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

Cablgram 133 11 October 1939

Completed draft of Mr Chamberlain’s speech received. [1] I have consulted with my colleagues of the War Cabinet [2] and now venture to make the following observations- We think that the speech, while an admirable and dispassionate statement, needs strengthening in two parts if it is to have the maximum effect upon the spirit of the British people and upon neutral public opinion.

In the first place we think the issue in the war should be brought out clearly by emphasising that we are in danger because what is involved is not only the peaceful existence of small nations in Europe but also the peaceful existence of Great Britain, France, the Dominions and all freedom loving countries. In a word, this is a defensive and not an offensive war. The triumph of brute strength in Middle Europe must inevitably be succeeded by a similar attempted triumph in a westerly direction. Our interests to defend Middle European security are therefore identical with our interests to defend our own.

In the second place we think there is at this moment a great opportunity for some simple presentation of our war aim in order to counter German propaganda and make our own position quite clear to the world. As we see it, we are aiming at victory for the great principle of the rule of law. We propose to make no territorial claims, we aim at no punishment or humiliation for the ordinary German people, we do not blindly adhere to the status quo on the Versailles Treaty basis, but there must be real independence for the Polish people, the Czechs, Slovaks and, in short, all non- Germanic people in Europe. We stand for a system of international justice on an effective collective system of which all European powers would be members and with machinery for constant and unprejudiced revision of treaties and an all-round reduction of armaments.

In a word, we should emphasise that while we are fighting for our lives and freedom and the lives and freedom of other people and for that purpose we intend to defeat a German Government whose philosophy is dishonest and dangerous, we are not aiming really at victory but rather looking beyond it to the laying of the foundation of a better international system which will mean that war is not to be the inevitable lot of every succeeding generation.

I suggest all these matters to you for your earnest consideration.



1 See Documents 278 and 282.

2 War Cabinet discussed Australia’s reply on it October 1939 and agreed that the Prime Minister, R.G. Menzies, should draft a cablegram along the main lines agreed upon at the meeting. See AA:

A2673, vol. 1, 11 October 1939, Minute 35.

3 This version of the cablegram had no security classification.

However the copy held in the Public Record Office was classified ‘Most Secret’ (see PRO: DO 114/113).


[AA: A981, GERMANY 83B, iii]