Commonwealth Government to Cranborne

Cablegram 205 CANBERRA, 27 July 1945


Your telegram D.1161 of 4th July [1] and subsequent telegrams.

Potsdam meeting.

In respect of certain of the matters discussed at Potsdam, including proposed Council of Foreign Ministers, disposition of ex-enemy territories, disposal of German navy and Merchant marine, and treatment of Italy, it is of vital importance to repeat that from Australia’s point of view, having regard to our total war effort and heavy sacrifices, both in the European and Pacific theatres of war, we should not, either directly or indirectly, be deprived of full right of participation as principals in the framing of terms of peace in relation both to our European and to our East Asian enemies. The United Kingdom Government has frequently recognized that Australia, and other Dominions, fully possesses this right. But the right is valueless unless it can [be] effectively exercised, and this requires full opportunity as principals to present and press views concerning peace arrangements in Europe and armistice and peace arrangements in the Pacific and to do so face to face with all concerned in decisions at a sufficiently early stage to give a chance of such views proving effective.

2. We recognise that leadership in these matters is properly accorded to the three leading powers and that preliminary consideration of all these questions is a proper incident of such leadership providing decisions are not final or definitive. But we cannot possibly forego our rights and responsibilities to share in the effective decisions as principals. Therefore, any arrangements which prevent us from exercising a full share in the peace-making after our substantial contributions to victory would not be understood by the Australian people and would be strongly opposed.

3. As recently as the Commonwealth meeting in London, we sought and received undertakings that the Dominions would participate as principals in the Peace Conference, the clear understanding being that a Peace Conference would be held. We also received an undertaking from Mr. Churchill that Australia and New Zealand would participate in all matters relating to the conclusion of armistices in the Far East and participate also as principals.

4. For reference please see pages 10 and 11 of the record of the British Commonwealth Meeting of April 6th last [2], presided over by Mr. Churchill:-

‘(A) Participation in Armistice Plans by Powers other than the Three Great Powers Dr. Evatt said that he wished to raise the question of participation in the preparation of Armistice plans by powers other than the three Great Powers. Many countries, which had borne the heat and burden of the day, had been excluded from direct participation in those negotiated so far in Europe. It was true that the Great Powers or their Commanders had signed “on behalf of the Allied Nations”. But that was not a satisfactory arrangement to Australia and New Zealand. In any case, he wished to press most strongly that in the case of the Japanese Armistice Australia and New Zealand, who were so directly concerned, should participate directly as principals. Mr. Fraser said he entirely shared Dr.

Evatt’s feeling.

Mr. Eden pointed out that, in the case of the Armistices so far negotiated in Europe, it was the Russians who had insisted upon the procedure adopted.

Mr. Churchill said that he wholly sympathised and that he thought the President, who was always extremely fair, would agree. He did not think that the President would tolerate the exclusion of Australia and New Zealand from the conclusion of armistices in the Far East. They should certainly participate. One need only look at casualty figures to realise the extent of the contribution made by Australia and New Zealand; per head of population they had suffered twice as many casualties as the United States. And it must be borne in mind that the United States figures were inflated by the inclusion of many slightly wounded. Mr. Fraser and Dr.

Evatt could rest assured that he would support Australia and New Zealand’s claims with all the influence that he could use.

(B) Peace Conference In reply to an enquiry from Field-Marshal Smuts, Mr. Churchill said that he had always thought that there would be a Peace Conference or perhaps an Armistice Conference. The United States might prefer the latter as it would not have to go through the Senate. There must be a meeting of some sort and he presumed that, unlike the World Organisation, it would be confined to peoples like the Dominions who had played an important part in the war. So far as he was concerned, something on the lines of the Peace Conference at the close of the last war would be all right.

He agreed with Dr. Evatt that people whose participation had been purely nominal did not deserve to take part.’ 5. It appears, however, that in respect to matters mentioned at Potsdam Conference and referred to in paragraph 1 above certain definitive action and public communication of decisions are proposed. So far as the Council of Foreign Ministers is concerned the effect of its suggested functions and operation would clearly interfere with the promised status of the Dominions as principals and relegate them to a subordinate position. Council’s functions would be to draw up terms of peace with our European enemies and to propose territorial settlements. It is proposed that so-called lesser States would be invited merely to send representatives to the Council’s discussions if directly interested in the matters under discussion. It is also apparently suggested that the result of the work of the Council of Foreign Ministers would be considered by the United Nations as a whole, possibly at a general conference. This appears to us contrary to the statement of Mr.

Churchill that countries whose participation in the war had been purely nominal did not deserve to take part in the Peace Conference (See paragraph 4 above). Moreover, the unqualified establishment of the Council of Foreign Ministers excluding Australia and other Dominions therefrom but including China, which has taken no part whatever in the European war, would seem to involve a departure from the principle of the undertakings summarised in this telegram.

6. We would therefore ask that political and diplomatic decisions affecting both initial post-hostilites and peace arrangements in Europe should be regarded as tentative only and that steps be taken to secure the execution of the arrangements on the basis of which we acquiesced in European armistice terms to being treated as a secondary power rather than a principal.

7. It is requested that matters mentioned herein should be taken up as one of urgency. We submit that there should be no repetition of the Cairo Conference Communique when vital decisions affecting the Pacific were announced without prior approval of Australia and New Zealand.


1 On file AA : A1066, H45/1016/5.

2 In AA : A7386, Top Secret, Copy no. 8.


[AA : A1066, H45/1016/5/2]