Commonwealth Government to Mr S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London

Cablegram unnumbered 13 September 1939,


Wool. We have received very strong representations from Consul- General for Japan [1] that 300,000 bales of Australian wool be made available for purchase by Japan during the period ending 30th June 1940. Consul-General suggests that price be determined by mutual agreement between Japan and Australia.

Consul-General, in personal discussions with Minister [2,] emphasised following points First There should be no discrimination as between Japan and other neutral countries.

Second Japan would carry the wool in Japanese ships as is done substantially in times of peace.

Third Japan would give any assurances required that wool would not reach enemy countries.

Japan evincing great anxiety to secure wool and probably disturbed at prospect of entire Australian clip being acquired by United Kingdom Government. We realize the political significance of wool in United Kingdom’s relations with Japan and at the same time we wish United Kingdom Government to realize the delicate situation it may cause between Australia and Japan.

We trust United Kingdom Government will give the most careful consideration to this matter, which we hope will be fully explored between them and us before all details of acquisition arrangement are completed. Yesterday proclamation issued prohibiting export of wool. Japanese merchants now represent that they bought Australian wool some time ago. They now desire to ship up to 2,000 bales to Japan by ‘Canberra Maru’ sailing Friday September 15th. Australian shipping agents assure Government that shipping arrangements were concluded some time ago.

We desire you see British Minister concerned [3] and explain the considerations mentioned herein and in separate telegram regarding wool. [4] Desire you also secure United Kingdom Government’s acquiescence in our proposal that shipments by ‘Canberra Maru’ be permitted. Essential reply last mentioned aspect reach us tomorrow Thursday. [5]


1 Masatoshi Akiyama.

2 Sir Henry Gullett, Minister for External Affairs.

3 Leslie Burgin, U.K. Minister of Supply.

4 Not found. It is possible that ‘wool’ was a misprint for ‘wheat’, on which subject an unnumbered cablegram was sent to the U.K. Government on 13 September 1939 (on file AA:A1608, A37/1/4, i).

5 Bruce reported in an unnumbered cablegram dispatched to the Commonwealth Government on 13 September 1939 that the U.K.

Government had no objection to the shipment of up to 2000 bales of wool to Japan in the Canberra Maru. See AA:A1608, 137/1/5.


[AA:A16108, L37/1/5]