The first week of September 1939 was a tumultuous and often hectic one within Whitehall.1 For the only recently confirmed Anglo-Dominion alliance the most significant development was the appointment of a new wartime secretary of state. Having sat on the back-benches since he resigned as foreign secretary the previous year, Anthony Eden was asked to replace Inskip. Chamberlain viewed the DO as a not 'very absorbing' department, but 'Honest Tom', as he was known by his barrister colleagues, had proven to be an almost entirely ineffective minister.2 Eden's decision to agree to take over from him and head what was clearly held to be a lowly political department was viewed, both at the time and subsequently, as a surprise.3 Even the new minister described his position as 'highly anomalous not to say humiliating' but he prospered in the role. Although it did not warrant a permanent seat in the War Cabinet, it was quickly announced that Eden would attend the majority of meetings of the 'inner sanctum' in order to ensure that the Dominions were properly supplied with information. Eden would even be allowed to raise Dominions related-issues when he saw fit. This understanding, confirmed at the very first War Cabinet meeting was no doubt, at least in part, designed to counter fears within official circles that to not do so would be 'a political mistake of the first order'.4
There was no shortage of things to do for the new Dominions secretary. The war was the most obvious and pressing question and the practical challenge of how to turn this new alliance into an effective fighting force. Germany's attack on Poland quickly demonstrated the effectiveness of a new kind of warfare as the Blitzkrieg shattered the Poles' resistance in a matter of only weeks. During the autumn months much of Eden's time, and that of his departmental colleagues, was therefore spent talking with the British chiefs of staff about military matters. The situation was undeniably pretty dire: the Dominions had little to offer. The best contribution they could make was on the naval side with some destroyers, cruisers and a few other smaller vessels but there were no more than 20 of these in total. There were also a number of squadrons of fighters and bombers but these were largely obsolete in design and, once again, were relatively limited in number. Finally there were troops, although these were mostly in the form of local militias designed for rudimentary self-defence rather than the professional forces needed to deter the Wehrmacht juggernaut.5
Nonetheless the Dominion governments were not short on enthusiasm and London was quickly approached for guidance; Canberra had asked the DO as early as the third day of the war what it could do to help.6 South Africa's involvement was still considered too uncertain to gauge at this stage, so the chiefs of staff in Whitehall ordered the readying of three separate papers outlining the assistance that would be welcomed from each of the other fighting Dominions. There were separate sections for Maritime, Air and Land, and each paper was broadly the same. It was asked that, if possible, major vessels should be turned over to the Admiralty, naval bases readied as Fleet harbours and steps taken to commence ship building, especially of smaller escorts and minesweepers. The chiefs of staff anticipated there would be difficulties in finding sufficient pilots and aircrews if intensive air operations developed in Western Europe.7 It was therefore suggested that instead of forming and training complete units for despatch overseas, the Dominions should concentrate solely on training to provide a pool of aircrew which could be incorporated into British units and then formed into national bodies when sufficient officers and personnel were ready. Finally, each Dominion was encouraged to provide an Expeditionary Force, although it was acknowledged that this might not be possible politically at the outset. This last point was critical as would become even more apparent just weeks later when the War Cabinet agreed to the Land Forces Committee's proposals that the British Army be built up to 55 divisions within two years. With the Dominions earmarked to provide a total of 14 divisions, this represented an enormous burden on their manpower and resources.8 Speaking in the House of Representatives in Canberra, Menzies had announced that Australia would raise a force of 100,000 men but there was no date on when they would be sent.9 New Zealand also was training troops, albeit a much smaller force and, once again, it was not clear when they might embark.10
Both announcements were, in fact, entirely in line with the advice issued by the chiefs of staff in London. While the Japanese position remained unclear Anzac troops were not to be despatched abroad, but should instead proceed with training within their own shores. This was not, however, what certain politicians in Westminster wanted to hear. The problem Eden faced was that a number of his colleagues seemed either ignorant or unwilling to face facts about just how little the Dominions could offer. Even when the information was put before them in considerable detail—a memorandum was presented to the War Cabinet in mid-October outlining the progress each was making—there remained a belief that more could be done. This was a view most prominently held by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War. Drawing attention to how quickly similar contingents had reached Europe during the previous war, Winston Churchill argued that Dominion troops had to be in France by the opening of the anticipated 1940 spring campaign. Leslie Hore-Belisha concurred that there needed to be a much greater land contribution from the Dominions than they appeared to contemplate as there was a critical psychological value in getting Imperial manpower to the frontline. Both ministers felt strong pressure should be exerted on the governments concerned to encourage a greater response.11
