Guide to the Papers of Sir Robert Menzies


MS 4936

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Menzies, Robert, Sir
Papers of Sir Robert Menzies
Date Range
1905 - 1978
Collection Number
MS 4936
151.86 metres (567 ms boxes + 17 archives boxes + 5 small folio boxes + 18 medium folio boxes + 6 large folio boxes + 76 phase boxes + 1 framed item in map drawer + 23 map folios + 2 pieces + 8 sound/av carriers)
Language of Materials
Special Collections (Manuscripts)


Scope and Contents

This extensive collection of personal papers includes inter alia: 1. Inward and outward correspondence sorted chronologically and by name, 1935-1978. Principal correspondents include Eric Harrison, Lord Casey, Harold Macmillan, Leo Amery, Clive Baillieu, Owen Dixon, Alfred Stirling, Jack Fingleton, Fred Alexander, Walter Crocker, Lionel Lindsay, Alexander Douglas Home, Will Ashton, Anthony Eden, Jack Cato, Winston Churchill, Alexander Downer, Alan Herbert, James McGregor, Hubert Opperman, Leon Trout, Ralph Richardson, Frank Richardson, Justice Felix Frankfurter and Colonel F.H. Wright. 2. Press cuttings, speeches, statements and broadcasts, 1917-1976. 3. Diaries, 1935-1963, including those kept on overseas trips and office appointment diaries. 4. Research material and drafts of writings. 5. Personal medical, legal and financial records. 6. Family papers, including those of his wife Dame Pattie Menzies. 7. Liberal Party correspondence and printed material, 1944-1974. 8. Family and official photographs.9. Papers relating to specific topics including the Communist Party, the 1956 Suez Crisis, defence, cricket, elections, Rhodesia and South Africa, banking, economics and the Churchill Memorial Trust. 10. Papers relating to Menzies' appointment as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, 1965-1971.

Conditions Governing Use

All reasonable efforts have been made to identify copyright owners of this material. If you have any further information regarding any of these items, please contact us.

Item Descriptions

Class. Original Consignment

Series 1. Correspondence, arranged by name, 1935-1978 - Box 35

Following Menzies' own system, the division of general correspondence into two large groups (now Series 1 and Series 2) has been retained. The types of contents of each series are similar, but the arrangement is different.

Series 1 comprises 35 boxes of personal correspondence arranged in one alphabetical sequence. There are two minor exceptions to this arrangement in File 1 and Box 35. File 1 contains various letters, 1932-1934, set aside from the rest of the personal correspondence. Correspondents include Sir Phillip Game, Staniforth Ricketson, Keith Murdoch, Harold Gengoult-Smith, G.H. Knox and Ernest Joske. Box 35 is devoted to Royal Family correspondence.

The major correspondents (generally one file or more) are Dean Acheson, Fred Alexander, L.S. Amery, Anthony Eden, Sir Clive Baillieu, Sir John Bunting, Lord Casey, Jack Cato, Sir Winston and Lady Churchill, Sir Charles Court, Sir Owen Dixon, Sir Alex Downer, Sir Arthur Fadden, James Farley, Jack Fingleton, Felix Frankfurter, Lord and Lady Gowrie, Sir Eric Harrison, Sir Alan Herbert, Dr Rupert Hornabrook, Sir John Jensen, Sir John Latham, Lord's Taverners, Mary Martin (Halliday), Sir John Monash, Sir James MacGregor, Lewis MacGregor, Paul MacGuire, Harold MacMillan, Richard M. Nixon, Sir Hubert Opperman, Sir Frank Richardson, Sir Ralph and Lady Richardson, B.A. Santamaria, Dr Cedric Shaw, Sir William Slim, Sir Percy Spender, Alfred Stirling, Sir Leon Trout and Colonel F.H. Wright.

An alphabetical card index to correspondence is available for this series; please consult Library staff.

Series 6. Speeches, 1917-1972

This series contains 64 boxes of speeches, lectures, articles, drafts and printed copies of broadcasts such as the "Man to man" series in 1958. There are speeches made in the House of Representatives and lectures given at University of Virginia on "Central power in the Australian Commonwealth" in 1966 / 1967. Menzies lectured at the University of Texas in 1969 and gave the Dellengham Lecture at the East West Center in Honolulu. There are also miscellaneous speeches and speeches made by other people.

The Series is arranged in four different runs: Speeches, 1917-1970 (index available); Speeches, 1960-1965 (2 boxes); Extra copies, 1929-1969; Miscellaneous speeches including speeches by others and House of Representatives broadcasts (10 boxes).

