Coalition United

The appointment of the Fifth Marquess of Salisbury in October 1940 carried with it a significance for Anglo-Dominion relations that cannot be overstated.1 Although it was only his second Cabinet position, and still acknowledged as being very much a junior one, 'Bobbety', as he was known to his peers, brought with him an enormous sense of enthusiasm and determination. As one of those who knew him well said of him, although 'frail in body'—the result of having been gassed in the trenches during the last war—he made up for it with 'the robustness of his spirit'.2 One of his DO staff detected 'an unusual range of gifts and accomplishments' with a 'subtlety' to his intelligence, 'a strong sense of pride', 'a natural courtesy towards all' and 'a lively and amusing mind, with a keen sense of humour'. This left him well suited for the demands of working in the department.3 Despite being a long-standing friend, he was not afraid to tackle Churchill on the need to provide more information to the Dominions and give them a greater say in coalition management. Cranborne was not suggesting any greater permanent presence; indeed he was particularly dismissive of the idea that a second London-based Imperial War Cabinet should be established. What he instead argued was that, if for no other reason than the progressively greater contributions of manpower and material they were providing, the British government needed to be more open with the Dominions and its leaders.

He was quick to show his resolve to resist measures which he believed might harm his new department. Both of his wartime predecessors had tried to do the same but their efforts had generally been frustrated. Cranborne was quick to try and offer reassurance, not least to the Union of South Africa and Australia, telling them that he recognized the amount of information they received was still far from adequate.4 Shortly after his appointment he had written to Waterson apologizing that he had not been told before Eden's October 1940 visit to Egypt, a slip which had embarrassed and angered the South African.5 This appeared to gain him little in the eyes of a high commissioner who had been critical of both of his predecessors and was uncertain about the new man, 'the usual inbred perfect gentleman, full of good qualities but really not tough enough for our purposes'. Bruce would reserve judgement, but only because he had been told that the new minister had 'ability and guts' and just needed the opportunity to prove himself.

Massey was alone in thinking him to be 'an admirable choice'.6 Waterson's view seemed harsh indeed as the early suggestions were that a more dogmatic and pugnacious attitude now prevailed within the DO with a Dominions secretary not afraid to disagree with his Whitehall colleagues.7

His greatest clashes would be reserved for Churchill. This was particularly unfortunate as the rapid deterioration in relations between the two that resulted coincided with a growing political challenge based in part around the actions of one of the Dominion's leaders. During the inter-war years Australia had been alone in arguing that greater cooperation was needed, and by the late 1930s it was being said in Canberra that the level of consultation was insufficient to meet the requirements of the worsening European situation. Following the 1938 Munich Crisis, Menzies, the then Australian Attorney General, placed himself at the head of a campaign for a united British Empire foreign policy, but his proposals for a 'permanent Imperial Secretariat' were rejected by a majority of the other senior figures in Dominion political circles.8 His appointment as the country's leader following Joe Lyons's death in March 1939 only strengthened the fervour of this self-avowed imperialist. Despite a precarious domestic political position, he had been the one Dominion leader constantly prepared to visit London during France's slow and painful collapse.9 A telegram he sent to London in mid-June talked of the great comfort he would gain if there could be a Dominion prime ministers' conference to discuss 'empire defence'. Churchill politely declined the request but it did little to deter his counterpart in Canberra.10

The Dakar incident seems to have been taken by Menzies as the perfect excuse to push for improvements to be made.11 From the war's outset he had complained that the supply of information was very meagre and that there were events happening which 'vitally concerned Australia but about which nothing was known until afterwards'.12 Now a year later, although he was apparently dismissive of the need for an actual, enlarged Imperial War Cabinet, he still wanted a formal meeting. At this he wanted to know why Britain was 'keeping the Dominions a bit at arm's length' when it came to the war's progress.13 His position at home looked tenuous; as one of his colleagues bemoaned to a friend in London, most of Menzies' colleagues were now 'eager for his blood'. A meeting demonstrating his statesmanlike qualities at the heart of the Empire would have been attractive; the problem that he faced was finding supporters.14 Even the DO believed that a London conference was unfeasible and had done since earlier in the year. Half-hearted plans had been made for something, probably in July or early August 1940, but these were curtailed by the German Blitzkrieg.15 A detailed summary of the various proposals that had been put forward had been prepared within the DO and, following Chamberlain's resignation, a copy had been submitted to Churchill that same month.16 Both then and now it was felt there was no possibility of Smuts or Mackenzie King being willing to attend, but discouraging Menzies outright would have 'a chilling effect'; the War Cabinet was told that the idea might be welcomed but not the proposed timing.17