Whitehall opinion did not universally agree with this argument. In certain circles, mostly within the Treasury, providing greater financial and material support to help the Dominions develop some kind of credible military contribution was not viewed enthusiastically. Australian requirements, for example, were described as being 'of a much lower order of priority as compared with our own' and the point was made that the Dominions 'ought to keep within our own priority scales'.12 Much the same was true in the case of New Zealand, while South Africa's requests, albeit admittedly wildly overstated in terms of what might reasonably be expected, were dismissed even by the War Office (WO) who suggested instead 'tokens' and 'gestures'.13 At the very least, the Treasury urged, the government in Canberra should be encouraged to buy goods through a purchasing commission, which it was anticipated would shortly be established to prevent internal competition developing. This would mean the Dominion's lists of military requirements would be presented to London for scrutiny and a decision about what they could and could not have. A desire to prevent a drain of dollar reserves influenced much of this thinking but grudging talk of gestures and demands for oversight surely boded ill for the future.
A keenly anticipated contribution was the proposed Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS). Vincent Massey and Stanley Bruce, the Canadian and Australian high commissioners in London, had heard of the anticipated future shortages of aircrew and put forward a proposal that they felt would allow the Dominions to visibly demonstrate their support for the military effort.14 This was warmly welcomed by ministers in London initially but soon revealed itself to be fraught with difficulties. A mission sent to Ottawa in early October to confirm the scheme's details, came perilously close to failure. Training organizations were to be established in Australia and New Zealand, but Canada was prepared to accept the lead role providing the greatest number of trainees and covering the costs this would create. There was a price in return, however, as it was made plain to the War Cabinet back in London that Mackenzie King wanted an agreement that this would be accepted as Canada's 'decisive effort'. During the First World War the scale of losses of manpower had created a huge political crisis over the need for conscription, and the Canadian prime minister was anxious to avoid there being any repeat.15 The Cabinet reacted angrily to this demand, leaving Eden to do his best to calm his colleagues. Despite Mackenzie King's very public statements to the contrary, the Dominions secretary assured them that there was in fact considerable Canadian support in favour of sending troops.16 In late October it was announced that the Canadian First Division would leave for England early in December and the rancour quickly passed.17 Mackenzie King, faced by increasingly hostile domestic opinion, had been forced to send an expeditionary force. Lester Pearson, a member of the Canadian High Commission in London, recognized that his countrymen 'would countenance no such half-way involvement; Canadians would not accept a role to guard their bridges and their borders, to produce munitions and war supplies while British soldiers did the fighting against the Nazis'.18 Canada's wily leader would extract suitable recompense though when the EATS was finally agreed two months later with very favourable financial terms for its Canadian hosts.
With the news that Canadian troops were heading for Britain it was thought Australia and New Zealand would soon follow suit.19 The threat from Japan and Italy was assessed to be receding and, with this no longer preventing troop movements, Chamberlain decided that the time had come to apply some pressure.20 The War Cabinet agreed that the sending of a second Anzac force to France would have an effect 'on the Empire, on the French, on neutrals and the Germans' which would be 'out of all proportion to the number of troops engaged'.21 The difficulty that remained was that the Australians were still uncertain of the merits of such a move.22 Richard Casey, a senior Australian minister visiting London for a meeting of Dominion ministers, told the British officials that there were lingering doubts in Canberra over Japanese intentions; an assurance that Britain would send capital ships to Australia when necessary would remove such fears. As will be seen, this British commitment to providing security in the Far East and Pacific had been a long-running theme that had dominated the Anglo-Dominion pre-war relationship. Now, while Eden urged that reassurance be given, Chamberlain remained intent on doing everything possible to avoid any such guarantee.