The basic arrangement is chronological with lists of the contents in most boxes. There are two very useful lists: (1) File labelled "Index press conference 1952-1966, press statements 1945-1972, forwards and articles, 1950-197?". (2) File labelled "Index to Sir Robert Menzies' speeches also index to tape recording".

A copy of the index to speeches in available. See also Series 14 (Liberal Party), Series 20 (Dissolution of Communist Party) and Series 23 (Churchill Remembrance). Tape recordings of speeches by Menzies are held in the Oral History Collection at ORAL TRC 1169.

Series 8. Overseas visits, 1943 - 1971

There are 15 boxes containing correspondence concerned with organizing and moving the Prime Minister and his party on overseas tours between 1948-1966. Even on board ship, Hazel Craig, Menzies' Private Secretary, set up office in a spare cabin and continued her duties dealing with incoming and outgoing cables, radio messages, official briefings, letters of thanks, itineraries, as well as receiving and issuing invitations for social occasions on board ship.

Some highlights of this series are details of the trip to London in the Arcadia, along with the Australian Victoria Cross winners for commemoration ceremonies, and their signed letter of thanks to the Australian Government for the "generous assistance" to members.

There are papers relating to Menzies' official visits to Malta, Vienna and South Africa, and folders of press cuttings, menus, souvenirs and pamphlets. There is also a folder of correspondence on the conferring of the Order of the Thistle, for which Menzies journeyed to Scotland in 1963.

Series 9. Photographs and cartoons, 1828 - 1977

This series contains 14 boxes, approximately 27 albums and various loose and large photographs, pictures and prints, some framed in plastic covers. The photographs range from private family groups including some very early photographs, to a comprehensive record of his official life, Royal tours, overseas visits to many countries posing with Heads of State. There are two lists attached.

The large collection of photographs is in chronological order, the albums listed by subject and date.

Related Materials

See also Series 31, World War II: 2 Files of photographs of Prime Minister John Curtin, his Wartime Cabinet and J.B. Chifley. Also see box 535 in series 35 for mixed photographs.

Series 10. Writings, 1914 - 1977

There are 14 boxes in this series of writings by Menzies - on politics, events, world leaders - essays, verses, drafts of Afternoon light, Speech is of time, The measure of the years, unpublished works, and research files. The last box contains printed copies of a radio talk 'The forgotten people' (1942), 'The Commonwealth Bank and the people' (1945), 'Stanley Melbourne Bruce - Viscount Bruce of Melbourne' (1970) and biographical memoirs for the Royal Society. There are also copies of articles written by other people, for example La Nauze's 'The Hopetoun blunder', and the M. Bowen Prize Essay, 1917 'The rule of law during the war'.

Series 13. Diaries, address lists, notebooks, 1935 - 1978

There are 14 boxes containing the various diaries, ranging from Menzies' handwritten and personal accounts of the people and events of the time (for example England, 1935) to brief appointment and office notebooks. There are comprehensive Australian and overseas address lists noting correct titles and first names, adjusted due to divorce or death of a spouse, and newly acquired ranks and decorations. Also includes Christmas card address lists, 1973-1975.

A list of handwritten diaries: 1935 Overseas trip, diaries A, B, C, D, E. 1941 Overseas trip, diaries A (66p.), B (77p.), C (70p.). 1948 Overseas trip, diaries A, B, C. 1950 Trips (1 vol.). 1951 Almost blank notebook "Economic problems, 1951". 1951 Notebook "Notes for speeches". 1952 London Conference and other notes (1 vol.). 1955 Overseas diary (1 vol.).

Archival History

Some of the diaries in this series include blank pages. These pages were not captured during digitisation.

Related Materials

For other diaries and address lists see Box 529, Series 35.

Series 14. Liberal Party, 1939 - 1978

The series comprises 11 boxes of correspondence and printed matter, including Liberal Party research bulletins, radio scripts, election pamphlets and minutes of State and Federal meetings, which were collected by Menzies from the 1940s until 1974.

The material relates to the efforts of Menzies (and others) in the early 1940s to bring the many different State groups together, culminating in the first Plenary Conference which was held in Albury in December 1944 to formulate a constitution.

In those early years the Party was under great strain both from internal quarrels and indifference, and the effort by the Country Party to became the dominant partner in the coalition. There are papers describing the concerns of those times.