There were a number of political considerations to be borne in mind in Whitehall. A recent warning given to Churchill by an old political colleague had spoken of the growing parliamentary campaign to get a Dominion representative into the War Cabinet.18That this proposal had its backers had been made abundantly clear in the House of Lords. Gideon Oliphant-Murray, the 2nd Viscount Elibank, was a Scottish aristocrat and staunch imperialist and he was certainly the most vocal proponent of the creation of an Imperial War Cabinet. Variations on a similar theme had been referred to earlier in the summer of 1940 in both Houses but his would be the most sustained. He had told his peers that the Dominions were playing a sizeable role and asked that a 'greater unification of war direction on the part of the Empire' be considered. He proposed that the Dominions be included in the Cabinet and suggested that Bruce could prove an excellent addition. As the former Liberal chief whip reassured the prime minister, his appeal was in fact an attempt 'to induce the Dominions [to] do more'.19 Aside from this irritation there was also the British leader's desire to demonstrate that there remained a continued resolve amongst the Allied combatants to continue the war against Germany. U-boat attacks against British shipping in the Atlantic were worsening, the Luftwaffe's aerial campaign against London showed little sign of ending, while Italy's invasion of Greece, which had begun in October 1940, further threatened Britain's Mediterranean interests.20 Churchill wished to hold a Supreme War Council meeting to send a message to the neutrals, particularly the United States. He therefore proposed that the now Occupied Powers and Dominion governments be asked to send representatives but Mackenzie King found the idea 'distasteful'.21 The prime minister was unmoved and warned he would press ahead regardless and when Cranborne attempted to explain possible reasons behind the Canadian leader's mood, Churchill responded angrily.22 He now argued that it was the use of the term 'Supreme War Council' instead of the Cabinet-agreed 'Conference of Allied Representatives' which had created the problem and given Mackenzie King 'a puddle at which he was sure to shy'.23 The Dominions secretary had in fact first sought the FO's advice before he had contacted Ottawa and it was only when Churchill was told this by a third party that he calmed down.24

It might have been politically expedient or a residual effect of this incident, but it was only a few weeks later, in early December 1940, that the Dominions secretary was summoned to Chequers and informed that it was now proposed to move him. Various diaries speak of his name being put forward as ambassador in Washington or even viceroy of India. He was actually asked to become the secretary of state for India and take his hereditary seat in the House of Lords where he could then also answer FO questions. This provoked a long and emotional response:

As you know I was in the first doubtful about it, and the more I think, the more reluctant I feel, from many points of view. For one thing I am quite certain the Dominions themselves would greatly resent such frequent changes in the DO. They have already had three secretaries of state in little more than a year. If now they are asked to accept a fourth, they will draw the conclusion that they are regarded as of no account, and that the Office is treated merely as a receptacle for odd men out. They are exceedingly sensitive and the effect on them, especially at this moment when they are making so great an effort, might only too probably be deplorable.25

