Casey-Bruce Correspondence: Balkan and Near East Affairs

By Stavros T. Stavridis
Historical Researcher, National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research,
Latrobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Prime Minister Stanley M.Bruce appointed Richard Gardiner Casey as Australian political liaison officer to London in late 1923. This decision proved to be very important for Australia, at a time when it was trying to chart its own ‘independent’ foreign policy within a British imperial framework.

Casey had direct access to secret British documents and also held conversations with officials of the British Foreign and Colonial offices. Over the next 5 years Casey was to provide Bruce in the form of secret cables and private letters information on British foreign policy covering a multitude of issues. This correspondence contained summaries of secret Foreign Office documents and Casey’s own observations on international affairs. He also forwarded copies of official secret British documents to the Australian Prime Minister.

The two documents reproduced below are from the National Archives of Australia series M1135/1 item 3 Confidential Correspondence 1925-26 that is held in Melbourne. This item is a bound volume of telegrams which cover a variety of issues ranging from Imperial relations in terms of the Dominions being allowed to make their own diplomatic appointments, Balkans, Greek-Yugoslav relations in relation to the use of the Salonika railway, Mosul (Iraq), Italy, British and German press, and the visit of Greek Ministers to Italy in March 1926.

The two documents below cover Balkan/Near Eastern affairs and the visit of the Greek Premier Pangalos to Italy in early 1926. The second document is a summary from the Italian press. These documents certainly provided the Australian Government with some information on the political developments in the Balkans and Turkey. Italy considered herself the dominant power in the Eastern Mediterranean with the acquisition of the Dodecanese Islands.


Lon.26 London RG Casey (London) to Hon SM Bruce Melbourne January 14, 1926
Balkans and Near East

“The nebulously prospective Balkan Pact has been aired a little more likely. The Serbs have approached the Greeks on the subject in a rather belated reply to the badly times sponsoring of the idea on the part of the Greeks of a month or so ago.

Conversations are in progress on the subject between the Turks, the Serbs and the Greeks. However, as an essential preliminary to any real advance, the outstanding differences between the Balkan peoples have to be patched up, so that the negotiations are unlikely to be remarkable for their rapidity.

A theory that has been put forward to me in the Foreign Office-not in any way as yet an official point of view- was that the Serb reopening of the pact proposals was hastened by the growing bad feeling between Italy and Greece.

Pangalos and Mussolini are apparently kindred spirits, or at least Mussolini is making use of the fact that Pangalos would like to be a Mussolini.

The reason for Italy’s attempted close friendship is suggested in the theory that Italy has an ambitions to become possessed of at least some portion of Anatolia at no very distant date.

She wants it as an outlet for surplus population and as a peg on which Mussolini can hang the Imperial pride that he is generating in Italy. Should Italy ever attempt to seize any portion of Anatolia, Greece would be a welcome ally.

It is said that Italy is fortifying the island of Rhodes, although it is not yet known to what degree, or if the activity has any significance.

It is thought, in particular, that Italy has designs on that portion of Anatolia known as Adalia, to the north of Cyprus. I have heard it suggested that Italy would go so far as to buy Greek sympathy with her cause as to give back the Dodecanese to Greece.

It is considered possible in the Foreign Office that the final solution of the Near East position maybe a frontier-respecting Pact to which Great Britain, Turkey, France and perhaps Italy would be parties.

This might even go so far as to give Turkey assurance of combined action against Russian aggression from the North.” p.2

Document 2

London .290 RG Casey London to Prime Minister SM Bruce, Melbourne Australia
Press reports from HM European Embassies
Summary of the Italian Press Feb 26-March 5, 1926
The visit of the Greek Minister

Many newspapers speak highly of the two Greek statesmen and point out that both are friends of Italy and upholders of the necessity of maintaining friendly relations with Italy.

The Messagero (March 3) together with many other newspapers, considered that the visit was a clear indication of a new orientation in Greek foreign policy.

Greece was drawing nearer to Italy. She felt isolated and naturally turned to Italy for support and friendship, as, of all Great Powers Italy alone could offer her a disinterested and efficient friendship.

Divergences upon essential questions did not exist between Italy and Greece. There were positions in the Eastern Mediterranean which Italy was determined to defend; but beyond that she desired to adopt a peaceful policy of collaboration. There was nothing in the Italian force of expansion which was threatening or antithetical to the just interests of others. Turning to other particular Mediterranean and Balkan problems affecting Greece and Italy, the Messagero referred to the proposed Balkan Pact, suggesting that nothing prevented Italian participation in the pact. Finally, economic relations, taking this phrase in its broadest sense, could certainly be improved and developed.”

“The Secolo and Gazzetta del Popolo (March 3) concurred in the views of the Messagero.

The Tribuna (March 4) said that the visit, which crowned a series of episodes and indications of a substantial change in the feelings of Greece towards Italy, should be taken note of with legitimate satisfaction.

In a second article (March 5), the same newspaper declared that the visit showed that Greece realised Italy to be them determining factor of the whole European policy, and the conviction on her part that policy outside Italian influence or against Italy was out of the question.