Menzies was the driving force in the movement, as leader of the Opposition, and later when he became Prime Minister in 1949. He remained unchallenged as leader until his retirement from politics in 1966. From 1950 onwards the party dominated Australia political affairs.

Some of the items to be found are papers concerning investigations into missing documents on 1943; papers on the "Brisbane Line" strategy (Box 412); Menzies'notes on sale and transfer of broadcasting stations in 1941; Menzies' policy speeches (1946, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1963, 1964); correspondence with Sir William McMahon on political and economic matters and Files marked "Material used during Flinders by election, 18 September 1951", containing mainly roneoed speeches and press statements.

See also Series 31 World War II File 9, (iii) Political correspondence, 1944-1945. Other papers on the Liberal Party are to be found in the papers of W.M. Hughes (NLA MS 1538 Series 49, covering 1944-1952), and Sir Ernest White (NLA MS 6455).

Series 15. Rhodesia, South Africa, 1954 - 1978

The series comprises 2 boxes.

Series 16. Suez material, 1956 - 1967 - Box 423

There are two boxes of correspondence, memoranda, press cuttings, press statements relating to the Suez crisis and conflict.

Menzies has written at length on his impressions on all aspects of the negotiations - the people and events. There are communications from him to Nasser, Eden, Fadden, Loy Henderson (representing John Foster Dulles) and from Anthony Eden to Menzies and President Eisenhower.

Series 17. Personal, 1828 - 1975

This series in made up of 7 boxes of personal memorabilia. It includes medical and financial records and papers, and letters from friends and people claiming to be relatives. A section is devoted to "Menzies Clan and Castle" and contains many letters from clan members which he obviously enjoyed. It was necessary to trace his family tree to device an appropriate Crest suitable for use as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

There are papers and legal briefs from his earlier practice of law, dated 1921-1936. Two envelopes contain details of the correspondence and arrangements connected with his resignation from the House of Representatives in 1966.

Another group of personal souvenirs include medallions, special entrée cards (for example to the White House), signed testimonials, passports, sample letter-heads, presentation folders on receipt of Honorary L.L.D. degrees from Harvard University and the A.N.U.

Series 18. Banking, 1950 - 1966

There are two boxes of material relating to the review and reform of the banking system of Australia, in the wake of the threatened nationalisation of the banks by the Labor Government in 1947. There was pressure, especially from the Private Banks, on Menzies to introduce legislation, as promised in his 1949 Election Campaign, to ensure that this would never happen again.

The documents in this series include Cabinet submission, letters from interested government and banking groups, a review of Australian Financial Affairs 1921 and reports of the Finance Ministers' Conference 1954.

Series 19. Defence, 1939 - 1958

The two boxes of papers in this series deal mainly with matters relating to the period 1955-1957, and are concerned with the Communist threat to Malaya, Siam, Vietnam, and the political as well as military defence of Formosa.

In this connection Menzies took an active role in the Prime Ministers' Conference of 1955 in London, visited Washington and addressed the United Nations. This collection contains the briefing papers prepared by the Departments of Defence and External Affairs. There are notes for speeches, hand written comments, and press statements.

Files labelled "St Mary's Filling Factory, 1957" contain briefing statements and speeches to Parliament arising from a letter in the press by Major-General Legge and the building of the new factory.

There are two Treasury reports by Sir Richard Randall and Sir Roland Wilson surveying the world money markets and the prospect for Australia borrowing abroad, 1955.

Some other items include a copy of the US and UK Treaty of Defence with Japan, 1951; a review of the Australian Armed Forces, 1951; an application for exemption from military service for members of the Christadelphian Church; and a note on the problems of A.N.A. (Australian National Airlines) wanting to withdraw from service, as they found it difficult to compete with T.A.A.

Series 20. Communist Party, 1939 - 1954

In a speech to Parliament in 1950, Menzies introduced the Communist Party Dissolution Bill as a means to "outlaw and dissolve" the Communist Party for the "Safety and defence of Australia", to defeat "the King's Enemies in this country" (File 7).

Following the defeat of the "Yes- No Referendum" in September 1950 to grant the government the power to change the Constitution, the Melbourne Age summed up the long debate in an editorial on 24 September 1951, part of which is as following:

The result is the culmination of a procedure which involved two general elections, prolonged Parliamentary and public debates, submissions to the High Court and this appeal to the electorate. Now that the ultimate tribunal has given judgement, the special legislation and the law-making powers that were proposed have been declared unacceptable to the country.

