Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr N. Chamberlain, U.K. Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered 28 October 1939,


My thanks your message today through the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. [1] In my opinion the immediate object is to win the war and to win it in no uncertain way, since a patched up and premature peace would inevitably expose us to a future series of events similar to those of the past few years. But what comes after victory? I greatly fear that there will be many people who will want to secure peace by suppressing and even dismembering Germany or imposing burden upon her which will be almost unsupportable.

Personally I feel no doubt that such a policy would render future war inevitable since the Germans are much too great and powerful people to be kept in subjection, and the desire for revenge would inevitably produce attempts to take it. The alternative is to follow victory by a great and genuine gesture of generosity and of Justice, with territorial adjustments founded not upon the idea of spoils to the victors but upon real racial and social considerations, with unprejudiced approach to the problems of colonies and raw materials and with a new and more practical attempt at some system of collective security. In any suggested settlement the whole idea would be that Germany would be expected to play her part as a great nation on a footing of freedom and equality. In brief, I think that the only sound condition for law- abiding international civilisation is that kind of equality and self-respect and mutual tolerance which characterises our domestic civilisations.

A post-war period which involved the maintenance of huge repressive armaments is intolerable to a world which desires social and industrial progress, and I see no hope for disarmament if the doctrine of suppression is to prevail. I think that any public statement at this stage should be made with great care, for in the present state of affairs in Europe nothing would be more fatal than to create the impression that we had a defeatist attitude or that we were not resolutely determined to win. It can do nothing but good if we accompany a vigorous prosecution of the war by a fair minded statement regarding the kind of world in which we hope to live when the war has ended in victory.

Moreover, those who advocate not merely the defeat but the destruction of Germany pay far too little attention to the problems which are and will be presented by Russia, Italy and Japan.

I have not been able yet to have a discussion with my Cabinet but I am sending you these views as those which I personally hold and which I believe commend themselves to my colleagues. I have also conveyed them to the other Dominion Prime Ministers because I feel that the fullest possible consultation at this time is of supreme importance. [2]



1 Document 310.

2 Menzies sent copies of this cablegram to the Canadian, New Zealand and South African Prime Ministers on 28 October 1939, the only alterations being the deletion of the first sentence and the last paragraph. The first sentence was replaced by: ‘The approach by the French Government in relation to the subject of war aims seems to me to provide an opportunity for the expression by all of the Dominions of an effective view on this question’. The last paragraph was replaced by: ‘I would be grateful to you if you could let me know your own view, because I feel that even a cabled consultation between the Governments at this stage may well prove of great service to the United Kingdom Government and to the world’. S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, was advised of the messages sent to Chamberlain and the Dominion Prime Ministers (see file AA: A1608, B41/1/1).


[AA: A1608, B41/1/1]