Afternoon Light: Some Memories of Men and Events by Sir Robert Menzies

By Sir Robert Menzies

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2’ [31] AFTERNOON L I G H T Looking back at later events, I still cannot understand why, in the light of the diplomatic exchanges which related to the problem of Japan, and the grave apprehensions of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and the Dutch, all well-known to the United States authori‑ ties, Pearl Harbor, in the following December, should have come as such a surprise and caught the defenders soflat‐footed. In the long run, ashistory will record, Great Britain sent t w o capital ships to Singapore, a powerful naval reinforcement, but because they had no adequate fighter aircraft cover, they and their gallant officers and crews were lost.

A. Butler’s r o o m at the Foreign Office in London. ‘Rab’ was then a Minister under Anthony Eden, who had gone to the Middle East, on aninvestigation which led to the expedition into Greece. Somewhat to my surprise, the chair was taken by Sir Alexander Cadogan, the permanent head of the Foreign Office. Lord Cranborne (now Salisbury) was present. I was accompanied by Bruce (then of course Australia’s High Commissioner) and Shedden. I at once raised the question of the tendencies and probabilities of Japanese action.

My desire for a National Government was no last‐moment thought. I had mentionedit to Curtin before I w e n t overseas. On 22. April 1941, I had sent from London a cable to Curtin as follows: In the present emergency which can be overcome but which will need all we have, my mind is once more running on the possibilities of a united front in Australia. You may treat my offer on this matter asstill standing. My experience here, which has been extremely trying, has emphasized what difficultiesaPrime Minister has when he can speak for only half of his people.

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