The Private Anzac Club

It has been highlighted the degree to which 1944 was the year when both Australia and New Zealand made it clear that, while they still believed strongly in the idea of Commonwealth unity, they would no longer blithely accept the British view of the post-war security system.1 The Australian-New Zealand Agreement signed at Canberra in January of that year was certainly the first visible indication of some sense of devolution towards greater regional control. The first Cairo Conference, held the November before and attended by Churchill, Roosevelt and the Nationalist Chinese leader Chaing Kai-shek, is often pointed to as the catalyst for the Tasman Dominions thinking on post-war organization. Neither was consulted about decisions that were reached and each of them only learned from the official communiqué that Japan was to be stripped of all of the islands it had seized in the Pacific. This and other decisions such as the announcement that Korea would become free and independent in due course led them both to worry that post-war settlements would be concluded without them, despite their military contributions and their interests in the region.2 From the High Commission in Canberra, Ronnie Cross, had written back to London in December 1942 warning that he was hearing 'ambitious ideas' about Australia's future role in the South-West Pacific and South Asia.3 At this stage this even extended to the Commonwealth being involved in the post-war administration of the Netherlands East Indies but the Dutch reaction had been such that this was dropped. This had not stopped Evatt from developing similar themes throughout the year. His goal was that Australia would take a far greater role up to and including the development of security zones which would involve the trusteeship of Pacific islands. Within the British High Commission this was seen as an attempt by Evatt to 'achieve something of historical significance and value with which his name would be particularly identified'. But, at the same time, it was wondered whether the minister's ambition 'had not somewhat overwhelmed his sense of proportion'. Highlighting the junior nature of Australia in terms of its political development there were said to be advantages that could be reaped by 'boys' which 'would prove impossible if the maternal partner were consulted'. Evatt was known to want to take over the administration of the British Solomons and it was not doubted that he had 'a predatory eye towards other islands not in British possession'.

As Cross had warned shortly after his arrival in Canberra, while there were few real doubts about the strength of the cultural bonds, it remained more difficult to judge wartime political ties with Australia. One post-war view held that it needed to be regarded not so much as an alliance as 'a multi-purpose and adjustable but enduring entente cordial' in which shared sentiments, common culture and personal affection each had a part to play.4 At the time though, these were not always that transparent on both sides. A long-serving member of the DO, Walter Hankinson, had been in Australia on two previous occasions, first in a fairly junior capacity in 1931 and then again four years later as acting high commissioner before returning once more in a wartime deputy role. He found himself asked on numerous occasions, as a self-avowed 'Aussie-phile', what he thought of his friends and their sometimes apparently petulant attitude towards Britain and the Empire. Although he had actually been back in London during the angriest exchanges he had more than enough knowledge of the relationship to offer an informed opinion. As he wrote some years later, his response was, apparently, always the same, answering the leading question with a question of his own. 'Had my questioner ever met a man who had suddenly had all the things he fervently believed in and on which he based his life, swept away one by one in exorable succession? Such a man said many things in his bitterness which he did not really mean and which, in due time when his hurt was healed, he regretted.'5 Some of the difficulties were put down to the high commissioner who often struggled ever since his initial gaffe. Within the nascent Department of External Affairs there was a hostile view towards him; Cross saw his role to be not just an ordinary diplomat but 'a guide and mentor with whom the colonials should seek to have consultation'.6 In the process, however, he managed to develop a previously unimagined level of cordiality with Curtin based on 'intimacy, understanding and friendship' and a long despatch sent back to the DO in December 1943 contained a glowing account of the recent parliamentary session and his performance. This led Cranborne, who had been re-appointed as Dominions secretary a few months before, to reaffirm his growing respect for the Australian leader, 'a man of character and good sense', and he was clear that everything possible should be done to work with him and better gain his confidence.7 There continued to be some disagreements but Cross considered these largely a thing of the past. The triumph at El Alamein had helped greatly, 'a victory for British arms' that he believed now enabled the Australian public to 'exalt the fair name of United Kingdom forces'.