Adding to tensions was the growing anger within the DO over the question of information. During the summer Caldecote had presented the War Cabinet with a paper asking that the fullest possible account of wartime developments be given to the Dominions.26Now Colonel William Bishop, the department's military liaison officer, attacked the continuing official reluctance to allow 'secret' information to be sent out, in a lengthy and often bitterly critical internal minute.27 This had been sparked by a letter from Churchill to the recently re-elected President Roosevelt outlining the war situation and the British position. Bishop thought it an outstanding review and wanted it sent to the Dominions but the proposal was rejected by the Service Departments who cited the prime minister's directive.28 The military officer believed that the time had come when Churchill needed to be tackled directly on his policy and Cranborne agreed, confiding to his deputy his fear that the country's leader had decided on a policy of communicating 'as little information' as he could get away with and even then 'only in reply to specific requests'.29 On one occasion it had even been suggested that a proposed telegram to his Dominion counterparts outlining the real figures for captured German U-boats should be delayed, it being better 'to let sleeping statistics lie'.30 He was not alone with his concerns, during the preceding month the Dominions secretary had received a number of similar complaints from Whitehall colleagues. He therefore wrote to Churchill just two days before Christmas reminding him that sharing information with the other Dominion leaders helped gain their confidence and ensured their practical cooperation.31 The oft-quoted response sent on Christmas Day 1940 took the form of a stern rebuke. There was 'a danger that the Dominions Office staff get into the habit of running a kind of newspaper full of deadly secrets' and the prime minister wanted anything 'of a very secret nature' to be approved by him in future before it was sent.32

Churchill was clearly angered by events, even telling Bruce that the DO was ineffectual, although he did not refer to Cranborne by name.33 The Dominions secretary was, however, the obvious target as was clear from him being told not to attend the Tuesday meetings of the War Cabinet, the point being emphasized to him that these were reserved for those within government who made policy. He was not one of these people and his presence was therefore deemed to be surplus to requirements.34 Bobbety could do little but accept the new arrangements despite the obvious restrictions it would place on his ability to discuss future war strategy with the alliance members. He did, however, try to offer some further explanation to Churchill as to why he had protested. The Dominions were not complaining about the lack of prior consultation about the Dakar operation—although they were privately angry—it was the fact that they had not even been informed that it was taking place and had to learn this from the Press that was the cause of their concern. They were also not claiming 'any right to supervise the work of the War Cabinet'; they just wanted to feel that they were in the full confidence of the British leadership. Few within the DO believed the prime minister would change his mind and although he soon seemed a little more receptive to requests from the department, it was nonetheless clear that the Dominions secretary was out in the cold.35

This was the position when, in January 1941 Menzies set out on a journey to London to carry out a 'chancy undertaking' for which he had been long planning.36 The month before, Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour party but also Churchill's deputy in the wartime national unity government, had told the House of Commons no Dominions' representative would be joining the War Cabinet but this did not deter the Australian.37 The continuing difficulties he faced at home, his own political ambitions, a genuine sense of personal unease over the nature of the relationship Australia enjoyed with Britain and more general fears among his countrymen about future security in both the Mediterranean and Pacific regions all led him to make his decision to travel. Although he had assured his parliamentary colleagues that his absence would be brief, his decision to travel via Singapore and the Middle East to examine the strategic position at each of these key Imperial bastions meant that it would be nearly four months before he returned home. Menzies arrived in London in late February and was welcomed by a sympathetic press campaign, support he continued to enjoy throughout his stay.38 Within days he had a meeting with Churchill, the first between the two men, although the visit to Chequers did not augur well for the future. The Australian politician found his host a 'tempestuous creature' whose attire and general demeanour apparently shocked him, the haranguing of the 'holy terror' eventually sending him to bed a tired man.39 Nonetheless he chose to report back to Canberra in overwhelmingly positive tones, his host's qualities being 'much greater than we thought'. Menzies had also quickly formed the view that there was no doubt that Australia was 'Dominion Number One'.40 Throughout the next two months he experienced events in Britain first-hand, attending War Cabinet meetings whenever possible and generally trying to place himself at the heart of the policy- and decision-making processes. By the time of his final meeting with Churchill, the night prior to his return to Australia, he was convinced that all was not well at the heart of the Empire.