The two boxes in this series contain the drafts of speeches, Hansard extracts of debates and reports from ASIO sources, including a list of 53 people named by Menzies to Parliament (4 names were subsequently withdrawn).

There were submissions to the High Court testing the legality of the Bill and the Judgements delivered by Judges Kitto, Latham, McTiernan, Dixon, Williams, Webb and Fullager (Files 10-13). All but Latham agreed that the Bill was invalid.

There are two copies of the printed Report of Royal Commission inquiring into the origins, aims, objects and funds of the Communist Party in Victoria ...1949-50 (Files 5 and 6) File numbers 8 and 9 have not been used.

Series 21. Economic papers, 1935 - 1964

This series by no means covers the full economic picture of Menzies in Government. It is a collection of economic papers covering a variety of topics and events. There are three boxes or 24 Files.

Some examples are as follows: 1935 Social insurance - a report by Sir Fredrick Stewart; 1944 Economic material - Professor Douglas Copland; Australia's wartime economy, etc; 1950 national development; Budget papers 1951, 1952, 1955, 1957-1959; Economic policy censure motion 1956; Housing, 1956 and 1957; Trust funds and defence expenditure - reply to Alan Reid in the Press, 1956; Australian - New Zealand Free Trade agreement 1965, Japanese Trade Agreement; Associated Chamber of Manufacturers of Australia deputation, 1957

Related Materials

For more economic papers see box 534 in series 35.

Series 22. Cricket matters, 1953 - 1969

It is well known that Menzies had a great love for the game of cricket. He enjoyed the company of the cricketing fraternity throughout the British world. The correspondence reveals his belief that the Commonwealth could be held together not only politically, but by forging common interests, and one way of doing this was through sporting exchanges, in this case sending cricket teams to countries such as South Africa, the West Indies and India.

In Australia he introduced the tradition of a special Prime Minister's team to play a one day "Picnic Match" against visiting Test Teams. It was always a great success and cricketers were always proud to be chosen to play.

This collection of two boxes contains mostly personal correspondence, cricket souvenirs, some press cutting and cartoons, photographs, membership tickets and autographed menus from "cricket dinners". The Files are arranged in date order. Some items are from 1930, but most are from the 1940s through to 1968.

Series 23. Churchill Remembrance and Churchill Memorial Trust, 1964 - 1975

This series contains seven boxes of material relating to the death of Sir Winston Churchill and the setting up of the Churchill Trust in Australia. Other papers relating to the long association and warm friendship from Menzies' first memorable meeting with Churchill in 1941 are filed elsewhere under appropriate titles.

There are two boxes of press cuttings from local and overseas papers and magazines, with stories and pictures of the State Funeral. Menzies was invited to speak on this historic occasion, and later Cassell and Co. of London printed a numbered limited edition of 500 copies of his moving tribute "One fire burning in him, WSC by RGM". Many copies are held in this collection. There are several Files of correspondence from people at home and abroad in appreciation of this special tribute. These letters are filed alphabetically, and most replies have typewritten names of addressees.

The largest segment in this group relate to the major task of setting up the Churchill Memorial Trust; the raising of donations, and finally the opening of Churchill House in Canberra in 1972. There are legal papers of the Trust, correspondence, agendas and reports of Board meetings, and lists of successful recipients of scholarships.

State funeral details are contained in a special File from Earl Marshal's Office in Series 1, File 60.

Series 26. Chifley funeral, 1951

This box contains 7 files of newspaper reports after the death of J.B. Chifley on 14 June 1951, and later the election of H.V. Evatt as Labor leader

There is two page handwritten speech by Menzies in the first file.

Photographs of the funeral ceremonies in Canberra and Bathurst are to be found in Series 9.

Series 29. Cinque Ports, 1937 - 1978

Comprising six boxes, the series begins with the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson nominating Menzies for the honour of becoming Lord Warden of The Cinque Ports. Whilst Menzies was delighted to accept, he was also concerned and inquired into the considerable costs involved. There are quotes for such things as £365 for the Admiral's Dress Uniform, the rental costs of staying at Walmer Castle, employment of staff, living and entertainment costs. In later files there are accounts from tradesmen and suppliers, telephone bills etc.

Other files contain correspondence from 1965-1971, mostly concerned with arrangements for the ceremony itself, the guest lists, and later the annual visits to England, invitations accepted and declined, and many files of messages of congratulations.

There are copies of the official papers such as letters patent, and an announcement in the London Gazette.

Related Materials

For more matieral relating to the Cinque Ports see box 534 in series 35.