The relationship with New Zealand was much more uncomplicated, particularly once it became clear that there was no actual military threat from the Japanese.8 Batterbee's great fear, from shortly after his arrival in Wellington in February 1939, was American motives in the Pacific region. Remote from the European war, he continued to see the invidious growth of American influence all around him. He even felt one reason why New Zealand had not been fully geared for war when Japan attacked was the belief that existed locally that Washington would come to its aid in the event of an invasion. His anxiety had remained throughout 1943, warning the DO that there was a growing sentiment in the local press that responsibility for the defence of Australia and New Zealand had been 'abdicated' in favour of the United States.9 His fears waned soon thereafter as it became more obvious that the initial 'outburst of emotion' that had greeted the arrival of American troops had been replaced by something else. It was the visitors themselves who were responsible with their 'natural habit of bragging and, I am sorry to have to add, the anti-British talk of many of their officers and men'. In spite of an apparently reckless habit of 'flinging their money about' they soon began to alienate the staunchly pro-Empire locals. The high commissioner also remained a little concerned about the effort and application being shown by his Dominion. He still noted that Christmas 1943 had seen 'Wellington close down for a fortnight and there was a holiday air everywhere'. As he went on: 'It is generally the habit to regard New Zealand as the good boy of the Commonwealth family, but even the best of boys is not perfect and it may well be that from time to time visitors from the United Kingdom report when they get home that New Zealand is not making as much of a total war effort as is commonly understood.'10 He put this in context, however, as the general tone of his long report was almost entirely supportive of the New Zealand effort and he was full of praise for the Dominion's fighting record. That parliament in Wellington had unanimously declined to press for the return of the New Zealand Division from the Middle East the previous year, when Australian forces had all been withdrawn to the Pacific, had been just another instance of the resolute support; out of a total of 43,500 men sent to the Middle East by the late autumn of 1942, 18,500 were dead, wounded or captured.11

The British government had first heard, indirectly, at the end of November 1943 that there were Australian plans afoot to hold some form of a conference, and that an invitation had been sent to Wellington. The following month saw an official announcement by Evatt confirming that Fraser would visit Canberra in the near future and discussions would be held between the two countries. Still, however, the authorities in London were given little idea as to what it was intended to discuss. It had been suggested to Cross that the conference was not being organized with serious policy goals in mind. Curtin told him in early December that there were local matters that required settlement, such as New Zealand's making of Army boots for American troops and the resulting shortage of hides this was creating across the Tasman. This proved to be 'misleading' yet, as the high commissioner concluded, 'it was quite possible that the prime minister in mid-December knew next to nothing of what Evatt was planning'. It was also clear that firm instructions had been given by someone in Canberra that British officials were to be given no prior information about what was to be discussed. This order, it was concluded, had been down to Evatt in the first instance with Curtin supporting the strategy once he had discovered the extent of the conference's remit.12 As a result, Cross and his staff in Canberra proved unable to discover even the broad subjects that it was intended to discuss. Attending meetings Britain's token observer remained entirely in the dark, so much so that he did not even know there was to be a formal agreement signed until two days before it took place.

The reality was that Curtin saw it as a far-reaching gathering, to consider wartime lessons and plan strategies for the future. There were two primary goals to be achieved by those present: demonstrate that it would be Australia and New Zealand who would take the lead in guaranteeing regional security and in the process enhance the international standing of both of them. Fraser agreed but clearly viewed it far more as an opportunity to demonstrate that the two Dominions would have agreed permanent principles of cooperation in the post-war world thereby avoiding repetitions of the instances during the war where the Canberra government had 'squealed'. A joint statement recorded that both countries saw their future security based around an island screen which would need to be suitably developed to make full use of sea and air power. It was recognized that this could only be done in concert with other regional powers; aside from the resources of the British Empire, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United States and France were all mentioned at some stage.13