His Damascene moment was yet to come; in the meantime there was war business to consider. As has been seen, Australian and New Zealand troops had become central to the war being fought in the deserts of North Africa in so much as they formed a sizeable part of the army assembled in the region. Initially their experiences had been victorious as British Commonwealth troops triumphed against the Italians, invaders of Egypt the summer before but now in full retreat. In East Africa, British, Indian and South African troops emulated the rout and the Abyssinian capital of Addis Ababa was captured in early April. The problem came with the subsequent decision to intervene in Greece and defend Crete. Although very upset at being told by a senior British general, during his brief visit to the Middle East, that the Australian troops were 'terribly badly disciplined and caused a great deal of trouble', Menzies had agreed that his country's forces could be used.41 The coalition now found itself facing the military might of Germany and not its more inferior Italian ally and defeat brought with it great political strains as Anzac troops suffered heavy losses of men and equipment.42

As it became clear that British Commonwealth forces were poised to suffer a tragic defeat on the Peloponnesian peninsula, so Menzies' attitude towards the Empire's leader changed. Despite his later description of him as a 'great warrior-statesman [and] an unrivalled benefactor to posterity', privately he was now more scathing about 'the greatest asset and greatest danger' the Empire faced.43 There were others who agreed and as Churchill sank deeper into a growing political storm, Menzies was to be found at the heart of the intrigues complicit in the conspirators' meetings and discussions. In the final hours of his stay, he made his plans clear to Lord Hankey who had been demoted by the prime minister in May 1940 and was now centrally embroiled in the campaign opposing him. It was argued that there was only one possible course of action to be followed; an Imperial War Cabinet had to be summoned after which one of the Dominion leaders would have to stay behind. Elibank had stood again in the House of Lords in early April 1941 to raise the matter, but his peers had still generally doubted whether such a move would actually improve the conduct of the war and they were also unsure about how it might operate.44 Menzies' cabal had the answers: there would be a similar role to that played by Smuts in the last war, 'not as a guest but as a full member' and the Australian clearly thought he was the man for the job.45 Having discussed this with Sir John Simon, another whose loyalties to Churchill were doubtful, Hankey urged his Australian accomplice to seek one final meeting with the British leader. This was arranged but he could get 'no change' out of his host and he departed for North America and the long trip home where political crisis awaited him.46

His departure did not, however, mean an end to the intrigues and, in Menzies' absence, the anti-Churchill campaign soon reached its climax. During the first week of May 1941 a confidence debate was called in the House of Commons but despite the best efforts of such senior figures as Lloyd George and Hore-Belisha, the vote was won handsomely by the prime minister.47 The following day, Cranborne felt it prudent to warn Churchill of the true nature behind Menzies recent visit, advising him that he should 'have the background, in case you have not already got it'. The simple answer that came back to the DO was 'I have got it'.48 This was something of a rare written communication between the two. In March Cranborne had sought approval to send to the Dominion governments an appreciation made by the British military authorities of the likely chances of invasion but Churchill still would not cooperate, arguing that such 'questionable stuff' was not needed to frighten the Dominions into doing their duty. Secret intelligence, despite the department's continuing reservations, was still not to be sent to the Dominion governments.49

It was at this stage that the British leader signalled a pronounced change in policy. He had been told by Mackenzie King that Menzies, who had just left Ottawa on his way home, had argued passionately for a meeting of Dominion leaders later in the year. Churchill now replied back to Mackenzie King that some form of meeting in August or September might be in order.50 This was perhaps a reaction to the press campaign by Lord Beaverbrook's Daily Express championing a role for Menzies and the associated public support for a conference that now existed.51 Reminding Churchill that even basic discussion of the idea had previously created problems, Cranborne was adamant that such a meeting would be difficult to organize. The Canadian leader's views remained critical and he was not interested. Within a matter of days, as the German attack began on the Imperial forces holding Crete, the Dominions secretary received a personal letter from Ottawa carrying exactly the same message, but Churchill remained apparently interested in the idea of an inter-Allied council throughout that summer.52 Cranborne urged, in response, that serious thought was required as Mackenzie King was 'still clearly very wobbly about coming'.53 He had discussed this question privately with Malcolm MacDonald who, in April 1941, had been sent out to Ottawa as the new British high commissioner.54 The former Minister for Health was able to tell him that Menzies had formed the lowest opinion of the War Cabinet and Cranborne himself. Writing back to him, the Dominions secretary agreed with some of his arguments, especially that there should be some kind of a 'watchdog' to champion their interests although he felt Menzies might not 'have ability of the very highest kind'. The more obvious logistical difficulties involved in quickly assembling the various Dominion leaders in London were also noted as was the potential danger that calling an unexpected meeting could lead to a popular belief that there was 'some new and spectacular development' to discuss.

