413 Lord Caldecote, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner in Australia

Circular cablegram Z134 LONDON, 20 June 1940, 8.25 p.m.


Please give the following message to the Prime Minister [1] for his Most Secret and Personal information, in connection with my telegram of 19th June, Circular Z.127. [2]

'You will wish to have at once some account of our policy in present circumstances in regard to the French Colonial Empire and Mandated Territories and of communications we are making to local French authorities.

2. In general we do not think that with our very limited resources we can attempt to occupy French overseas territories but in some cases our control of sea communications should enable us to deny the resources of these territories to the enemy. We hope it may be possible to stimulate continued resistance on the part of the French Colonial Empire forces. With this in view, H.M.

Representatives in French overseas possessions in Africa, Syria and Indo-China have been instructed to approach local French authorities and to inform them that while we recognize that the French Govermnent have been compelled to capitulate under duress we ourselves, appreciating the heroic resistance of the French Armies supported by their Allies and knowing that the French Army has laid down its arms against its will and that of the French people, intend to continue the struggle. Although the greater part of France is now in enemy occupation, her overseas territories retain their freedom and British forces will therefore do all in their power to assist these territories to defend themselves against the enemy, and we are confident that their co-operation will be forthcoming. H.M. Representatives are at their discretion to point out that both the Dutch and Belgian Empires overseas are resolutely prosecuting the war against Germany.

3. The latest information suggests that a proportion of the French Fleet is moving to British or French Colonial ports but we do not think that in any case we can for long prevent Germany and Italy from occupying French North Africa and utilizing its economic resources. If, however, the enemy succeeds in this we should endeavour to interrupt- (a) internal communications in this area by sabotage and subversive activities among the tribes, and (b) the enemy's communications across the Mediterranean.

4. In more detail the position as we see it in respect of each part of the French overseas Empire is as follows, though it will be appreciated that the position is changing from hour to hour- (a) MOROCCO. Casablanca is an alternative naval base to Gibraltar should the latter become untenable. We are urging the French to concentrate the remnants of their anti-aircraft defences and fighter aircraft in the area of Casablanca. The port might, however, wen become untenable itself. So far we have not succeeded in obtaining a clear declaration that the French resistance in Morocco will continue, though their morale appears to be recovering.

(b) WEST AFRICA. Owing to the existence of our base at Freetown, we do not anticipate having to use Dakar but we must deny its use to the enemy, and our naval forces operating from Freetown should be able to do this. In some parts of French West Africa there are encouraging indications that the French would welcome continued co-operation with us.

(c) FRENCH SOMALILAND. The Italians are likely to attempt to occupy Djibouti, but there are indications that they will still have to fight for it and they cannot be reinforced except by air so long as we hold the Suez Canal. We do not consider this occupation would affect our position in the Red Sea to such extent as would warrant any special action.

(d) SYRIA. It is important to our whole position in the Middle East to prevent the enemy establishing themselves in Syria as such action would cut our last communications with Turkey and provide the enemy with valuable base and oil supplies at Beirut. The French High Commissioner in Syria [3] has informed H.M. Consul- General [4] that in agreement with the French Commander in Chiefs he will continue to fight irrespective of any orders he may receive. The attitude of Turkey, which is of course an important factor here, continues to be obscure. If no help is forthcoming from her and the French resistance in Syria collapses, we shall have to rely on our naval forces to prevent an actual occupation of territory by the enemy.

(e) MADAGASCAR. We hope to co-operate with the local French authorities to deny this island and its resources to the enemy.

Failing this co-operation we shall rely on our naval forces to intercept enemy raider menace.

(f) INDIA. Action to ensure the integrity of the French possessions will be taken by the Government of India.

(g) CARIBBEAN AND ST. PIERRE AND MIQUELON. The present view is that the integrity of the French possessions can on the whole be left to the operation of the Monroe Doctrine. In view, however, of its great importance, special steps will have to be taken as regards the Dutch island of Aruba in which French garrison was installed.

(h) INDO-CHINA AND OCEANIA. Japanese occupation would entail their control of Thailand and bring a new Japanese base at Saigon within 640 miles of Singapore. It would also provide air bases for operations against Malaya. Certain French islands in the Western Pacific if occupied by the Japanese would constitute a serious threat to Imperial communications. Any attempt on our part to occupy French possessions would probably lead to immediate difficulties with Japan and our aim must therefore be to ensure that the United States should make a public declaration as to their intention to see the status quo in the Pacific and the Far East preserved. (See paragraph 6 of my telegram under reference).'

1 R. G. Menzies.

2 Document 406.

3 G. Puaux.

4 G. T. Havard.

5 General E. Mittelhauser.

[FA: A3195, 1.4571]