The outcome of the meeting was the Anzac Pact, signed at the same table at which, in 1900, Queen Victoria had given her royal assent to a Constitution for Australia. The Time correspondent saw this new document as a possible 'Charter of the Southwest Pacific', a common foreign policy produced while London 'dallied' which offered a translation of the proposed Smuts doctrine into 'a dynamic program [sic]'.14 It certainly appeared to provide for closer consultation on matters of common interest, with a proposed full exchange of information and measures to develop cooperation for defence. These included joint planning and the organization of equipment as well as training of the Dominions' armed forces based on a common doctrine. In short, the two governments were agreeing to speak with one voice in the Pacific and to coordinate both their war effort and, implicitly, their post-war security. They reaffirmed their desire to be involved in the membership and planning of the proposed United Nations organization, reference to which had been made in the October 1943 Moscow Declaration. Within this framework it was proposed that there would be a regional defence zone comprising the South and South West Pacific Areas. Until such time as this could be established they were willing to take on its management.15 The two were also opposed to any final settlement until hostilities with all the Axis powers had been concluded. Their requested representation on all armistice planning was meant not just for those discussions relating to Japan but to all the other Axis powers as well. Nor would they accept any change in the control or sovereignty of Pacific islands or enemy held territory in the Pacific without their involvement in the negotiations. The two governments declared that the wartime construction of bases by another power—in other words the United States—gave no basis for territorial claims after the war. In a meeting with Cross on the first night of the conference, Evatt indicated that it had been vital for the two Dominions to hold talks in the face of potential American expansion into the Pacific.16 This anxiety was again repeated a week later as being the primary motivation.17 Added to this was the remark that the British government tended to concede too easily to proposals made in Washington; the comments made at the meeting were intended to forestall anything similar taking place which might have an effect on the Pacific region. In short, as Evatt told Cross, 'it needed saying. You couldn't say it. We could.' And with this in mind Australia took the initiative in calling for an all-power conference to be held in Canberra to discuss Pacific security, post-war development and native welfare, after the gathering of the Dominion prime ministers in London.

Although there had been no British delegate present at the Canberra meetings one of the members of the New Zealand Department of External Affairs gave a fulsome account of what had happened to his friend in the High Commission in Wellington.18 His record noted that

the conditions in which the conference opened were typical of the un-businesslike atmosphere that pervaded the whole proceedings. Mr Curtin, after keeping the representatives waiting for some time in the appointed committee room, thought on his arrival that the room was too small and insisted on the company adjourning to the House of Representatives, where, however, it was found that the lights had been removed for cleaning. The lights could not be restored for some time and the conference began an hour later. From that point onwards the proceedings were extremely rushed, and many of the subjects received practically no consideration. Dr Evatt dominated his colleagues, who took little part, and the agreement may be regarded as his handiwork.

According to this Curtin was apparently not much interested, his mind focused on domestic matters, while Evatt was looking 'to make a splash' that would bring glory both to him and the department he led. The British official, having heard the account, thought Evatt's main idea was 'the putting of Australia on the map as an independent power'. He also thought that relations between these two most senior figures were not good, 'there is a tendency for them to work in watertight compartments', and this, in his view, was an important factor in explaining recent events. This view was apparently shared by other British officials based in the Australian capital. They were reported by another New Zealand observer as affecting to be amused by the agreement: 'two of the children playing amongst themselves' requiring 'adult supervision'.19 As Cross put it, writing to London in January 1944, 'it was Dr Evatt who developed and led the chorus of snarls that emanated daily to the papers from ministers' press conferences, which in time became accompanied by another note, a note of superior wisdom—after the event'.20 Batterbee also had been able to report back to London the results of a 'long and frank talk' with Fraser that had taken place immediately following his return back to Wellington. This confirmed that the New Zealand ministers had been rushed by Evatt and Fraser had been uncomfortable with, and even reluctant to agree to, the language used in the final document. The official secretary in the High Commission had dubbed it 'the Anzaxis' but his boss had concluded that there was in fact no anti-British intention, 'if it was anti-anything, it was anti-American'.21 And while the apparent American determination to retain New Caledonia at the end of the war was the basis for many of the shared concerns that existed within the two Dominions the New Zealand leader was worried in terms of how Washington might react.

