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

Cablegram 434 LONDON, 17 June 1940, 10.34 p.m.

MOST SECRET FOR THE PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL

Nothing known here beyond the fact that the French have ceased fighting. Last communication received from the British Ambassador [1] indicated that the French Government were seeking an armistice but stated would not accept dishonourable terms amongst which would be included a demand to hand over the French fleet. This assurance I would attach no weight to having regard to personnel with exception Darlan [2] whose acceptance of office in the present Government difficult to understand unless he feels that inside he may be able to do something to save the fleet whereas outside he would be powerless.

Difficult to forecast German action in view of French collapse. It may be to refuse to discuss any terms while United Kingdom fighting or to dictate peace terms which might not be unduly harsh. Possibly Hitler in conjunction with Mussolini will make a peace declaration as suggested in my previous cables. Whatever action taken Germany will occupy France for duration of the war.

If action of present French Government results in complete elimination from the war including cessation of all resistance in colonies and handing over of the fleet, the position would be most serious.

I have been urging some chance must be given to those Frenchmen who are opposed to the present Government's policy of submission to express themselves. There is considerable evidence that the present French Government, which in addition to being defeatist is markedly conservative, does not represent the views of many influential sections.

To achieve this it must be shown British determination to support France went to limit. With this in mind I drafted while the War Cabinet was sitting the rough note set out in my telegram No. 435 [3] and obtained concurrence of the High Commissioners for Canada [4] and South Africa [5] to it. Consideration now being given to point it raised.

While possibility of further serious resistance in France has gone, if any substantial repudiation and challenge of present French Government's submission could be brought about a continuance of resistance in the Colonies would be possible. In the Mediterranean the importance of this cannot be exaggerated- e.g. French armies in Morocco and Syria and prospect of keeping the French fleet out of German hands would be enhanced.

With regard to an attack on United Kingdom apart from considerations in appreciation sent you by the Dominions Office [6] the position of [Ireland,] [7] Iceland and Shetlands of paramount importance. I have been urging exploration of every possible method of safeguarding the former and strengthening of the garrisons in two latter.

BRUCE

1 Sir Ronald Campbell.

2 French Chief of Naval Staff and Minister of Marine in the government formed by Marshal Petain on 16 June 1940.

3 Document 397.

4 Vincent Massey.

5 S. F. Waterson.

6 Document 376.

7 The copy here cited read 'islands'. It has been corrected from Bruce's file copy on AA: M100, June 1940.

[FA: A3195, 1.4378]