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

Cablegram 49 LONDON, 16 January 1940, 8.40 p.m.

FOR THE PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET PERSONAL FOR HIMSELF

Keyes has now reported the substance of further interview with the King when the United Kingdom reply (see Dominions Office telegram) was communicated. [1]

In long conversation the King after indicating that if the United Kingdom reply were communicated to the Belgian Government would create bad impression, emphasised difficulty of his position down the lines that while ninety per cent of his people pro-Ally, were desperately anxious to keep out of the war, that he was not a dictator and had to handle a Government drawn from several parties, that while convinced that German documents captured were genuine and show that Germany would attack Belgium as and when suited them, was difficult to authorise staff talks owing to the possibility of their precipitating German action, that satisfactory assurances from the United Kingdom and the French Governments would strengthen his hand in dealing with his Government and people.

The King indicated that while unable to obtain the assent at the moment of his Government to staff talks would do his utmost to reach the same end unofficially.

War Cabinet inclined to be peevish at this reply and to consider it goes back on previous suggestion of invitation if satisfactory assurances given.

I have urged that this is wrong attitude, that account must be taken of appalling responsibility resting on the King, that in face of this not unnatural that he should hesitate thus giving appearance of inconsistency, that we should maintain the close contact now established through Keyes, and that if we do it is probable that the King will decide to invite United Kingdom and France to move troops into Belgium, thus enabling the Allies to hold Antwerp-Namur line rather than line of the Belgian-French frontier if they so desire.

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs [2] agrees and is pressing for this view.

BRUCE

1 See Document 20.

2 Lord Halifax.

[NO ARCHIVE REFERENCE]