Series 30. Elections, 1928 - 1966

This series comprises seven boxes of election material, and some pamphlets dating from 1928-1949. The main bulk is from 1951-1966.

There are research papers, speeches and drafts of speeches including speeches for broadcasts and telecasts, and election pamphlets.

Other items include: Mailing list for election speeches, press releases etc; Binder labelled "Joint policy speeches and Liberal Party leaflets, 1949-1958"; Notes entitled "Some lessons of the elections", 1943; File of greetings and replies on 70th birthday, 1965.

See also Series 14 (Liberal Party).

Series 31. World War II, 1939 - 1948

The material gathered in this series includes some Cabinet documents, agenda, minutes and summaries of decisions, and reports by the military. There are the cables sent by Menzies, who was in London from January to May 1941, to Arthur Fadden, the Acting Prime Minister. Menzies went to London to consult with the British War Cabinet and en route visited the Australian troops in the Middle East. Later, on the advice of British generals, an Australian Division was dispatched from the Middle East to participate in the Greek Campaign, with disastrous results. A written assessment is contained in File 1.

The cables sent from Menzies to Fadden on political, military, and intelligence matters are indexed.

Other Cabinet documents discuss Australia's capacity to contribute to the war by recruiting and training armed forces, and by harnessing the limited manufacturing resources and skills of the civilian population. One large scale enterprise was the setting up of munitions and small arms in various States.

There are files of economic submissions by Professor Copland, and one on tariffs and trade with the special trade agreement negotiated with the UK in 1938. Other items relate to the war-time government measures of introducing petrol rationing and the need to convince the Australian people to support the war effort. A radio series was devised and the scripts are filed here.

Some other topic included: Liberal Party problems, 1944/1945; Appointment of the Governor of Commonwealth Bank; Menzies' personal notes of June 1941; Post war reconstruction; Highlights of the Australian war effort; Loan Council, April 1941; Overseas telecommunication; John Curtin, J.B. Chifley (Labor Prime Minister); File labelled "War history matters". Requesting 1967 photocopies from Australian Archives, but also original letter from the Minister of the Interior, 1949, about payment to Paul Hasluck for writing the official war history and announcing his wish to enter politics.; 2 files of photocopies of 1941 cables from the National Archives of Australia.

See also Series 14 (Liberal Party).

Series 32. Clubs, societies, organisations - patronage, honorary membership; Chancellor, Melbourne University, 1938 - 1978

Menzies belonged to numerous prestigious societies and clubs, and was a much sought-after patron of countless others. The fees and donations are listed with the correspondence. He was constantly being asked to become an honorary member of organisations, and some he accepted, others declined.

After his retirement from Parliament he became Chancellor of the University of Melbourne in 1967-1972. He took an active interest in University affairs such as appointments to chairs, salary increases for the Vice-Chancellor, student activities and was also able to make contacts with the Government and other agencies when problems arose for the University.

Some of societies and clubs are as follows: The Royal Society; Australian Humanities Research Council; Royal Australian College of Surgeons; West Brighton Club; Melbourne Scots Club; Savage Club; K.K.; Commonwealth Club; Clothworkers' Company, London (Freeman)

Others will be found in the fifteen boxes of this series.

Series 35. Press Secretary's Office, 1942 - 1978

The series contains four boxes of files, from the office of Hugh Dash, for the period 1951-1958, as well as engagement diaries and five boxes containing 10 volumes of Who's who.

Series 37. Subject files, 1926 - 1975

Class. Consignment received 4 March 1998

This instalment was donated by Heather Henderson and, similarly to the previous addition, much of it relates to Series 11 (Papers of Dame Pattie)

The letters include correspondence with the Palace regarding honours conferred on Dame Pattie and Sir Robert Menzies, as well as two personal notes from Prince Charles. Other correspondence relates to the posthumous publication of an interview with Sir Robert by David McNicoll, and the publication of the biography of Sir Robert.

The majority of the collection consists of Christmas cards and greetings from many prominent people, 1939 - 1994. The majority of these are from the Queen and other members of the Royal family; as well as Christmas greetings from British Prime Ministers and other Heads of State.

The addition also includes a number of commissions, degrees and certificates conferred on Sir Robert Menzies; as well as a file of family photographs and another of official photographs, where the majority relate to visits of the Royal family to Australia.

Class. Consignment received 1993

Series 40 - Papers of Sir Robert Menzies formerly in the custody of Lady McNicoll

The papers were transferred to the Library by the Menzies Foundation in 1993.

Class. Consignment received 2000