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

Cablegram 53 25 May 1940,


We are following position Western Front deepest anxiety and find your daily reviews of great assistance.

So that we could appreciate position and developments more clearly we would like information so far as you can supply it on following points:-

(one) Number of British divisions actually in Flanders (two) Number of Belgian divisions mobilised and in fighting line (three) French divisions in France (four) What is in fact the numerical inferiority of British fighters and bombers compared with German machines (five) German official reports last three days claim sinking of several troopships in the Channel. What degree of truth is there in this. If substantial does it mean that no large reinforcements can be sent (six) To our mind, greatest hope of checking (German) [1] drive was flank attack by French forces from (direction of) Rheims or at some other point against German left flank. What are reasons for failure of any large French counter-attack to materialise before present desperate position (seven) What is explanation apparent ability of enemy tanks to go (straight) through (eight) Ten days ago large German divisional concentration reported opposite (Switzerland). We have had no advice since as to position here. Is this and Italian threat still containing many French divisions (nine) What has happened French Air Force and what is position French air production (ten) In engagements where American machines employed Allied casualties seem to be heavier. Does this mean inferiority of type compared with German (eleven) In D.W. Telegram No. 269 [2] the reported German stocks of petrol sufficient last a year (even) on scale present offensive contrary to all (reports) and calculations. Could we have further information on this and possibility attack Synthetic ... [3] plants in Ruhr. [4]


1 The words in round brackets were the suggested meanings of indecipherable groups. No Canberra copy of this cablegram has been found.

2 On file AA: A1608, GV/1/1, iii.

3 Indecipherable group.

4 On 25 May 1940 Bruce replied that owing to the vital importance of secrecy it might not be possible to reply in full to this cablegram. On 29 May he reported that he had had great difficulty in getting replies to the points raised by Menzies but that the Dominions Office had assured him that they would cable a full reply the same night (see Document 318). Bruce's cablegrams 356 and 363 am on file AA: M100, May 1940.

[AA: M100, MAY 1940]