Such reluctance was not, however, shared by Churchill who seemed more than happy to provide promises of future assistance if it meant more Dominion troops would be available now. The Australians remained unconvinced by the First Lord's suitably vague assurance but his oratorical soothing was better received by the New Zealanders. The Wellington government agreed to send its troops not because of any new confidence in London, so it announced, but because they had insufficient training facilities left in New Zealand and had to move the first brigade of troops. In so doing Savage, the Dominion's now seriously ill prime minister, ignored an agreement that said he would maintain close contact with his counterpart in Canberra about defence measures. Menzies was seriously embarrassed, the decision by his neighbours left him little option other than to do the same or risk what effect Australia's continuing absence might have upon his own prestige and that of his country.23 Ministers and civil servants in Whitehall could, as a result, claim success in having persuaded the Tasman Dominions finally to agree to send troops. The truth was that this was not a convincing performance, based as it was on the back of what would later be exposed as a worthless guarantee. It was also a deal that would have hugely adverse political ramifications for the alliance in the years to come.
Dealing with military issues was not Eden's only work, there were also significant administrative matters requiring his department's urgent attention. From the outset of the war the Dominions had asked for some clear idea of what the Allies were fighting for, deeming it as essential to maintain domestic support. Chamberlain and many others within his Cabinet were wary of making such a declaration and despite the request being made repeatedly, on each occasion it was ignored. The British authorities argued that to establish the precise details of what the coalition was fighting for during the early stages of what would most likely be a long and fluid war could have a limiting effect; would the aims, for example, include a return to the pre-war European status quo, a state that was widely accepted as not only being impossible to accomplish but also extremely naive. By the same token would the enemy be Hitler alone, Germany as a nation or Germany and the Soviet Union who were both now seen as aggressor states. Chamberlain had himself recognized that his adversary might try and weaken the Allies' resolve.24 With the conquest of Poland completed, as anticipated Hitler delivered a speech in which a limited peace proposal was put forward. The War Cabinet played for time in order to allow the Dominions to have their say which they all did, reiterating the common theme that this was a war to defeat aggression. Menzies described the offer as being little more than 'a blustering attempt to justify the war'; the Canadian government offered no official response but the press was unanimous in its condemnation of a 'blood-stained peace', while much the same was written in the South African press, even amongst the nationalist Afrikaans newspapers.25 The high commissioners, however, seemed keen on pursuing the option and pressed Eden for his support. Chamberlain was very upset at their attitude and the Dominions secretary found himself in a difficult position, trying to ensure his charges did not feel they were being ignored while trying to make them see sense.26
While this created some short-term discomfort, the debate within Whitehall about how much information should be given to the alliance partners presented a more enduring problem. It might seem incredible, but this in fact proved a highly controversial and emotive question and would remain so for the entirety of the war. Its origins, however, lay firmly during the inter-war years with the Dominions' confirmation as self-autonomous actors within the international system. At the 1926 Imperial Conference it had been agreed that they would subsequently have individual responsibility for foreign policy but, lacking money, experience and manpower, there continued to be a dependence upon London for information about events as they happened.27 For some within Whitehall, notably Malcolm MacDonald, this was a more than satisfactory position; Dominion leaders could be 'kept fully informed about developments' and their responses helped influence British policy.28 The reality was something quite different, as had been demonstrated during the various guarantees and crises of recent months.29 On several occasions even Inskip had been angered about how much was being withheld from the DO for onward distribution, so much so that one of his last acts prior to his replacement was to contact the FO and remind it that telegrams should be made available at the earliest possible opportunity.30 His successor was in complete agreement. Although meetings between the high commissioners and the Dominions secretary had taken place before the war, most notably during the Munich crisis, Eden took responsibility for turning them into a daily and much more organized event. One of the DO officials who sat in on them believed that this succeeded in creating 'a remarkable atmosphere of reciprocal frankness and common purpose'.31 Daily Cabinet discussions and the decisions that had been reached formed the basis of these meetings. So successful were they that the Dominions' representatives quickly turned them into an opportunity to raise matters that concerned them or their governments, and Eden relayed these to the War Cabinet.32
