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image icon Commonwealth leaders at Prime Ministers' Conference, London, 1944

Commonwealth leaders at Prime Ministers' Conference, London, 1944
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is a black-and-white photograph of Commonwealth leaders at the Dominion Prime Ministers' Conference in London, May 1944, during the Second World War. Standing, left to right, are General Smuts (South Africa) and Peter Fraser (New Zealand). Seated, left to right, are Mackenzie King (Canada), Winston Churchill (Britain) and John Curtin (Australia).

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset is a formal portrait of leaders of the British Commonwealth in 1944, when they attended the Dominion Prime Ministers' Conference in London - the Conference ran for a fortnight and the agenda for the first week comprised the opening session, the war situation other than the Pacific, the war against Japan and a review of foreign affairs; the second week concentrated on economic policy (monetary and commercial), post-War world settlement, colonial questions with special reference to regional arrangements in Africa and the Pacific, civil aviation, shipping, post-War employment plans, migration and improvement in the machinery of Empire cooperation; the dominions were self-governing members of the Commonwealth.
  • This asset suggests the importance assigned to membership of the British Commonwealth by the member nations - the Prime Ministers of South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and Australia had undertaken long and hazardous journeys in the midst of the Second World War to attend the conference.
  • This asset shows Australian Prime Minister John Curtin (1885-1945, Prime Minister 1941-45) and New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser (1884-1950, Prime Minister 1940-49) - their visits to Britain reinforced the strong ties of friendship and shared values between their nations, Britain and the other Commonwealth countries; while in Britain, the two leaders were honoured with the award of the Freedom of the City of London.
  • This asset shows Australian Prime Minister and Minister for Defence John Curtin in London for the Dominion Prime Ministers' Conference - Curtin's trip in April, May and June 1944, first to Washington and then to Britain before returning to Australia via Canada, had two central objectives; he secured his first objective, obtaining Anglo-American agreement to the view that the Australian contribution to the war effort would increasingly be in the provision of food and other supplies rather than military personnel; however he was unable to attract any support for his second objective, concerning the establishment of post-War collaborative machinery in the form of a secretariat based in London.
  • This asset shows British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965, Prime Minister 1940-45), who led Britain to eventual victory in the Second World War.
  • This asset indicates that the British Commonwealth of Nations comprises Britain, its dependencies, and many former British colonies that are now sovereign states with a common allegiance to the British Crown - at the height of its power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Commonwealth's precursor, the British Empire, comprised about one-quarter of the world's land area and population, and encompassed territories on every continent; the Commonwealth was formally established by the Statute of Westminster in 1931, which recognised the independent and equal status under the Crown of the former dominions of the Empire.