Using these accounts, Cranborne was able to produce a detailed summary for his Cabinet colleagues of the background to the agreement and the main terms it entailed. He also outlined his concerns. He reiterated the degree to which there had been little prior knowledge of the conference. Indeed it had been thought that it was the Dominions' intention merely to hold 'mutual consultation' of a preliminary character prior to talking with the British authorities more formally. In fact there had been no references at all to there being future discussions with the British government on these subjects. There were, however, potentially 'some useful results'. The fact that there should now have been a public statement made by the Dominions highlighting the significance of Pacific defence was valuable as it could have implications for post-war arrangements. In addition, the idea of regional collaboration in the Pacific was one that had been already raised publicly in Whitehall. And, of course, the fact that Australia and New Zealand were seen to be enjoying closer cooperation was 'all to the good'. Aside from the other positives and negatives he also drew his colleagues' attention to another section of the agreement in which the two governments asked for representation at the highest level on all armistice planning and executive bodies. This, he thought, might lead to problems as recognizing such claims could have an 'awkward' effect in regard to discussions over the United Nations.22 London was also particularly disturbed at the suggestion that an early conference should be called, termed as a South Pacific Regional Commission, to discuss Pacific security issues involving all those countries with territorial interests in the region.

The official response sent by the DO to both the Dominion governments contained mixed messages. On the one hand there was some praise for the strengthening of relations between the two and platitudes about them having taken such a bold step. There were also lots of concerned references about the United States which was clearly central to most of the matters raised.23 In essence it was asked that all of the matters of substance, particularly the call for the creation of a South Seas Regional Council, be held in abeyance to be discussed at the prime ministers' conference which was due to be held in London in a few months’ time. In the DO's eyes this meant Canada and South Africa could be included in the discussions and they could probably be counted upon to scupper the worst elements of the Australian plan. Evatt was disappointed at the reaction. He felt that there was collusion between Washington and London in their rejections of his call for an international conference and hoped that the British view might come to recognize that time was of the essence.24 He told Cross that it was necessary to 'stake a claim' and argued that it might have been embarrassing to Britain to have been consulted in advance. Of course what he did not say was what both parties knew full well, that if London had been told of the plan in advance, considerable embarrassment would have come from its almost certainly negative reaction. Evatt's anger still seems to have been based as much on the outcome of the Cairo Conference, Cross reporting that the concessions made to China at this meeting between the Allied leaders the previous year still 'rankled'; whether it was the nature of the concessions or the fact that there had been no prior consultation with Canberra was not so clear.

While the FO was upset that the draft reply had been produced without it having been consulted, the agreement itself was generally viewed much more favourably.25 It was felt the process could have been handled in a better manner, but the practical result was helpful from the point of view of enhancing the world position of the Commonwealth.26 The two governments were in a position to be able to say things that would be 'much less convincing' if they had come from London. It demonstrated to Washington that Australia and New Zealand were independent-minded states and 'not mere appendages of Great Britain'. It also was felt it should serve notice that some of the comments being made by American commanders in the Anzac area had been poorly received.27 Indeed, the concerns about the manner of the publication aside, the conclusion within the FO was that the Pact had done more good than harm and had made clear to the United States certain points which British diplomats could never have made.28 This was, of course, just as the Antipodean politicians had claimed. A more detailed analysis was provided by the DID who viewed parts of the agreement as being likely to lead to delay and confusion and being much more helpful to Australia than New Zealand. The proposed consultative machinery would be dominated by Canberra's more experienced officials who would see to it that their view became heard as the common Anzac view. The hope was that Carl Berendsen, the New Zealand high commissioner in Canberra, who was noted for being extremely tough and capable and 'who dislikes and despises the Australians', would be able to ensure that this was not the case. The conclusion was that the agreement would have to be accepted in good grace and monitored to see what, if any, positive lessons could be learnt for the future.29

