178 Note by Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, of Conversation with Lord Hankey, U.K. Minister without Portfolio

LONDON, 26 April 1940

As I was so concerned at the War Cabinet decision to withdraw from North and South of Trondheim, I went to see Hankey to urge upon him the necessity of the matter being further examined to see if nothing could be done to save the position.

I put to him as strongly as I could what I believed to have been the effect of what amounted to the abandonment of Southern Norway.

I stressed the blow to the Allies' prestige and the corresponding increase in Hitler's prestige; the probability of Mussolini, who was only waiting to see the result of the Allied action in Norway, coming into the war on the German side; the slide that would take place in South Eastern Europe; the doubts which I feel as to whether Turkey in this new situation would be able to stand up to her obligations to the Allies-in fact I used every argument I could think of to bring home to Hankey how seriously I regarded the decision that had been taken.

Hankey admitted that the results of the withdrawal would be most serious but said that there was no possibility of reversing it. He said that he had always believed that we should have concentrated first on Southern Norway in preference to Narvik, and that we should have attempted a frontal attack by the Navy on Trondheim.

These statements were interesting and rather amusing in view of the fact that a fortnight ago I had been to Hankey and urged these very things upon him.

He expressed the view that he did not think Mussolini would come in, and rather suggested that even if he did we would be able to cope with Italy without suggesting how exactly we were going to do it. His attitude was very much that in the last war we were subjected to innumerable reverses and that we had to expect the same thing in the present war.

While I agreed that that might be so I urged that that in no way excused lack of thought and vision. I also put to him my anxieties with regard to Narvik and our position there. He said nothing to comfort me on this point but reiterated the importance of our holding Narvik vis-a-vis the Gallivare iron ore supplies.

When I pressed him as to what our forces at Narvik could do to interfere with the German supplies once Lulea was open he did not appear, to me to have thought the question out very thoroughly. He urged that we with a strong air force at Narvik could bomb Lulea and the German ships in the Gulf of Bothnia.

I pointed out that we could do this only by infringing Swedish neutrality and to this he had nothing satisfactory to say in reply.

From my conversation with Hankey I got the impression that nothing could be done to alter the decision and that in any event Hankey was not the man to get it altered.

[AA: M100, APRIL 1940]