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

Cablegram 169 LONDON, 7 March 1940

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET FOR THE PRIME MINISTER HIMSELF ONLY

Finland. War Cabinet this morning decided would be prepared to send fifty bombers immediately if Finns make request for aid.

Still feel strongly issues involved have not been clearly visualised and have accordingly prepared questionnaire to which have so far received no answer.

Will endeavour to do so tonight at meeting with the Prime Minister. [1]

It is as follows:

(1) Does the United Kingdom Government regard the prevention of Finland being forced to accept peace on Soviet terms as a major objective? (2) If it does, is this view due to (a) effect on prestige of Allies with consequent results on attitude of neutrals and morale of our own people? (b) consequences by enabling Germany to take action in Scandinavian countries detrimental to Allied prosecution of the war? (c) elimination of possibility of obtaining control of Gallivare iron ore fields in conjunction with rendering assistance to Finland? (3) What are the views of the General Staff as to military aspects of the problem? (a) What troops could be sent, having regard to available transport facilities? (b) What air forces could be sent, having regard both to their availability and facilities for maintenance in Finland? (c) Would forces under (a) and (b), assuming that they can arrive before Finnish collapse, be sufficient to enable Finns to hold out indefinitely and if not for how long? Objections [sic] [2] assuming answer to (c) satisfactory is any immediate aid necessary, e.g. bombers and if so [what] number to prevent Finnish collapse before main forces arrive? (e) Would transport across non-resisting but non-co-operating Norway and Sweden of necessary forces and maintenance of their lines of communication through these countries present practical difficulties and/or dangers of a serious character? (f) If answer to (e) of such a character as to preclude sending contemplated organised assistance through Norway and Sweden could necessary aid be sent as to men, munitions and supplies on existing basis with (i) Norway and Sweden fully co-operating (ii) Norway and Sweden non-co-operative? (g) If attitude of Norway and Sweden as suggested in (f) (ii) could necessary assistance be sent by air by utilising all United Kingdom and French troop carriers and requisitioning all available air liners to supply ground staff replacements etc. for air force and to transport troops? (4) If co-operation of Norway and Sweden could be obtained and General Staffs view is that necessary aid could be sent, or if notwithstanding continuance of present attitude of Norway and Sweden General Staff advise necessary assistance could be rendered under (e), (f) (i) and (ii) or (g) would action be taken by the United Kingdom Government if result would be only to continue Finnish resistance for a time e.g. until May? (5) If by assistance United Kingdom and France Finnish resistance could be prolonged indefinitely or for period acceptable under (4) would United Kingdom Government be prepared to send immediate air assistance even at some risk in the event of major air action by Germany on the Western Front and against the United Kingdom? (6) Is it considered likely that action adequate to save Finland from being overwhelmed would create a state of war between the Allies and the Soviet? If yes, what is appreciation of General Staff and what offensive action, if any, against the Soviet is contemplated? (7) In the event of Germany taking military action against Sweden and/or Norway as a result of the Allies intervention in Finland do the General Staff consider the assistance that could be rendered [would] be sufficient to prevent these countries being overrun?

1 Neville Chamberlain.

2 This word does not appear in Bruce's file copy (on AA: M100, March 1940) and it is not clear why it was inserted when the cablegram was deciphered in Canberra.

[AA: A981, EUROPE 30, ii]