Another early change, again taken within days of war being declared, was the creation of a new series of telegrams. The 'Circular DW', issued by the DO, would ultimately remain a staple source of information for the Dominions throughout the duration of the war. A daily summary of the progress of the military situation, 'of the highest secrecy', collated from various Whitehall departments it was intended to be viewed by the Dominion representatives prior to being sent on to their respective governments.33 Another step was the establishment of the grandly titled 'Committee for Dominion Collaboration'.34 Its initial report concluded that improvements would be needed to strengthen how the alliance functioned. It was proposed that, in addition to the new meetings and telegrams, the high commissioners and the War Cabinet should consult directly when needed, probably once each fortnight and a meeting of Dominion ministers was also suggested.35 It was also proposed that eventually Dominion missions should be created within the United Kingdom, similar to the Anglo-French committees which had already been established.
While the War Cabinet appeared to express its general agreement with the report's findings, in the first instance the Dominions would have little option other than to continue to rely upon the apparatus already in place.36 The new DW telegrams would perforce be the chief source of information for them but, with its exact form and content still undecided, in many cases it was initially of only very limited value.37 Eden was told, in a late September 1939 minute, that the Dominions should not expect them to include anything relating to future plans and, to emphasize the point, the WO insisted that copies of each communiqué were first sent to them so that they could monitor what was being passed on.38
This was a dangerous approach as was quickly demonstrated. The British Expeditionary Force's deployment to France was not revealed to the Dominions in advance nor even was there any mention made of it in the DW telegrams. In the British High Commission in Pretoria this cause considerable astonishment, an angry message back to London warning entirely correctly 'omission is somewhat difficult to explain and it is to be feared that the daily telegrams will lose value in their eyes if there is any implication that they contain selected items only'. There was another concern: by not including relevant information it might be taken by the Dominions that there was no confidence in their ability to keep secrets.39 This was actually a widely held fear in Whitehall, even in the DO there was a worry that sensitive cables might be tapped.40 Robert Hadow, who had earlier warned of the possible danger of Dominion neutrality, also wondered what might happen should a situation arise where the Dominion governments felt that London was withholding information they deemed vital to their security.41 He argued that keeping them within the 'inner ring of events' would bring them fully in step with British policy and remove the need for 'prior consultation' and delays which could happen at some future critical stage. Cadogan was still unimpressed though and again dismissed his subordinate's concerns.42 The result was that, at best, the DW telegrams remained highly sanitized accounts, only marginally better than Ministry of Information reports. A member of the Board of Trade who was involved in their preparation noted that they did not include anything which had 'a bearing on future plans' while the FO First Secretary who oversaw the process would later confirm that they 'never contained anything really important'.43
This was not lost on the high commissioners, a self-titled 'junior war cabinet' made up of forceful characters. Within DO circles, the Australian representative Bruce, himself a former prime minister, was seen as being very down-to-earth, while Massey, presiding at Canada House, was the most aristocratic. The South African, te Water, had been equally well-respected but he had resigned in protest at Hertzog's removal from power and a replacement was still awaited. This left Jordan, the New Zealander, a former London policeman, who although rarely treated seriously, was liked immensely because of his friendliness.44 All of them had initially welcomed what they saw as the positive measures being taken to keep them better informed, ones which they believed would allow them to retain a central role in the coalition's policy-making.45 Between the war's outbreak and the end of 1939, 83 meetings were held between them and Eden or his deputy, each of which allowed the opportunity to scrutinize official British war policy.46With the distances