Elsewhere, among the other Dominions, only Canada offered an opinion about the agreement, focusing on its perceived anti-Americanism. From London, Canada House thought the discussions in Canberra had been rashly handled—it was doubted that the British government had not been consulted beforehand -while the outcome was bound to be offensive to American opinion. Only the year before, the Australians had professed, very publicly, their wish for closer integration of the Commonwealth and yet, with this decision, they had broken from the long-established principles of inter-Imperial consultation. As it was Curtin who had 'raised his voice more than most' it was odd that he now appeared 'a trifle inconsistent'.30 Pearson, who had moved to Washington to become the Canadian Counsellor, was alone in thinking it a good thing, an indication of progress in the evolving Commonwealth relationship, and was perhaps of a similar mind to the FO; to him it demonstrated an increased independence of mind, something that would prove significant in the discussions about the post-war world that were yet to come.31 It was reported from Ottawa that Le Devoir, the leading French-language newspaper published in Montreal, had described the Pact as a new form of foreign policy. It highlighted the degree to which this marked the declining British imperial role; Australia still wished though to retain its position in the alliance so long as this did 'not place her again in the tragic position of 1941 and 1942'.32 An editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald described the agreement as 'a remarkable achievement' while recognizing that both the Tasman Dominions still relied upon the United States and Britain for their security and had to be 'wary of appearing too importunate, or too ambitious'. Later assessments talked of the agreement being 'ambitious' but a realistic conclusion that Britain could no longer defend itself and its distant imperial outposts. Menzies and the opposition were bitterly critical of the Pact, saying that it set a 'new standard of crudity in international approach' and stressing that it would not be binding on future governments. Indeed, in parliament, he went so far as to say that all the bases needed to dominate the Pacific and ensure security should be given to the United States. In New Zealand there was, initially, a reserved public response but with some more general 'mild sarcastic criticism' of those proposed actions that affected Britain and the other great powers.33 It proved, however, to be of only limited interest to the press and in a few days ceased to be front-page news.

An immediate impact of the agreement was that Fraser now believed that he could no longer discuss related questions freely with the British government without first discussing them with Curtin.34 He was, at the same time, also evidently uncomfortable with this and the manner in which the agreement had been reached; he therefore chose to circumvent any possible restrictions by talking informally to Batterbee, who was then free to pass the views exchanged back to London. Indeed he seemed to go out of his way in the days that followed to speak in a 'most frank and friendly nature', stressing how pleased he was with the British response and how important it would be for Britain to remain in the Pacific. He even hoped that British forces might yet be deployed to New Zealand.35 This was the method used to send to London the full text, accompanied by Fraser's response and his assessment of what it meant, of the message sent to the US charge d'Affaires in Wellington from Cordell Hull which was generally critical of the proposed measures. Indeed both leaders either side of the Tasman were contacted by the American secretary of state and told that neither Washington nor London thought the stage had been reached where formal discussions should be held about possible post-war regional developments. This could spawn a rash of such conferences in the process, inhibiting efforts to achieve a general system of world security.36 The British high commissioner sensed Fraser's relief at the way in which the Americans had responded as this, theoretically, made Australian pressure all the more difficult to maintain. He was also perhaps a little pleased that the Americans had immediately reacted as he had warned that they would.37 The New Zealand leader also worked hard to ensure that Evatt's initial proposed response to Washington was not sent as he thought it would be likely to cause offence.38

