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

Cablegram 586 LONDON, 26 October 1939, 4.46 p.m.


Cable D.52. [1] This approach by the French raises issues of transcending importance and before any conversations with the French take place, the fullest consultation with the Dominions is essential.

In it are involved the questions of what are our war aims, and what form of peace settlement are we determined to achieve. On these questions there are two opposite schools thought-(a) Those who visualise a world after the war very similar to that which existed before it, but with Germany disarmed and Europe freed from fear of further German aggression, and (b) those who visualise a new world resulting from a peace settlement which had faced the vital problems of disarmament, territorial adjustment, colonies and the economic needs of all nations, in which Germany would play an appropriate part as a great nation.

Those who support alternative (a) would argue that history shows Germans and not merely the Nazis stand for aggression and that we must now once and for all put them in a position where they will not be able to trouble Europe. This can only be done by defeating, disarming and perhaps dismembering Germany. That having done this we must remember the story of the post-war years, recognise that the ideal of the Covenant of the League, great as it was in conception, has proved impracticable in operation, and maintain our armed forces at a strength which will prevent our vital interests being again imperilled as they have been in recent years.

To these arguments, those who hold the contrary view reply that it is impossible to hold in subjection a great people like the Germans; that League of Nations failed not merely because of its non-universality, but because articles eight and nineteen were never implemented and article sixteen was found impracticable in application; and that the burden imposed to maintain the necessary armed forces would progressively destroy us economically and financially.

It is also suggested that once the war is over, the British peoples will insist upon treating Germany as an equal, or in any event the British temperament is not such as for any length of time to maintain a policy of suppression, and that the Dominions will not be prepared to accept permanent liability for policing Europe.

This school of thought also feels that alternative (a) takes no account of the position of Italy or Japan.

Those who support alternative (b) argue that if lasting peace is to be established all issues must be faced, reliance on force abandoned and new conceptions of international relations and obligations established. They consider our war aims and the basis of the peace settlement should be announced as soon as possible before war passions take control and in order to consolidate Empire and neutral opinion and to form the basis for most effective appeal to the German people.

The following are some of the points they maintain should be included in the statement:-

(1) The allies are fighting to ensure for themselves and for all nations freedom from the domination of force, from constant threats of the use of force.

(2) Poland and Czechoslovakia to be restored as independent States with boundaries determined by neutral opinion based on ethnological and economic considerations.

(3) Other European territorial questions to be dealt with in the same way and on the same basis.

(4) Examination of the possibilities of disarmament even to the point of substituting an international force in place of national armaments and a pledge to be given of preparedness to accept the determination of a world conference on disarmament, even if this involves some limitation on national sovereignties.

(5) International solution of the colonial problem in non-self- governing territories by adoption of the ‘open door’ policy in respect to trade and economic opportunities, the acceptance of the mandate system for such territories and progressive development of such system to the point of including administration.

(6) Co-operation on economic questions to secure increased international trade and provision for finance with the assistance of creditor countries to enable all nations to develop their economic resources and to secure progressive improvements in standards of living.

The above gives you an indication of two points of view both of which would probably be modified as a result of consultations.

In view of the importance of the matter I have made strong representations to the United Kingdom Government that no discussions should take place with the French till after full consultation with the Dominions.

For your personal information-I have no doubt that the views of the French and of a quite influential section here led by Winston Churchill [2] are down the lines of alternative (a) above.

In view of this, to my mind it is essential that immediate consultation between the four Dominion Prime Ministers should take place. Having regard to the nature of Dominion comments on the United Kingdom Government’s draft reply to Hitler [3], it seems probable that such consultations would lead to very similar representations being made by each Dominion to the United Kingdom.

I suggest that you might take steps to initiate such inter- Dominion consultation by direct communication to other Dominion Prime Ministers.



1 Document 307.

2 U.K. First Lord of the Admiralty.

3 Adolf Hitler, German Chancellor.


[AA: A981, WAR 45B, i]