Skip to main content

Historical documents

8 Note by Bruce

[LONDON], 20 July 1942


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

any cost.

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

above visualised.

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

on Europe.

The result of success would be-

To enable us to obtain control of the Western Mediterranean and

relieve Malta

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

North Africa.

(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

adequate scale.

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

launch it.

(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]

Last Updated: 2 February 2011
Back to top