Churchill's interest in the idea was still, however, undimmed and he requested that the DO produce for the War Cabinet a case 'stating forth the pros and cons' about holding a meeting. Cranborne used this to once again press forcefully his argument that the suggestion should be deferred. At the head of his list of reasons for not issuing 'embarrassing' invitations, he placed Mackenzie King's reluctance as the most powerful and by the end of the first week of June he was able to inform Churchill that the foreign secretary agreed with him. Eden, with his own bitter personal experience of working with the Canadian leader, had been persuaded that postponement would be best.55 With reports reaching Whitehall that Australian and New Zealand troops in the Middle East were growing unhappy, Menzies had meanwhile resumed his campaign as soon as he was back at home.56 And in London there continued to be a considerable clamour from figures within both the political and military spectrums that he should be asked to return. Hankey remained convinced that both Menzies and Lloyd George needed to be brought into the government, 'two wise old elephants to tame the rogue elephant'. In response to the continuing intrigues Cranborne broadened his arguments and suggested that Smuts be called upon to come to London. This was a sensible proposal and one likely to find favour with the prime minister as the friendship between the two was well known. The year before one of Churchill's assistants had even proposed that were the British leader to die, his 'remarkable' South African counterpart would make an ideal replacement.57

With the South African leader now officially asked if he could help, his own high commissioner in London also began to try and draw him more prominently into the debate. Throughout 1941 neither Waterson nor Bruce had shown any indication of stopping their campaign to enhance their position.58 In July they had not been given any advance warning that Iceland was to be garrisoned by American troops, a source of particular anger to them; as a result the Australian had even threatened to ignore the Secretary of State in future and make his own 'representations in highest quarters'.59 But with the mounting calls for an Imperial presence in the War Cabinet, the two men's approach now differed. Bruce had gone on record, on more than one occasion, as doubting the wisdom of the 'impracticable' idea and he remained firm in his view that the only sensible option was to give the high commissioners a far greater role. Consequently he appeared to make every effort to keep himself close to the centre of events from where he could counter any proposals that could see his position threatened.60 South Africa's representative had a similar agenda in regard to promoting his own role but he used a different method. With the DO asking Smuts to visit London, Waterson told his prime minister that there were continuing deficiencies in the system and it would be useful to have at least one Dominion leader present at all times sitting in the War Cabinet. He was told in response that while he shared his concerns, Smuts was mindful about any proposal that could be seen as forming an Imperial War Cabinet. He further warned his high commissioner about becoming too closely connected to Bruce and potentially embarrassing suggestions.61 These comments were repeated to the Dominions secretary leaving Cranborne in a position to now ask Churchill formally whether there should be a conference or not at this stage.62 Every indication had been that the prime minister had followed this course knowing that he could count on Canadian and South African reservations. He certainly had no desire for a permanent representative in the War Cabinet as he had confirmed during a dinner at Chequers. As his secretary recorded, '"Well", said the PM, "you can easily turn the War Cabinet into a museum of Imperial celebrities, but then you have to have another body to manage it"'.63 Smuts' rejection left him free to 'regretfully' agree to a delay and reject any idea of extending an invitation to Menzies to return alone to London.64

