through Straits. [5] The Ambassador expressed his pleasure at his Government's action and was quite clearly finding atmosphere here a little more agreeable.

I followed up this opening by saying that, while the present position was much more satisfactory, I had certain very real apprehensions about the future.

I then said that my anxieties arose from the fact that I feared an unpleasant reaction from the present British attitude towards Turkey if what the Turks had already done were not followed up by severance of diplomatic relations with Germany, and a more definite public pronouncement by the Turkish Government of their sympathy with the United Nations' cause.

I told the Ambassador that if I had spoken with great bluntness I had done so as an old and very sincere friend of Turkey, and I would like to tell him why I held the views I had expressed. I then said that everyone with knowledge of the circumstances was most appreciative of the way Turkey had behaved after the fall of France. I pointed out that the understanding which had existed had been between Turkey, United Kingdom and France and the disappearance of France had given Turkey an opportunity for getting rid of her undertakings. This opportunity Turkey had refused to take and the British would always be grateful to her on this account.

I then said that I realised what Turkey's decision had meant at a time when Germany seemed to be all conquering and Turkey might well have expected to be one of her next victims. I went on to say that we had also appreciated the fact that Turkey had remained as a barrier to the Middle East. My view was that it would have been very undesirable for Turkey to have come into the war then, ill- equipped and ill-prepared as she was. I added, however, that the position had now completely changed. There was no danger now of a serious attack against Turkey by Germany, who was far too preoccupied in other directions.

I said I admitted that if diplomatic relations were severed and Turkey co-operated with the United Nations this might provoke a venomous reaction by the Germans, possibly in the form of air bombardment of some of Turkey's cities, but I did not feel even that danger was very great and if it were, Turkey should be prepared to accept it. I pointed out how we, the several British peoples, ill-equipped and ill-armed as we were, had been prepared to accept and stand up to all these things to save the world from Hitlerism.

I suggested that it was not asking too much of the Turks that they should run some danger. I finished by saying that why I was so anxious that Turkey should take some more definite action was because I felt if she did not do so there would be so strong a reaction against Turkey amongst the United Nations, that she would be shut out from playing the part I felt it was so essential she should play in the handling of great problems that would face Europe and the Middle East when the war in these theatres was over.

The Ambassador stood up to what I said without any sign of resentment, said he was glad I had been so frank and that 'such frankness was the real basis of sound diplomacy'. He then, at very considerable length, explained to me the Turkish point of view.

Summarised it was that Turkey was ill-armed and could not receive what she needed from the United Nations and it would be to the disadvantage of United Nations that Turkey should be overwhelmed.

When he had finished I returned to the charge and said I did not accept his arguments. I told him that when war broke out, Australia might quite well have used those arguments with even more force than Turkey could do to-day, that we were ill-equipped and ill-armed and could not get what we required. We might even have suggested that our coming into the war would tend to bring Japan in, that we would be defenceless against Japan and it would be a tremendous blow to the United Nations if Australia had been overwhelmed and occupied as a base by the Japanese. I added that the effect of the Japanese invasion of Australia on the war in the Pacific would have been incalculable. I said that nevertheless it was essential that Australia should come into the war, irrespective of the dangers to herself and possibly to the Allied cause, to show the solidarity of the British Empire.

I suggested that the time had now arrived when Turkey should sever diplomatic relations with Germany irrespective of the dangers which, I reiterated, were negligible, to show solidarity of the Nations against Hitlerism.

It was clear that the Ambassador was intensely interested in this analogy with Australia.


1 Rusen Esref Unaydin.

2 Efforts were being made to regain Peter Lalor's sword which disappeared when his grandson was killed at Gallipoli in 1915.

3 On file AA:A5954, box 584.

4 Turkey was under pressure to export chrome to Germany in accordance with the Clodius Agreement, which was, however, contrary to an earlier agreement with the United King dom, and France. Turkey held out against Germany until January 1943. This dilemma was resolved by Turkey supplying Germany with a reduced amount of chrome in return for Turkey was continued.

5 i.e. the Dardanelles. Turkey allowed German merchant ships through these straits in accordance with the undertakings of the Montreux Convention. Controversy arose over the passage of unarmed German barges through the Straits which were subsequently armed and used for troop carrying purpose in the Aegean. In mid-June the Turkish Govt took measures to halt such movement through the Straits.

[AA:A989, 43/970/50]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History