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

Cablegram unnumbered 3 June 1940, 12 midnight


Seems to me that the Allies are handicapped because our enemy is not afraid of being charged with aggression and can therefore choose the time and place of attack and gain an initiative which it is hard to overtake. Speaking from this distance one is conscious of ignorance but it would appear that Italy is at this moment making her plans for a sudden move after a sudden ultimatum. I am not suggesting that we should become the aggressor against Italy but I certainly think that we should not allow her to fix her own time and place. Would it be worth while to put it to Churchill [1] that if Italy delivers anything in the nature of an ultimatum the Allies should at once indicate that a demand made under such circumstances must be regarded as a definite act of hostility and that unless it is forthwith withdrawn the Allies will regard themselves as challenged to war by and at war with Italy.

I put this by way of query only as I do not know what our naval and military dispositions are. But in general principle I feel that it is far better that we should choose our manner and place of attack than that we should have to be prepared everywhere. In brief, I strongly feel that the time for defensive diplomacy with Italy has ended and that she has bluffed successfully too long.

These are my own views as I will not have an opportunity of consulting War Cabinet until tomorrow. [2]


1 U.K. Prime Minister.

2 At 10.43 p.m. (London time) on 3 June 1940 Bruce cabled: 'In reply to your most immediate telegram, see my telegram no. 380 which more or less covers the points you raise.' (See Bruce's cablegram 381 on file AA: A1608, H41/1/4, ii.)

[FA: A3196, 0.3450]