and time involved in encoding and decoding communications, at this stage comments made by the distant Dominion prime ministers could only rarely carry the same bearing. Bruce and Massey were the key figures despite the fact that both had found themselves increasingly marginalized by their domestic political leaderships. Mackenzie King was widely rumoured not to trust his representative because 'his telegrams were too English' and had asked on numerous occasions that discussions were not held with Massey that might be construed in Canada as being of an official nature.47 With Bruce similarly marginalized, but for less obviously personal reasons, the two had little influence at home. In the vibrant political arena that was wartime London, their position appeared very different though and the potential role that they could play was quickly demonstrated when they asked for an opportunity to discuss the military situation with the War Cabinet. The resulting mid-September meeting led the Chancellor, Sir John Simon, to report back to his Cabinet colleagues that his visitors 'had taken an unwarrantable gloomy view of the situation', and as a result the 'Dominions Collaboration' committee was formed to examine the alliance's structure.48
They might not have had any real power or influence but the high commissioners certainly thought they did, and this was all that mattered. The idea that they were not being kept fully informed of important developments angered them and this would prove to be a long-standing complaint. They were not alone in believing this to be the case as was made clear with calls in the press and even questions tabled in the House of Commons demanding that the experience of the First World War should be repeated.49 During this there has been two clear phases to what was termed 'consultative cooperation'. The first, from the war's outbreak in August 1914, saw frequent visits being made to London by various Dominion ministers. As the Allied strategic position on the Western Front worsened in the spring of 1917, this was deemed insufficient and an Imperial War Conference was convened chaired by the British leader, David Lloyd George, and involving all of the Dominion leaders. Experimental in both form and procedure, the authorities in London hailed the gathering as an example of Imperial unity and it continued until mid-1919 in the guise of an Imperial War Cabinet.50 In the Dominions the reaction was not as positive; although it allowed the respective leaders an opportunity to claim they had provided assistance during a moment of great crisis for the British Empire, it also served to exacerbate some long-held concerns. There had been fears about any mechanism which could be used by the British government to make unilateral, binding decisions long before the 1911 Imperial Conference. Indeed these went back to the previous century and Joseph Chamberlain's proposals for an Imperial Council.51 As a result the inter-war period saw a persistent reluctance to allow subsequent Imperial Conferences, now held at regular intervals, to be viewed as anything more than non-permanent meetings of a purely advisory nature.52
Mackenzie King was especially reluctant to be dragged into any form of what he described as an 'Imperial conclave' and already, even in the war's earliest months his sensitivities on the matter were recognized not just within the DO but throughout Whitehall.53 Following a cursory glance at some of the telegrams received from the high commissioner in Ottawa, Eden had stated that Britain had to be careful not to appear to be setting up an Imperial War Cabinet and avoid meetings at regular intervals.54 At the same time, however, it was also widely understood that there was a genuine need to hold some sort of gathering, if for no other reason than to 'to impress upon the Dominions that they must also pull their weight if victory is to be attained'.55 Eden's committee therefore proposed that each should send a ministerial representative, as opposed to their political leadership, to see the vast effort that was being made by Britain. The Canadian leader was in 'a suspicious mood' and it was important to tread cautiously when considering how best to proceed. The official press release announcing the proposed meeting was consequently couched in suitably placatory terms.56 Even though the feared Blitzkrieg had been re-christened Sitzkrieg, a reflection on the static nature of the conflict, organizing such a conference at short notice in the midst of a war was something of a Herculean task. The DO proved up to the task and by the end of October 1939 delegates from each of the four Dominion countries had assembled in London, none of whom were directly responsible for the actual war effort of their respective Dominions.57
