4 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 11 LONDON, 5 January [1940], 7.10 p.m.

FOR THE PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Dominions Office have forwarded by official

despatch [1] which should reach you about 15th January letters

exchanged on 20th December between Halifax [2] and Benes [3] with

regard to the formation of a Czechoslovak national committee of

which Benes is actually though not technically the president. In

his letter Halifax, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government,

'[recognises] [4] that the committee is qualified to represent the

Czechoslovak peoples', in particular for the purposes of the

reconstruction of the Czechoslovak army in France.

Hitherto the United Kingdom Government has been careful to

distinguish between Bohemia and Moravia on the one hand and

Slovakia on the other.

Their attitude, however, is that the step just taken does not

really constitute any change in policy, that they do not at

present propose to enter into any commitments regarding the future

status or boundaries of any territories included in the former

Czechoslovak state, and that the phrase 'Czechoslovak peoples' in

plural was adopted to leave open the question of the future status

and mutual relations of the Czechs and Slovaks. They state that

action was taken for three reasons:-

(1) to encourage resistance of the Czech and Slovak peoples to

Germany;

(2) to keep in step with the French Government who had already

recognised the national committee of [13th November];

(3) to take account of public feeling aroused here and in the

Dominions and in neutral countries by the treatment inflicted upon

the Czechs and Slovaks in Germany.

Of these (3) [5] was clearly the deciding factor. I cannot help

feeling that present step will be construed abroad as an intention

to reconstruct former state of Czechoslovakia.

British Minister in Hungary [6] for instance considered the change

'a matter of the greatest moment to the Hungarian Government' and

urgently requested instructions as to what line he should take

with them.

Benes is coming to see me next week having in mind similar

recognition by Australia. I will be entirely non-committal.

BRUCE

1 The dispatch and letters are on file AA: A1608, B41/1/3, iii.

2 U.K. Foreign Secretary.

3 Chairman of Czechoslovak National Committee.

4 Words in square brackets have been inserted from Bruce's file

copy on AA: M100, January 1940.

5 This read '(2)' in Bruce's file copy.

6 O. St C. O'Malley.

[AA: A981, CZECHOSLOVAKIA 6]