The idea of pursuing the proposed Regional Commission continued to be badly received both in London and Washington well into the spring. In the South Pacific also it was reported that senior American naval officers interpreted the Pact as an attempt to exclude the United States from the region; as a result forces from the Dominions were not used in operations against the Marshall and Caroline Islands to prevent any subsequent claim for a say in what should happen to them post-war.39 There was some barely disguised glee within the FO at Evatt's vitriolic response to Hull's polite admonishment, it being noted that the Australian 'did not mince his words' but had instead 'violently attacked' some of Roosevelt's 'ill-considered theories and rash remarks'.40 During Curtin's visit to Washington on his way to the prime minister's gathering in London he met with Cordell Hull and an 'informant' had passed on to the British Embassy the outcome of the conversation. Curtin, who had initially begun by saying he did not think there to be 'much harm' in the agreement, was 'all at sea' about the intensely negative reaction he encountered. His host had left him in no doubt that the Canberra meeting and the decisions taken there, particularly calling for a Pacific conference, had not been appreciated.41 A meeting with the president produced similar results; as a result of this Roosevelt had concluded that responsibility for recent Australian initiatives lay squarely with Evatt and Curtin seemed content 'to wash his hands of it'. This overtly hostile response helped guarantee that there would be no conference about regional security prior to the Dominion leaders meeting in London.42 At the same time Cranborne's efforts, both with the summary and the subsequent manner in which he had sent detailed responses and messages to Canberra and Wellington, were also welcomed within Whitehall as having helped ensure that 'this tiresome incident appears after all to have turned out well for us'. Pointing to the Cairo communiqué as providing some sort of justification had proven to be an especially misguided gambit; as one member of the FO commented, this had actually been 'sprung' on the British attendees by the Americans 'at short notice after prior consultation with the Chinese' and was not designed as a slight against the Dominions.43 Another member of the FO noted in April 1944, 'how indignant the Australians would be if the UK behaved as they have done. I don't think any harm has been done and they—or at least Mr Curtin—may now be a little ashamed.'44 The reality was that the Pact would have little more than 'a token effect', an attempt at a naked land grab, in the old imperial style.45

Success or otherwise, the two Dominions had agreed that they would establish a secretariat to provide for a more permanent means of continuous consultation and planning. They would also subsequently hold two annual conferences, a development seen at the time in London as having been 'unfortunate'.46 The discussions held in Wellington in November 1944 were the first to take place under this agreement and they caused further difficulties within Whitehall and a fair degree of additional embarrassment.47 The main problem lay with declarations that were made connected to the question of future colonial administration. As has been seen, the role of the Colonial Empire had been a particular area of concern for the DO. Paul Emrys-Evans's memorandum had been based upon the Dominions' own views which they themselves had submitted to Whitehall.48 Having reviewed these there was some concern that they had not fully considered the part they might be expected to play in the proposed post-war policy. Developments during the pre-war years had seen the relationship between the Dominions become gradually looser. In so doing, their interest in the Colonial Empire, one which they should have thought of 'as a joint heritage' laying upon them 'a common obligation', had reduced to the point where it was not certain if it existed at all. The mandated territories they had received at the end of the First World War—all except Canada—had not absorbed their energies nor proven a particularly successful venture. South Africa alone had maintained an existing policy, but here racial prejudice meant that there could only be anticipated a 'small measure of cooperation'. The war, the author felt, had changed the situation and it was likely to be the case that the various members of the Commonwealth would have greater interest in the post-war position; the time had arrived 'to ask our partners to share some of the burdens as well as to enjoy the advantages of the British connection'. Indeed, it would be necessary for the British government to construct a new Imperial Policy, one in which the Dominions would be expected to play their part.