Proceedings began on the first day of November 1939, with a description by Lord Halifax of the foreign political situation. His main points were that Britain should stand solidly behind France, defend key strategic positions in the East such as Aden and Singapore, while pursuing friendly relations with the Mediterranean countries and the United States of America. Questions followed and the British attempted to provide answers. Seven further meetings, each on a different theme, were conducted in exactly the same way. There were discussions on strategic policy during which British ministers encouraged the Dominions to despatch expeditionary forces. How to best conduct economic warfare against Germany, and the difficulties to be faced in maintaining current levels of merchant shipping involved in non-essential transportation provided other topics. The Chancellor chaired another in which the Dominions were asked to give all they could to help Britain overcome 'the terrible financial strain' it faced. There was also the meeting in which Churchill gave the Far Eastern security guarantee which followed on from a visit to inspect the Allied forces in France. The prevailing atmosphere throughout was generally good and no formal suggestions were offered by the delegates that there should be any change to existing arrangements.58 There were differing interpretations as to what this meant. Harold Nicolson, the renowned diplomat, politician and author, could only lament that the visiting ministers had 'come expecting to find the Mother of Parliaments armed like Britannia, [but] merely saw an old lady dozing over her knitting while her husband read the evening paper out loud'.59 The DO, however, was generally happy about the outcome. There was particular satisfaction gained from the fact that it had taken years during the First World War to convene a similar meeting, but on this occasion only two-and-a-half months had passed.
This is not to say that the experience was entirely free of alliance strains. Comments had been made within Whitehall prior to their arrival that each Dominion would come to the meeting not solely intent on listening passively to the lectures. This proved to be the case, the question of Britain's wheat purchases from Canada being one of the most contentious issues to be discussed on the fringes. The government in Ottawa insisted that all of its wheat be bought and at a price it set in order, it claimed, to protect both producers and consumers. This was interpreted in London as being based on purely commercial considerations and it would create an impression of 'hard bargaining between two parts of the Commonwealth'. It was consequently decided that the issue would be resolved at a special meeting involving the visiting Canadian delegation to discuss the wartime financial relationship. When this finally took place in the first week of December it was highly acrimonious. Simon, who was in the chair, found the Canadian argument to be totally unacceptable, so much so that any progress proved impossible.60 Similar problems existed with Australia, the Commonwealth representatives making it clear they were relying on considerable financial assistance from the United Kingdom government to fund their war effort.61 Simon saw this as being nothing more than subterfuge for Britain taking on Australia's pre-war debts. The British government ultimately would comply with both these sets of demands because it was felt there was little other option, but there was an all-too-obvious sense of shock at the tactics they had encountered. Chamberlain's experiences with the Dominion high commissioners during the first months of the war had left him 'very upset' and it can only be imagined what he felt now.62Nonetheless, at least publicly, after this gathering the coalition was still publicly seen to be strong, indeed the spirit of the Empire was being extolled as stronger than ever. MacDonald, speaking now as colonial secretary, told his parliamentary colleagues as the meetings drew to a close that the Dominions 'clothed with every right and privilege of the sovereign nations which they are' had chosen freely to offer their support to Britain. They had leapt into the war not as 'slaves within the British Commonwealth' but as 'free men' with the evolutionary process of gaining their freedom now complete.63
It was against this backdrop that the First Canadian Division began to disembark at Scottish ports, the first contingent of Dominion troops to arrive on British shores. Within weeks both the First Echelon of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force and Australia's Sixth Division had also sailed from their respective home ports heading for the European war theatre. With the commitment of these troops, it was widely hoped within Whitehall that the Dominions would now develop a far greater interest in the war. The reality was that, preoccupied by domestic concerns and what some London-based commentators referred to as 'strong inferiority complexes', there still remained a clear lack of willingness to actively participate in the war's direction.64 Typical of this was Canada where, in January 1940, Mackenzie King had sensed the moment was propitious to capitalize on his earlier hard-worked intrigues and had called a general election. Privately Whitehall was alive with speculation that his defeat would be no bad thing, this in part fuelled by reports from the British high commissioner that