Mr S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered [1] LONDON, 18 October 1939


Am giving further anxious thought to Washington. In view of the importance of the issues involved, necessary approach quite impersonally, with complete frankness, ignoring ordinary reticences.

In the United Kingdom, through long contacts and personal relations, I can exercise greater influence than anyone replacing me. In the United States, owing to reputation I have in the Empire [2] sphere, and contacts I have established, am also in advantageous position against anyone else.

Assuming that this is so, question is-where will my services be most valuable? Now that it appears certain that we are committed to the war, my activities in the United Kingdom for some time will probably be directed to stimulating greater vision in the United Kingdom Government and a more forceful and constructive diplomacy, to attempting to increase efficiency in the conduct of the war, to overcoming the difficulties in regard to our co-operation, and to smoothing out problems in connection with supplies to and from Australia, finance, etc.

During the next few months, handling of relations with neutrals- particularly the United States, Italy and Japan-will be of paramount importance, and my presence in London desirable. Over the same period, questions of peace settlement may arise, either because of reactions of Hitler before war on a larger scale has begun (telegram 130 of October 12th [3]), or because of the acceptance of demand, which has very strong backing, for [early] formulation while war going on of broad lines of a peace settlement, either with or without co-operation of neutral countries, or, in less immediate future, because the view that Winston Churchill [4] holds that Germans will crack up within a few months proves to be right. (This doubtful, but not impossible, in view of the gravity [5] which fear of Communism will cause in Germany; in any event, increasing part the Soviet Union is playing in Europe may bring far-reaching developments which cannot at present be visualised.) In consideration of any peace settlement, influence of intransigent elements here and in France must be countered. This element in France dictated peace after the late war and directed the policy of postwar years with disastrous results. This can best be countered by Dominions-as witness the modification effected in the first disastrous draft reply to Hitler. [6]

Amongst the Dominions, Australia has in recent years acquired most influence-which has been greatly strengthened with you as Prime Minister, and our country is the most effective voice in Empire counsels today. The position was well put to me recently, that for Australia there is-‘a feeling of respect and confidence blended with a little awe … very healthy for the Englishman … as to what Australia’s reactions will be’.

It is also desirable I should be in London for any peace discussions, as I hold, in regard to economic questions, a somewhat unique international position, owing to Australia’s activities ever since the world monetary and industrial [7] conference of 1933, which should enable me to play a useful part.

In Washington my activities would be directed towards ensuring maximum co-operation of the United States while she is out of the war; her military help should war go unfavourably to Allies, her diplomatic collaboration in resolving Far Eastern problems, and her armed intervention should Japan become actively hostile; also, in stimulating American initiative should an opportunity present itself for peace negotiations, and in ensuring American participation in any peace settlement when the time arrives.

In Washington it is doubtful how much can be achieved, and unquestionably the task will be a heart-breaking one. If, however, anything could be accomplished, it would be invaluable-and probably I have a better chance than anyone else.

The above shows there are strong arguments [either] for me going to America or remaining here.

My own instinct is that I should continue in London and this is in conformity with the Prime Minister’s views (my telegram September 19th [8]) and is shared by Hankey [9] and the Governor of the Bank of England [10] both of whom I have consulted privately as they both know Casey [11] well.

I recognise there is much to be said for me going to America and if you, upon whom the decision must rest, decide you desire me to do so, I am prepared to fall in with your wishes.

If, on consideration of the above, you feel that final decision should wait upon developments of the next two or three months, we would perhaps be getting the best of both [worlds] if you sent me to Washington to negotiate with American Administration for the establishment of reciprocal Legations and to inaugurate our own in Washington. Casey could get time to return to Australia and report to the Government, which is the basis of Dominion Ministers’ visit to London, and then either go to America as Minister or, if you decide to appoint me, come to London.


1 This cablegram was considerably mutilated in transmission. It contains some handwritten insertions, which were probably made after the decipher was rechecked. These are not indicated here, but variations of substance from the version of this cablegram in the Bruce papers (on file AA: M100, October 1939) are indicated in footnotes, or in the case of missing words inserted in square brackets.

2 In Bruce’s copy ‘Empire’ read ‘International’.

3 Document 290.

4 First Lord of the Admiralty.

5 In Bruce’s copy ‘gravity’ read ‘division’.

6 Adolf Hitler, German Chancellor.

7 In Bruce’s copy ‘industrial’ read ‘economic’.

8 Document 232.

9 Lord Hankey, Minister without Portfolio in the U.K. War Cabinet.

10 Montagu C. Norman.

11 R.G. Casey, Minister for Supply and Development.


[AA: CP 290/6, ITEM 1]