This message had apparently been taken fully onboard by at least some of the Dominions. During the Wellington discussions it was stated firmly that there should be set up an international body to which Colonial powers should undertake to make reports on the administration of the territories they controlled. This would be empowered to visit these territories, such supervision being binding on trustee states, and publish their completed reports, all as part of the 'spirit of trusteeship for dependent peoples'. Seen within the context of the proposed United Nations organization, both governments were willing to support any such proposal as it might affect both colonies and mandated territories. In addition, and as had already been revealed at Canberra at the beginning of the year, they also wished to promote a regional commission, involving in addition Britain, the United States and France, to consider specifically the South Seas area. Here they hoped it would be possible 'to pool their experience and collaborate in furthering the welfare of dependent peoples'.49 The response was instant and terse; as it was commented in London, 'they have issued without consultation with us or with the other Commonwealth Governments a declaration of policy on matters affecting us all'.50 This judgement was based on the understanding spelt out at the 1923 Imperial Conference: 'a Government contemplating any negotiation should consider its effects upon the other Governments and keep them informed'.51 Bruce even wrote to Curtin advising him that this had put 'the cat among the pigeons' and caused great annoyance.52 He warned of an 'electric atmosphere of tension' as a result of the lack of consultation before the embarrassing statements were announced and suggested the proposals should be 'quietly dropped'.53

The violent reaction was particularly unfortunate in light of the efforts that had been made in Wellington to avoid any repetition of the offence that had arisen at Canberra. They had endeavoured to keep Batterbee advised of developments, despite the irritation this caused the Australians, and the high commissioner had been led to believe that there would be nothing of any great significance discussed; indeed he doubted that Fraser really wanted it to take place at all.54 Cranborne had still been suspicious about the invitation for Batterbee to attend only a formal meeting at the conference's end, without having heard any of what had been discussed beforehand. This he deemed to be 'an odd way of avoiding the impression that they took place behind closed doors'. There was also some recognition among New Zealand officials that talking about the future of the Pacific without inviting the British representative to attend would probably make London believe that the Antipodean Dominions were 'behaving a little queerly'.55 Nonetheless the Dominions secretary concluded that the authorities in Wellington would manage a meeting much better than had been the case in Canberra and he thought Fraser was trying to do the right thing.56 This was indeed probably the case as Batterbee certainly enjoyed a better relationship with his government than Cross across the Tasman.

With his direct assurances that 'nothing except of the most anodyne character would appear in the published statements' Batterbee was shocked when a copy of the speech to be released to the press was handed to him at the last moment.57 Evatt had insisted that a big statement be made and Fraser had been unable to resist. The high commissioner's best efforts to have the offending statement removed from the end-of-conference published statement proved to no avail; the responsibility for this lay with the Australian delegation and Batterbee thought it 'pretty monstrous'.58 Worse, the New Zealand authorities initially tried to claim that they had consulted with him beforehand about the nature of the statement and he was anxious to ensure that the DO did not think this was actually the case.59 There was in fact a great deal of sympathy across Whitehall for the way in which their colleague in distant Wellington had been treated.60 The instigator was recognized by all involved as having been Evatt; Cranborne thought it 'a bad story', particularly as far as the Australian politician was concerned.61 The high commissioner had written back to London immediately after the incident with a detailed account of the Australian's behaviour and an assessment of why he had followed this course; while having 'the profoundest admiration for Mr Churchill' he apparently believed that the government in London was inclined 'to overlook the independent nationhood of the Dominions'.62 He seemed particularly aggrieved that Australia had not been represented in the discussions about the armistice terms to be imposed upon Germany. If the same were the case when considering the terms for Japan there would be 'deep resentment'. Despite such criticisms, Evatt was keen to stress that the Tasman Dominions would be prepared to 'to act as a unit' in certain cases and wished to work with Britain in all matters relating to the Pacific. He recognized, though, that South Africa and Canada continued to approach the issue of the future relationship from a different viewpoint and there remained much discussion to be had about how the British Commonwealth might function in the post-war world.