the Canadian leader had 'dug his own [political] grave'.65 The authorities in South Africa were also still struggling to 'come into the war' as the bitterness created by the previous September's political crisis continued to prove divisive.66 Despite this, key figures in London had yet to grasp that their alliance partners' attention lay elsewhere. The War Cabinet was now focused on British strategy in Scandinavia, Churchill persisting with his long-standing proposals to send an Allied Expeditionary Force to secure the Norwegian port of Narvik. The Dominions' response when asked for their views about this idea and, specifically, whether a more vigorous approach was required, was guarded. Indeed they offered little other than the standard rejection of any move which might lead to a worsening of the existing situation.67 The high commissioners were much more openly critical; Bruce had long regarded any move into Norway or its surrounding waters to be 'extremely dangerous' and instead suggested a much more vigorous propaganda campaign be conducted.68 Eden said little to this, his attentions focused on proposals for a summer visit to Canada, but elsewhere in Whitehall there was widespread scorn among those who heard this particular contribution to the debate.69
The German invasion of Norway, in the first week of April 1940, surprised the War Cabinet and the Dominions who were mentally unprepared and still fixed largely on domestic concerns.70 Menzies, who was keenest that some form of direct assistance should be provided, had recently announced the successful conclusion of negotiations with Sir Earle Page putting to an end a spat that has soured relations between the two. As a result Page's Country Party would now join in a coalition with his Australia Party. This was obviously a positive step but the political situation nonetheless still remained fragile.71 In Canada Mackenzie King's general election victory had been assessed by the FO as leaving a leader in charge in Ottawa who would 'remain lukewarm about war measures which cannot be shown to be to [his] advantage'.72 Sydney Waterson, at South Africa House, was almost alone therefore in responding optimistically to the recent turn of events and he felt more cheerful because the coalition needed 'a kick in the pants before we really get down to a war'.73 As a military catastrophe unfolded on the far side of the North Sea, the most important question for him was the position of the Dominions in relation to the Supreme War Council. When this had been reconstituted in September 1939, as part of the machinery to coordinate the war effort, Eden's committee had recommended that the Dominion governments should not be invited to join. This decision had been initially accepted without complaint and this position might well have remained unchallenged. With representatives from both Poland and Norway admitted to a Council meeting in the last week of April, Waterson now pressed for a greater Dominion involvement. Naval and air units were actively engaged in operations and a small Canadian contingent had even been earmarked for despatch to Norway, albeit without Ottawa's knowledge. This made it difficult for the South African's request to be dismissed out of hand. The response, an invitation for the Dominion leaders to visit London later in the year, was a well-calculated move which effectively deferred any further discussion for the time being.74
As the situation worsened further, much of the apparent stupor that in recent weeks had affected those around the South African high commissioner, now vanished. In its place was a new sense of enthusiasm as the daily meetings chaired by Eden during the first days of May 1940 once again became the venue for tense discussion about the war's progress.75 This renewed interest was no bad thing for, if the German success against Norway had come as a shock to the Dominion governments, there was much worse to follow with the Blitzkrieg against the Low Countries and France. A major German attack was underway on the Continent and, with the Dominion leaders still seemingly as indecisive as ever, certainly in terms of their communications with London, it was left to the high commissioners much as had been the case the year before to question the British response. The Dominions secretary was asked to involve them much more closely in devising new policies to deal with the revised situation facing the Allies.76 While not unreceptive to their appeals, he was, however, himself distracted by the mounting speculation about changes at the highest level of the British Empire's political machine. The implications of the Norwegian disaster were now beginning to be felt in London and, as news of the worsening military situation grew, Waterson was certain that Chamberlain would have to be replaced. Like Massey he believed that Lord Halifax was the most likely next leader of the country.77 They were soon proven correct about a change taking place but the announcement of the identity of who would take charge was something of a surprise to the high commissioners and the Dominion prime ministers alike.