243 Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Circular cablegram M24 LONDON, 15 May 1940, 2.47 a.m. [1]



Although anti-war feeling in Italy appears to remain strong, the following indications incline us to believe that Italy may well enter the war against us at an early date.

(1) Reports from His Majesty's Minister at the Vatican [2] confirming that Signor Mussolini will give no assurances as regards his future actions.

(2) Whipping up of anti-British feeling in Fascist circles and Italian youth.

(3) Presentation of report on our contraband control. This suggests that Signor Mussolini has now resorted to propaganda material which, more than anything else, may be calculated to rouse not only the Fascist but Italian feeling as a whole to the point of war.

There is reason to believe that Signor Mussolini's decision, at any rate as regards the exact time of his move, whatever form it takes, may still rest on the outcome of fighting on the West.

While he might be tempted to take up arms on the strength of some initial reversals which Germany, particularly the German Air Force, may inflict on the Allied Forces, most recent conversation between Count Ciano [3] and His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome [4] indicates that there is perhaps a chance that he may wait some three or four weeks until more positive and decisive results show where the advantage really lies.

In view of the present situation we are considering with the French Government the question of taking further precautionary measures in the Mediterranean.

1 The date and time of dispatch have been taken from the copy on file AA: A1608, A41/1/1, ix.

2 F. D'A. G. Osborne.

3 Italian Foreign Minister.

4 Sir Percy Loraine.

[AA: A981, ITALY 60B]