Department of External Affairs to Mr F.K. Officer, Australian Counsellor at British Embassy in Washington

Cablegram 28, 7 September 1939, 11.30 p.m.

Prime Minister would appreciate if Ambassador [1] would communicate earliest practicable moment following personal message from Prime Minister to the President. [2]


Personal for himself We are greatly perturbed by the immediate result of your Neutrality Proclamation [3] since it cuts off from us not only the military aircraft already on order and awaiting delivery but actually makes it impossible for us to purchase from the United States civil aircraft for civil training purposes.

I need not tell you that I appreciate fully your position in the presence of the neutrality law but in a personal way I would like you to know that it is felt here that the effect of your law is to deprive us of vital supplies while inflicting no corresponding disability upon our enemy. We do not know what risk we may have to encounter in the future and our own resources in aircraft manufacture are naturally in a somewhat early stage of development.

Your friendship towards Australia and your great courtesy to me when I had the honour to visit you at the White House have impelled me to make this personal communication to you which I am sure you will not take as an impertinent criticism of a policy which I recognise is one solely for the United States to determine.

R.G. MENZIES Prime Minister of Australia Ends.


1 Lord Lothian, U.K. Ambassador to the United States.

2 Franklin D. Roosevelt. Officer cabled on 8 September that Menzies’s message ‘was delivered this morning’ (on file AA:A1608, A41/1/5, i).

3 The United States formally proclaimed neutrality on 5 September 1939, thereby imposing an embargo on the export of arms to belligerent nations.


[AA:AA1972/341, BOX 6, TELEGRAMS … SEPTEMBER 1939]