Note by Mr S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, of Conversation on 8 November 1939 with Mr R.G. Casey, Minister for Supply and Development

LONDON, 8 November 1939

Dined with Richard. After dinner had a long talk to him with regard to America. I gave him in broad outline the story of my cable exchanges with the Prime Minister on the subject. The only thing I was not specific about was Menzies’ definite statement that he proposed to send Richard to America if I did not go. All I said to him in regard to this was that I gathered that the Prime Minister had in mind that he, Richard, would go to America in the event of my not doing so.

Richard made it clear that he was by no means decided in his own mind that he would go to America.

We then discussed the question of his going there and two points emerged, namely that in considering his going to America we had to have in mind that that would leave the Prime Minister in the position of having no one suitable to appoint as Acting Prime Minister if he, the Prime Minister, had to come to a War Cabinet here, and that Richard’s departure from the political arena would leave no alternative if the Prime Minister, Menzies, came to grief.

Richard told me that he had urged upon the Prime Minister that having got rid of Page [1] out of the Country Party, it was essential that he should come to some arrangement with the Country Party even if Cameron [2] was rather wild and undependable. He said the Prime Minister had agreed with him, but he expressed the doubt whether the Prime Minister would stick to the view he had then subscribed to.

Richard then asked me what had taken place in my conversation with Kennedy [3] and I told him the full story.

In the general discussion which followed it emerged that Richard could see no reason for my going to America if I was not going to stay as the Minister there.

To this I replied that I could see no reason from the Australian point of view, although there might be quite good reasons from an Empire point of view in my going to America for a short time and renewing my contacts there.

He put it to me definitely would it not be possible for me to go to America for 6 months, say early in the New Year, after Richard had been back to Australia and reported on his visit here, and had had time to get back to London. In the event of my doing so Richard would come here for 6 months as a Minister. At the end of the 6 months he would return to Australia; I would return to London, and someone would be appointed to America.

This I am sure from our conversation is what he would like to do.

We also considered any possible appointee for America and the most suitable one appeared to be Pearce. [4]

The upshot of the conversation was that Richard should telegraph to the Prime Minister suggesting the whole matter be left in abeyance until he Richard gets back to Australia, and can discuss the whole position with Menzies. At the same time I was to cable to the Prime Minister indicating that I understood Richard was cabling to him and in view of that I had asked the Foreign Office to hold up the instructions to Lothian [5] to approach the American Government.


1 Sir Earle Page, formerly leader of the Country Party.

2 A.G. Cameron, leader of the Country Party.

3 See Documents 315 and 330 4 Sir George Pearce, Minister for External Affairs 1934 37.

5 Lord Lothian, U.K. Ambassador to the United States.


[AA: M100, NOVEMBER 1939]