Now that anti-Italian propaganda in Greece had gone out of fashion, and that Albanian independence was recognised fact, there was no room for divergence between Italy and Greece in the Adriatic. On the contrary, there were reasons in favour of an understanding. The liquidation of the remnants of the Corfu incident openly showed that there were no fundamental contrasts, but that, on the contrary, there might be “the common decision of excluding from the Adriatic interested tutelages of States, which are in this sea.” pp.4-5

It was clear that the lawful presence of Italy in the Eastern Mediterranean, for from constituting a menace to a legitimate Greek expansion, was an element of equilibrium, for which Greece might draw an advantage.

The Tevere (March 3) recalled that Italy had always opposed the imperialistic policy of M. Venizelos who tried to turn the Aegean Sea into “a Greek lake at the disposal of Great Britain.” But now “ with a Greece, without absurd aspirations to impossible conquests; with a Greece who possesses the sense of her independence and does definitely away with the policy of tutelage by London or Paris or Berlin, Italy will certainly establish relations of loyal friendship, without dissimulation’s; and, should the Athens Government appreciate the friendship of Italy and follow her advice in entering into an agreement with Bulgaria, Italian friendliness will be a factor of considerable importance.”

A prompt and cordial customs agreement would be the touchstone of the change of spirit in the mutual relations between Italy and Greece.

The Impero published interviews with General Pangalos (March 3) and M. Rouphos (March 5). Both spoke highly of Sig. Mussolini and of Fascism, and agreed in the necessity of closer collaboration. The Greek Foreign Minister declared that his visit was the result of the new Greek orientation following upon General Pangalos’ advent to power.

Greece aimed at the preservation of peace in the Balkans. She was already on excellent terms with Bulgaria and Albania, while relations with Turkey would certainly improve in future. No mention was made of Yugoslavia.

Sig. A Valori, the Roman correspondent of the Corriere della Sera (March 4) said that after the war Greece freed herself from French influence, passing under that of Great Britain. The position of the latter country was so strong there, that she could make use of Greek naval bases for her own navy. The ascendancy of British policy in Greece should not, however, induce Italy to disinterest herself in this country. Italian relations with Great Britain were now luckily excellent; there was a further reason why Italy should participate in the new Balkan drama, now perhaps developing “as a principal actor, and not in a secondary role.”

In case of Balkan complications, Greece was an excellent observatory and an element of considerable power. Her reserves in Asia Minor should not be considered to be indicative of an absolute impotence but as the counter proof of the limit which Greece should impose upon her ambitions. Pp.6-7

It was evident that the Greek people still possessed great vitality. The international position of Greece was however shaken; she did not have a “true European friend.” General Pangalos was on the look out for one and was particularly desirous that Italy should be friendly or at least a “benevolent looker-on.” Economic interests helped towards rapprochement. Could Italy give her consent to this, without damaging either her own interests or the general European situation? “We believe that a closer Italo-Greek entente, which contained no special commitments binding Italian diplomacy, would constitute a factor of tranquility and clarification.” The importance of the visits of M. Nintchitch and M.Rouphos lay in the fact that they completed one another.

The Rome correspondent of the Popolo d’Italia (March 4) merely reviews the history of Italo-Greek relations, and noted with “frank satisfaction” that the meeting took place in an atmosphere of cordiality and friendliness, and that Greece appeared to be turning towards London and Rome.

Dr Gayda stressed in the Gazzetta del Popolo and Gazzetta di Puglia (March 4) the special importance of the economic mission of M. Tavoularis. The object of his visit was the conclusion of a series of economic and financial agreements, dealing with the organisation of the Greek Army, Navy and Airforce. Dr Gayda was in a position to state the Greek Government’s intention to place important orders for military, naval and aeronautical material, with the leading Italian firms, the Fiat, Ansaldo, Bredo and others, to the amount o f many millions of lira.” p.7

Stavros T.Stavridis, Historical Researcher, National Center for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Australia. Email (Copyright)

(Posting date 14 April 2006)

About the Author

Stavros Terry Stavridis was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1949 of Greek parents. He migrated to Australia with his parents in September 1952. Stavros has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Political Science/Economic History and B.A (Hons) in European History from Deakin University and M.A in Greek/Australian History from RMIT University. His MA thesis is titled "The Greek-Turkish War 1919-23: an Australian Press Perspective."

Stavros has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, lecturing at University and TAFE (Technical and Further Education, the equivalent of Community College in the US) levels. He has presented papers at international conferences in Australia and USA and has also given public lectures both in Australia and on the West Coast of the US. Many of his articles have appeared in the Greek-American press. He currently works as a historical researcher at the National Center for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

Stavros' research interests are the Asia Minor campaign and disaster, Middle Eastern history, the Assyrian and Armenian genocides, Greece in the Balkan Wars 1912-13 and the First World War and history in general.

HCS maintains a large selection of fine pieces written by Mr. Stavridis which viewers are invited to view at the URL

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