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

Cablegram 205 LONDON, 27 March 1940


Your telegram of 23rd March. [1] I think that either direct cable from you to the Prime Minister [2] or cable to me to pass on to him win have much more weight than views conveyed to Eden. [3] Form of communication might be somewhat down the following lines:-

Feel that frank expressions of view from time to time from you upon matters concerning the conduct of the war will be welcome.

Loss of Allied prestige and effect on neutrals resulting from failure to save Finland causing you serious misgivings. Appreciate that being so far away you are not in a position to form a definite judgment but that you cannot free yourself from a feeling that all is not well with the Allies' conduct of the war both in diplomatic and military fields. That you want to put some of your anxieties to the Prime Minister, realizing that they may be ill- founded, and some of your thoughts, in the hope that they may be of some assistance to him.

While appreciating the arguments and force of the facts set out in the Prime Minister's speech to the House of Commons with regard to Finland [4], the feeling remains that if from the date of the first threat to Finland a more definite and resolute diplomatic policy had been pursued in Norway and Sweden the story to be told might have been different.

Similar position appears to be developing in south east Europe- meeting of Hitler and Mussolini [5] generally regarded as having strengthened the axis and may be followed by co-operation in regard to the Danubian and Balkan countries, even possibly in conjunction with Russia.

Developments of this character at least suggest such a German- Russian dominance in these areas as to render small neutral countries concerned incapable of resisting dictation whatever form it might take. Should this position arise Turkey's situation would be an unhappy one and co-operative action on her part with the Allies would be extremely doubtful even if circumstances did not force her to abrogate her treaties with the United Kingdom and France.

In face of these possibilities the natural questions to ask are (a) what steps should we be taking to prevent their coming about and (b) what will be the effect upon the result of the war if we are unable to do so.

With regard to (a) the answer would appear to be imaginative and active diplomacy both official and unofficial and first class propaganda backed by the fact that we could give assurances of effective military aid in the event of aggression.

From a careful study of daily Dominions Office cables I do not gain the impression that Allies' diplomacy has been either sufficiently imaginative or active. From information available here our propaganda does not appear to have been as effective as might have been desired.

With regard to our plans and preparations to afford military assistance in the event of aggression they do not at this distance seem to be of such a character as to inspire confidence in countries likely to be menaced and to stiffen their determination and will to resist.

With regard to (b) it is difficult to visualize how the Allies' eventual victory is to be brought about if valuable supplies including oil of south eastern Europe are available without restriction to Germany, which will be the case if what are clearly Germany's present plans succeed.

So serious are the consequences if Germany succeeds that immediate counter-measures are vital. These clearly embrace intensive diplomatic [action and I welcome the calling to London of our diplomatic representatives in South Eastern] [6] Europe although I venture the suggestion that this action might well have been taken earlier. Diplomatic action however is not sufficient unless backed by convincing assurances of capacity to render military aid. These can only be given if Turkey's full co-operation is forthcoming, including the right of passage for Allied warships through the Dardanelles.

Immediate conversations with Turkey would appear imperative and I trust that the suggestion which I understand has been considered that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs [7] should proceed to Ankara will immediately be given effect to.

In these conversations all aspects of the situation should be reviewed and line of action considered in the event of aggression in south east Europe including counter-measures against the Soviet in the event of her being involved, e.g. Baku.

A definite understanding with Turkey as to joint action should have a considerable effect upon Italy and should materially strengthen our diplomacy in weaning Mussolini from his recent tendency towards a greater co-operation with Hitler.

If Mussolini can be held [plus] [8] a definitely co-operative policy agreed with Turkey in regard to south eastern Europe the way might then be opened for a diplomacy based on German-Soviet threat to Europe and the world, including the possibility of co- operation by Japan and even conceivably of the United States in resisting this menace.


1 Document 112.

2 Neville Chamberlain.

3 U.K. Dominions Secretary.

4 See House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, fifth series, vol.

358, cols 1833-45.

5 Hitler and Mussolini met at the Brenner Pass on 18 March 1940.

According to the German record of their conversation Mussolini informed Hitler that in the event of a victorious German advance against France and the United Kingdom Italy would enter the war on the German side immediately; if German progress was slow, however, Italy would wait See Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-1943, series D, vol. IX (Washington, 1956), pp. 1-16.

6 & 8 The words in square brackets were omitted from the cablegram as deciphered in Canberra. They have been inserted from Bruce's file copy on AA: M100, March 1940.

7 Lord Halifax.

[FA: A3195, 1.2015]