Bruce to McDougall

Letter (extracts) LONDON, 20 April 1945

[matter omitted]

For the past fortnight we have had the two Ministers here with their attendant staffs. The visit on the whole went off quite well although, as might have been anticipated, there were some unfortunate episodes.

The Empire discussions on San Francisco were, I think, quite useful and did a great deal to educate the people who are going to take part in the Conference, most of whom had a most sketchy idea of the problems they were about to face. On these problems I will say a word later.

Forde turned out to be a very well meaning and quite amiable person with an unrivalled capacity to mouth platitudes. He, however, went down well here because he is extremely courteous and has the greatest desire to do the right thing and behave properly.

Evatt was, as usual, somewhat difficult but on the present occasion he appeared to be determined to be civil to me.

Over the past week-end we had a Ministerial party to the Continent. The difficulties of this trip and the maintenance of peace between Forde and Evatt and their respective staffs presented some troublesome problems. They, however, sorted themselves out reasonably well in that we kept the two Ministers and their staffs apart. After spending Friday night in Paris, where the French Government gave us a most admirable dinner, Forde and I flew on to visit SHAEF and the Headquarters of the 21st Army Group, and Belgium, Holland and Germany, while Evatt and his followers remained in Paris. The trip which Forde and I took was extremely interesting and we saw a great deal in the time. In Brussels I met the new Prime Minister-M. van Acker-he impressed me enormously and I think he is the best thing in the shape of a statesman that Belgium has thrown up for a long time.

We returned to Paris on Monday and lunched with de Gaulle. [1] He is a dull and angular fellow and I cannot avoid the impression that he is not the man to handle France in the difficult period that lies ahead.

We discovered on our return to Paris that things had not gone at all well with the other half of the party. Evatt appears to have been in one of his worst moods and offended and antagonised everyone with whom he had come in contact. I trust that he will be a little more amenable in San Francisco.

While the position between Forde and Evatt is not as clearly defined as it should be there is no doubt that Forde is the leader of the Delegation and that the Prime Minister has made this quite clear including the resisting of an attempt by Evatt before they left Australia to appoint him leader.

With regard to the discussions on San Francisco no definite decisions were reached but I think, as a result of them, there is unlikely to be any serious division of opinion on the major points between the different British delegations.

[matter omitted]

What I have seen here has increased my thankfulness that I have not got tangled up with the Australian Delegation [for San Francisco]. The job would be an impossible one and I doubt if one could do very much good.

I had one moment of apprehension lest I should become entangled-at a dinner given by the Prime Minister at Downing Street, Eden, Evatt and I were talking after dinner was over and Eden turned to me and said it was delightful that we were going to renew our old Geneva contacts at San Francisco. I pointed out that this was not so as I was not going to San Francisco. Anthony then started a tirade on the subject of how essential it was that with my experience I should be at San Francisco. I managed with some difficulty to stun him and fortunately Evatt did not react to Anthony’s outburst. in the same conversation I asked Eden whether it was true that Richard Law [2] was likely to be the head-man of the new Authority. Anthony said that Richard Law wanted it but he, Anthony, did not think he was very suitable and once more stunned me by saying that the obvious person was either John Winant or myself. I tried to ride him off this idea by saying I was too old and certainly I think that I could do very much more good on the Economic and Social side as Chairman of the Council and possibly of the Interim Commission if there was one.

[matter omitted]


1 President of the Council of Ministers of the French Provisional Govt.

2 U.K. Minister of State at the Foreign Office.


[AA : M104,13(2)]