There was, however, still one potential problem threatening what had proven to be an otherwise masterly strategy. Cranborne advised Churchill that the discussions with Smuts and the Canadian leader had been of a private character and, as such, there were fears about the effect of 'a blunt announcement' saying they could not attend. A telegram was duly despatched to Ottawa and the other Dominion capitals. This informed the various prime ministers that, in light of the public interest which the issue had aroused, there was an urgent need to make a statement on the matter at Westminster. It went on to advise them of what it was intended to say in light of what had been received from certain of them.65 Faced by growing domestic hostility about what was perceived as an apparent lack of enthusiasm for travelling to London, the proposed message now upset Mackenzie King.66 Canada's apparent tardiness in terms of mobilizing her resources during the early stages of the war had drawn the attention of the FO where, from within the American section, it was put down to 'a disingenuous—in fact dishonest -desire' which would best benefit the Canadian government and not its British counterpart. Strong stuff indeed, but it reflected a feeling within sections of Whitehall that Mackenzie King was not a great supporter of the alliance. This particular observer even felt that whatever the outcome of the war, at its end, the British government would retain no status of any kind in Canada.67 So concerned was the Canadian leader with Churchill's suggested message that he requested mention be made that the current war was entirely different to the last and a conference was unnecessary. Churchill preferred not to give too many details beyond the inability of the Dominion leaders to attend, and largely ignored the request. Going into too many details might have kept the domestic debate going and, as it stood, he had neatly placed elsewhere the onus of responsibility for the decision not to proceed. In the last week of June 1941 he therefore stood before the House of Commons and explained how, having been invited, 'the exigencies of their work in their respective countries' made it impossible for the various Dominion leaders to visit London.68

This announcement was not well received in Ottawa. MacDonald sent three private notes to the DO at the beginning of August in which he detailed the events of the last few weeks. So sensitive did he feel these to be that he attached a strong plea to Cranborne not to pass on anything that might upset Churchill and lead to a serious quarrel 'between him and one or more of the Dominion prime ministers'.69 This was a necessary warning in light of what he had to say; despite the high commissioner's reassurances that Mackenzie King admired his British counterpart enormously, there were apparently those in his cabinet who had described Churchill as a 'cad' for what he had said.70 More significantly there had also been further proposals from Menzies for a London meeting, this time in a private telegram sent in mid-July 1941 to both the Canadian and Smuts. In this the Australian had outlined his concerns about how the war was being run from London, and reiterated the need for some form of permanent Dominion representation in the British War Cabinet. MacDonald thought the Canadian leader should attend but his host disliked what he saw as an attempt by Menzies to drag him into 'his personal ambitions'. The continuing intrigues left Cranborne angry for as he explained to MacDonald, they confirmed his own conversations with Menzies back in May. During these he had freely told the Dominions secretary, even though he knew him to be one of Churchill's ministers and friends, that he was prepared to give up the Australian leadership if necessary and enter British politics after the war with the aim of one day becoming the leader of the Conservative Party. The infuriated secretary of state roundly condemned Menzies for a 'not very pretty role' motivated 'to a considerable extent by personal motives'.71 The Australian was increasingly desperate to be invited back to London, so much so that he asked Bruce to 'have a confidential chat with [Max] Beaverbrook' to assess his prospects.72 Although appearing reluctant to tell Churchill the extent of Menzies' intrigues, the Dominions secretary at the same time discussed the scheming that had been taking place with Eden, one of the so-called 'Yes-Men' whom Menzies had so indiscreetly referred to on numerous occasions. The foreign secretary was asked for his comments on the potential constitutional problems that any move to include Menzies in the War Cabinet might entail. He was clearly concerned by what he heard, his secretary Oliver Harvey noting his particular worries about Menzies' potential return to London and a likely attempt 'to [try and] get into English politics via the War Cabinet'.73

With events in the Australian capital moving towards their conclusion, Mackenzie King arrived in London a victim of domestic public pressure that he should make such a trip. Initially scheduled for late August he had wavered to the last moment, Churchill's conference with President Roosevelt, held off the coast of Newfoundland, ultimately proving decisive.74 Not wishing Mackenzie King to be involved, the British prime minister had deliberately kept details of his mission vague, only telling him he was going after pleas from within the Cabinet Office in London. The Canadian had been embarrassed and now needed to save face by being seen to be briefed in person by Churchill. As MacDonald again took the opportunity to point out to Cranborne, the Canadian had been consistently critical of Menzies' schemes and he hoped that this loyalty would be highlighted to Churchill if the opportunity arose.75 Mackenzie King, meanwhile, saw in his visit an opportunity to discuss Menzies' proposals in person with one of his Dominion colleagues. The New Zealand leader, Peter Fraser, had also been in London to meet the British government, and remained purposely to see his counterpart. Speaking privately to him he made it quite clear that he felt it would be inappropriate 'to give the impression that people here can't do the job'. He had sat in a number of War Cabinet meetings and he told Mackenzie King that he had found them to involve 'the freest and frankest discussion and expression of view'.76 Not only did he therefore disagree with Menzies' arguments, he was adamant that there was 'no need for an Imperial Conference'. Smuts, who had recently been in Cairo, had contacted Churchill to again offer an entirely similar view, providing confirmation that three of the four Dominion leaders agreed there was no justification for calling a conference at this stage.77

