Commonwealth Government to Cranborne

Cablegram 35 CANBERRA, 9 February 1945


1. War Cabinet today reviewed the whole question and affirmed our previous decision that Australian servicemen liberated from captivity as a result of the Soviet advances should not be made available for labour service even on a voluntary basis.

2. Labour on a voluntary basis would probably lead to invidious distinctions and might well produce special anomalies. Reports recently received indicate the very serious effect from the point of view of both mental and physical fitness of prisoners who have long been in German hands. We do not feel that any of them should be submitted either to the strain of labour after their liberation or to the necessity of making individual decisions which would differentiate them from their comrades.

3. We must call attention to the terms of your D.227 [1] which contemplates exclusion of Australian prisoners of war and civilians from the proposed agreement in certain circumstances.

This suggestion seems to us hardly a proper one because as you have charge of the negotiations we have no alternative but to rely on you for securing proper treatment of all Australian service personnel who may come into the hands of the Soviet Command.

4. We feel very strongly that Australian prisoners should be included in the first priority for immediate return to their homeland where as you know our war needs are great and urgent.

1 Document 25.

[AA:A1066, IC45/6/2/1, i]