Mr N.C. Tritton, Private Secretary to Prime Minister, to Sir Henry Gullett, Minister for External Affairs

Letter PERTH, 14 July 1939

This will confirm our ‘phone conversation this morning when I gave you the exist of a ‘phone conversation between the Prime Minister [1] and Mr Bruce [2] yesterday (the 13th July) at 3 p.m. Perth time.

European Situation. There have been further talks with Mussolini [3] and the Prime Minister agrees with Mr Bruce that the Danzig situation [4] is not worth a war and that it is obviously a case for negotiation. Mr Bruce is pressing the British Government so that the heat of the dispute will not confuse the fact that the Danzig matter calls for adjustment. Mr Bruce will continue to suggest negotiations and Mussolini might also be willing to assist to this end. [5]

The Far East. Mr Bruce has raised the following questions with the British Government- (a) What happens to Singapore if war breaks out in Europe? (b) What happens if war occurs with Japan without war in Europe? The British Government will advise as soon as possible.



1 R.G. Menzies.

2 S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London.

3 Benito Mussolini, Italian Head of State.

4 Danzig, a city of predominantly German population, was removed from Germany under the 1919 Peace Treaty and created a Free City, linked to Poland by the so-called ‘Polish Corridor’. It became a major source of German-Polish friction, especially as the Danzig Senate was controlled by the Nazi Party from 1933. By mid-1939 tension was so high that Danzig was regarded as the major source of danger to peace in Europe.

5 Bruce and the South African High Commissioner in London, C. T.

te Water, met the U.K. Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, on 12 and 27 July 1939. At the first meeting both High Commissioners stated that they shared Mussolini’s view that Danzig was not worth a war and urged that he (Mussolini) be approached in the hope of postponing a crisis. At the second meeting Halifax reported that he had discussed the matter with Chamberlain and that they had decided that continued approaches to Italy gave the Germans the impression that the United Kingdom was worried about the position and trying to find a way out. Bruce accepted the U.K. decision but repeated his view that contact should have been maintained with Italy. He also expressed the fear that, while Hitler did not want a war over Danzig, some untoward event might precipitate him into one if the situation were allowed to develop of its own accord (see records of conversation on file AA: M104, item 7(1)).


[NAA: A1608, A41/1/1, ii]