After concluding his meeting with Roosevelt and returning home, one of Churchill's first acts had been to despatch a telegram to Canberra.78 This made it unmistakably clear to Menzies that, were he to decide to visit London once again, he would only be permitted to attend the War Cabinet in the same manner as with his earlier visit and only so long as he remained Australia's leader. This final point perhaps reflected the degree to which Menzies' increasingly tenuous hold over his political position in Canberra had become common knowledge.79 Now a subject of widespread debate in Whitehall, common agreement among some of the 'Yes-Men' held that he only had himself to blame. The Australian had, however, left himself with little option other than to press forward and, against the backdrop of a marked deterioration in relations with Japan, he had secured the support of his cabinet colleagues that he should return to London to try and secure a permanent Dominion seat at the highest political table.80 While he was securing this backing, Mackenzie King and Churchill were proving to be as one in their outlook, the Canadian reassuring his host that it was the British view and not that of Australia which was viewed more favourably in his mind. So good were relations between the two leaders that Mackenzie King felt he 'would [not] be betraying any trust but rather doing my duty' in sharing the private memorandum that had been sent privately to him some five weeks before. Only later would he ask that his part not be recorded formally as he did not want Menzies 'to think I had not been square with him'. Massey, who during recent months had somewhat assiduously kept himself at a distance from the conspiracies of certain of his fellow high commissioners, felt his prime minister had pursued an excellent line.81

With the Australian leader's London plans thwarted, his future seemed hopeless. Although he had the backing of his cabinet, the influential Advisory War Council was less enamoured with his plans and with an even division in the House of Representatives, his detractors were effectively able to silence his pleas. According to Ronnie Cross, who had only recently arrived in Canberra as high commissioner, the desire to be rid of him had various grounds and included 'bitter personal enmities, ambitions of would be successors, Menzies' alleged lack of capacity for decision and action, and his lack of popular appeal'.82 When he had been sworn into office in April 1939 the Australian prime minister had initially expected his government would last for only six weeks; that he was only now finally being forced to resign was therefore surely something of a success. Although he remained privately 'quite outspoken' about the degree to which Menzies had tried to get to London 'instead of staying with his own people', in front of his colleagues, Churchill appeared more forgiving, contacting him to offer his thanks for his 'courage' and 'help' during 'two terrible years'. About the Australian high commissioner on the other hand, whose fellow South African agitator was already preparing to recant some of his previous errors to Smuts, he was less generous.83 There were few doubts though about the heartfelt thanks that Mackenzie King received from Churchill for his assistance upon his eventual return to Ottawa.84 Massey felt that his visit to London had been a very great success and was once again glad that it was his prime minister who had 'given the quietus to the ill-thought out proposal'.85

The Canadian was not the only person to emerge from the episode with his reputation enhanced. From early May onwards, when he had first learnt of the full extent of Menzies' sometimes nefarious ambitions, Cranborne had maintained a scrupulously supportive stance of Churchill. Irrespective of whether this had actually improved the somewhat damaged relationship or not, he had not viewed this episode as an opportunity to 'mend fences' but, instead, an opportunity to support the prime minister and frustrate the Westminster conspirators. He was just glad to see an end to the Australian-inspired foibles, writing to a close Whitehall friend on the last day of August that it was better for all that the threat from Menzies had been removed. The Australian had made 'more of a hash of things than one would have thought possible' and throughout the summer months his 'intriguing [had been] a constant danger'.86

What he cannot have anticipated, however, was the degree to which the strains on the alliance were about to increase out of all proportion. A change in leadership in Canberra did not mean a change of view and the pressure on the British government to better recognize and appreciate the growing significance of the Dominions was already all but guaranteed.

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