SECOND FRONT IN EUROPE
As a result of the Hopkins-Marshall visit to London in April our
primary strategic objective was agreed as the creation of a second
To achieve this objective the maximum land and air forces are
being concentrated in the United Kingdom as rapidly as possible.
While for the final achievement of victory a landing in force in
Europe will be necessary, the primary objective of the policy of a
second front in Europe was to relieve the pressure on the
The time when the affording of relief to the Russians would have
the maximum effect would be during the present Summer.
While raids on an increasing scale can probably be staged against
the continent of Europe during the present Summer it now seems
clear that an operation on a magnitude that would compel the
withdrawal of sufficient forces as to afford relief to the
Russians cannot be staged before the Spring of next year.
If the policy of a second front in Europe could have been
implemented so as to afford relief to the Russians during the
present year, it would clearly be desirable to pursue it at almost
As large scale operations against Europe cannot be undertaken
before the Spring of next year, I suggest the policy of the
creation of a European second front in the near future requires
In such reconsideration we have to examine the possibility and
value of a European offensive in the Spring of next year.
In determining the possibility and value of such an offensive
various alternative developments in Russia have to be considered.
In the event-
(a) that the German attack on Russia has failed to achieve any
material success, or
(b) that the German attack on Russia has achieved considerable
success but the Soviet armies are still intact and capable of
seriously continuing the struggle,
the staging of a major offensive and the creation of a second
front in Europe should both be possible and of the utmost value.
On the other hand if the German attack on Russia has succeeded
either in eliminating the Soviet from the war or in bringing the
Russians to the point where they can be held by the utilisation of
relatively small Axis forces, any operation we could undertake
against Europe in the Spring of 1943 would have little prospect of
In view of these possible alternative developments we have to
consider whether the wisest course is to continue the
concentration of the necessary forces in the United Kingdom for
the purpose of a major offensive against Europe in the Spring of
1943, or whether there is another alternative course that we would
be better advised to pursue.
In order to determine this, it is necessary to consider the
results that would flow from the continuance of the concentration
in the United Kingdom in the alternative developments that are
In the event of the developments being down the lines suggested in
(a) or (b) of paragraph 9 above, it would be of great value to be
in a position to undertake a large scale offensive against Europe.
Before determining to pursue this course, however, it has to be
(a) whether the dangers of pursuing a policy of concentration in
the United Kingdom for an offensive in Europe in the Spring of
1943 do not, in the event of a Russian collapse, out-weigh the
advantages if the Russians hold, and
(b) if there is any alternative policy to that of a direct frontal
attack on Europe which while yielding substantial dividends in the
event of the Russians holding would reduce the dangers in the
event of the Russians collapsing.
With regard to (a)-without delaying here to set out all the
arguments, it can, I suggest, be shown that the strain that has
been imposed upon the whole German economic and transport system,
as well as upon the people, is such that unless the Russians
collapse, or are so badly mauled as to afford a period for relief
and reorganisation, the eventual collapse of Germany is
A full scale frontal attack on Europe would accelerate this
collapse. Such a collapse is, however, inevitable unless Germany
can obtain a respite. This respite can be prevented by the policy
I suggest below, even if not to the same extent as it would be if
it were possible to stage a full scale frontal attack on Europe.
This alternative policy also has the advantage that should a
frontal attack become impossible, owing to the collapse of Russia,
Germany would still be denied the respite that is vital to her.
With regard to (b)-an alternative policy I suggest would be a full
scale attack on Northern Africa in the present year.
Such an attack would have to be of a sufficient magnitude to
ensure its success both in regard to land and air forces. What the
scale of such an attack would have to be is a matter for our
Service advisers but while it would present a tremendous task,
particularly in providing the necessary shipping, nevertheless it
would appear a less formidable undertaking than a frontal attack
The result of success would be-
To enable us to obtain control of the Western Mediterranean and
To alter the whole position of our forces in the Middle East
To render possible action against Italy, the weakest link in the
Axis To pave the way to our re-entering the Continent via the
Balkans. It would not preclude the continuance of the policy of
direct raids upon Europe.
Even in the event of the collapse of Russia it should enable us to
deny to the Germans that period of respite which is vital to them.
On the other hand, if we concentrate upon a full scale frontal
attack against Europe in the Spring of 1943 and Russia collapses
we would be unable to proceed with our plans and Germany would be
enabled to carry out that rehabilitation of her whole system which
on all the evidence I have seen is vital to her.
Two points that have to be considered are-
(a) What degree of resistance would be offered by the French in
(b) What would be the effect on our relations with Vichy France.
With regard to (a) considerable resistance at the outset would
have to be anticipated as the Vichy Government has packed all
important civil and military positions in Northern Africa with
pro-Axis sympathisers. This resistance would be likely to collapse
after a short period if the enterprise were undertaken on an
With regard to (b) the reaction of the Vichy Government would be
strongly hostile. The question that has to be determined is how
far public opinion in France would react to an attack in North
Africa as against the raids culminating in a grand offensive
against metropolitan France which are contemplated.
The object of this Note is to stress the necessity for the most
careful consideration of-
(i) The situation that would arise in the event of our
concentrating our preparations upon a full scale frontal attack on
Europe in the Spring of 1943 and then finding as a result of
developments in Russia and/or elsewhere it being impossible to
(ii) The possibility of an attack in North Africa or elsewhere
without the qualification that such an attack must be conditioned
by its not interfering with a full scale frontal attack on Europe.
1 On 21 July Bruce forwarded a copy of this note to Churchill, who
in turn gave it to the U.K. Chiefs of Staff for comment. See
letters of 21 July on file AA: M100, July 1942 and also Document
[AA:M100, JULY 1942]