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

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 10 November 1939, 12.05 a.m.


Following for Prime Minister from my Prime Minister [1]- We are grateful for the information which you have given us as to the intention of the Commonwealth Government to establish a Legation at Washington and to accredit a Minister there at the earliest possible moment. This plan seems to us in all respects an excellent one.

Mr Bruce [2] has also told us of the suggestion that he should be accredited to the United States for the purpose of establishing the Legation and that when he has completed his task he should appoint a Charge d’Affaires to carry on until the arrival in Washington of Australian Minister, which it is hoped would be early in the New Year.

This plan would, it is presumed, entail Mr Bruce’s absence from his post as High Commissioner here for a period which might be as long as two months or even more. I am sure that you will not misunderstand me when I say that we view such a possibility with considerable misgivings.

For a variety of reasons which will readily occur to you, the office of High Commissioner, always a responsible one, becomes exceptionally arduous and important in war conditions. Problems arise daily which have to be discussed and dealt with often at very short notice. In addition, daily meetings are now held between the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and the four High Commissioners at which, as you will be aware, very confidential information is given as to the course of the war and the conduct of operations. It would clearly be very difficult to continue these meetings on the same basis surely [sic] [3] with the High Commissioners themselves. Moreover, there is always the possibility that at any moment the war itself may pass from a passive to an active phase, when the need for close contacts through the most responsible sources would be greater than ever.

I should therefore be extremely grateful if you felt able to tell me more of what is in your mind in wishing Mr Bruce to make this journey at this time.

We are most reluctant to make any difficulties, but we should view with great anxiety the prospect of the post of High Commissioner being vacant here for any length of time in the present conditions. I should perhaps add, on the chance that it may assist you in coming to your decision, that there are precedents for establishing a Legation with a Charge d’Affaires pending selections as to Minister.


1 This cablegram was sent via the U.K. Dominions Secretary.

2 S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London.

3 The version of this cablegram in the Public Record Office gave ‘except’ instead of ‘surely’ (see PRO: FO 372/3319).


[AA: CP 290/6, ITEM 1]