Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Circular Cablegram Dig LONDON, 21 September 1939, 6.17 a.m.


In view of great range and complexity of problems confronting us all at this time we have been reviewing recently in the War Cabinet the existing system of collaboration between the Governments of the British Commonwealth and considering how far it meets the needs of the present situation and whether improvement could be suggested.

2. We are, as you know, making the fullest possible use of channels already available:-

(a) by direct communication between the Governments (b) by interchange of information through the High Commissioners both in London and in Dominion capitals (c) through the agency of political and Service officers serving under your High Commissioner who are engaged in dealing with particular subjects.

3. The question is therefore one of supplementing existing agencies of collaboration in view of the immensity of the joint effort which we are called upon to make if a successful issue is to be assured.

4. At this stage when you yourself must be faced with innumerable pressing problems which cannot be delegated, and when we do not know the full extent of the risk of dislocation of business here through enemy attack, I should not feel justified in suggesting a personal meeting between Prime Ministers in London. But in my judgment considerable advantages would be gained by early personal contact on Ministerial plane if this could possibly be arranged.

5. Indeed it appears to me that unless some arrangements for such contact can be made at an early date we shall not easily reach a clear picture or a full understanding of the nature and extent of our common task and of the special difficulties confronting each of us or be able to co-ordinate to the best ability the contribution which each can make.

6. On the assumption that you would be in general agreement with these views I should like to inquire whether it would be possible for you to designate one of your Cabinet colleagues to make a brief visit to London at an early date in order to discuss the position in all its bearings with us and if possible with the Ministers from other Dominions also. [1] I feel confident that we here should benefit greatly from fuller knowledge which we should thus gain of your problems and plans. I should hope too that you would be helped by first hand impressions which a Ministerial representative would form while he was here and by full report which he would be able to bring back with him.

7. A complementary extension of the liaison arrangements on Service matters would I think be a natural corollary. In naval matters we are inclined to think the present arrangements are sufficient but on the evidence available it looks to us as though, having regard to the rapidity of the expansion, further liaison with regard to both military and air matters might be helpful, and we should like to suggest as regards these matters that it might be advisable for visiting Minister to be accompanied by military and air officers of status generally corresponding to that of advisers to Chiefs of Staff here. These officers might perhaps remain in London for day to day discussions with their Service colleagues here after Minister had left.

8. Similarly in relation to the question of equipment, munitions and supply, including food and raw materials, in any case where it is found that arrangements do not at present exist on a sufficient scale, the appointment of special Dominion liaison officers to supplement the existing contacts with civil Departments concerned in this country might also deserve consideration. In the meantime we are endeavouring to arrange that these Departments should maintain the best possible touch with your High Commissioner and his staff.

9. I should be grateful if you would consider the above suggestions, and let me know as soon as you can whether these commend themselves to you as an immediate step to further closer collaboration which would be so valuable to us all.

10. Similar telegram sent to other Prime Ministers.


1 In circular cablegram Z50 sent to the U.K. High Commissioner to Australia, Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, on 4 October 1939 the U.K.

Dominions Secretary, Anthony Eden, emphasised that the U.K.

Government wished to ‘prevent description of meetings as an Imperial War Cabinet or Council on the lines of that set up in 1917’ (see PRO:FO 371/23963).


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