An official response was sent by the DO and the words 'surprise', 'concern' and 'regret' were all mentioned. London felt that the Wellington conference was espousing a form of international control where colonies were concerned and the British authorities would now likely have to issue their own statement by way of response. In so doing this would inevitably highlight the difference in outlook which existed within the coalition. Both Dominions, in turn, produced long defences not just of their actions but also of their respective attitudes and approaches towards Colonial matters, to an extent which should have caused concern in London about future international discussions which might include the matter. Evatt, as was his want, went further, complaining about the tone of the telegram sent from London which he claimed 'recalled Colonial Office despatches of the distant past'. Cranborne was more than content to defend the manner in which his department had dealt with the spat. As he told the Minister for External Affairs in Canberra, there had been numerous 'very frank telegrams' received from the Australian government during his time as secretary of state and he had appreciated these as 'frankness is the necessary basis of close and cordial collaboration'. On this most recent occasion, however, the unilateral statement on colonial policy had caused embarrassment in London. Not only had the British view been known in Canberra beforehand, and apparently ignored, there had been no prior warning or attempt to find common ground. For Cranborne to have not indicated the depth of dismay that this had caused in Whitehall would 'not have been fair to you nor to us'; indeed he thought the exchange had done some good and, even, cleared the air. Evatt did not agree and responded once again, this time petulantly pointing to occasions where the British government had embarrassed him, adding discussions about Polish boundaries to his now traditional complaints about the Cairo Conference, although it was not entirely clear how either had directly involved Australia. The Dominions secretary recognized these had taken place but they were a result of 'the emergencies of war' which sometimes required the making of rapid decisions. Where the future settlement of policy was concerned there was always time available for consultation with those countries that would be involved: this had not been forthcoming with the Wellington declaration.63 By way of conclusion he thanked both Dominions for their views and told them that British post-war Colonial policy had not yet been formulated. Batterbee was happy to report to London that he and Evatt had actually kept on good terms with one another, parting in 'the most friendly fashion', and the Australian seemed sincere in looking forward to next visiting London.64

There was, however, some anger in Wellington at what was considered to be the high commissioner's unnecessary interfering and his efforts to change the wording of the final resolution.65 Alister McIntosh was secretary of the War Cabinet and also secretary of the new Department of External Affairs. He noted that New Zealand had been 'soundly slapped on the wrist'; a British friend who had been the official secretary in Wellington, but was now back at the DO, wrote to him referring to it as 'a fairly hefty clout on the ear'. The recipient did not, however, object as he thought the admonishment was deserving and told the same to his former boss Berendsen, who was just settling in as the New Zealand minister in Washington. As he told him, if Britain had published something similar without prior consultation, he was pretty certain that Australia, at the very least, 'would have up and left the Empire, and the scream would have been heard all the way to Whitehall without benefit of submarine cable or wireless aerial'. He thought the DO faced an 'impossible job' and that New Zealand was not entirely without blame in terms of what had happened.66

The quarrel was ultimately resolved, but the message coming out of the discussions could not be so easily ignored, containing as it did an inexorable movement away from London and the pre-war Imperial system.67 One view, promoted by a renowned post-war Australian historian, saw it as 'not an aberration in Australian foreign policy but its logical outcome'. A former member of the Department of External Affairs described it as an 'explosive protest' challenging the Anglo-American domination of power.68 At the time two articles were printed in the London Evening Standard in January 1944 just after the initial announcement of the agreement that had been signed at Canberra. The author of these, the Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at London University, asked his readership whether the British Commonwealth could be kept together at the war's end. He provided a detailed review of how this grouping had historically operated, its basis being 'the principle of voluntary collaboration'. It went on to provide a critique of Curtin's proposals of the previous year for a standing Empire Council and offer a more detailed account of the Anzac Pact and what it meant for the Empire. His conclusion was to refer to Halifax's speech, given just days before, and the unavoidable fact that the in the post-war world only a Commonwealth speaking with one 'united, vital and coherent' voice could hope to be heard. Speaking to a meeting of the Royal Empire Society the learned Professor Harlow went still further. He told his audience that there existed 'a most appalling ignorance' about the Dominion, a level of ignorance which terrified him. He might not have said explicitly but it had become undeniably clear. As Whitehall's attention focused on a long-anticipated meeting of the Dominion leaders to be held in London, the British Commonwealth's unique development had reached a critical stage.69

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