119 Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner in Australia

Circular cablegram Z41 LONDON, 29 March 1940, 10.38 p.m.


My telegram of 28th March Circular Z. 39. [1] Please give the following message to the Prime Minister [2] for his Most Secret and Personal information.

The meeting of the Allied Supreme War Council on 28th March was the first to be held with M. Reynaud as French Prime Minister. The meeting was most satisfactory. The following is a summary of the principal resolutions.

(1) Communications should be addressed on behalf of the French and the British Governments to the Governments of Norway and Sweden on Monday, April 1st, on the following lines:

(a) The Allied Governments cannot acquiesce in any further attack on Finland by either the Soviet Government or the German Government. In the event therefore of such an attack taking place, any refusal by the Swedish or Norwegian Governments to facilitate the efforts of the Allied Governments to come to the assistance of Finland in whatever manner they think fit, and still more any attempt to prevent such assistance, would be considered by them as endangering their vital interests.

(b) Any exclusive political agreement with [sic] Sweden and Norway may enter into with Germany would be considered by the Allied Governments as an unfriendly act, even though it ostensibly was intended for the defence of Finland. Any Scandinavian alliance which provided for the acceptance of aid from Germany, and which thus brought Scandinavian countries into special political relationship with Germany, would be considered by us as directed against ourselves.

(c) Any attempt by the Soviet Union to obtain from Norway a footing on the Atlantic seaboard would be contrary to the vital interests of the Allied Governments.

(d) The Allied Governments would have to take appropriate measures to safeguard their interests if the Swedish and Norwegian Governments were to refuse, withdraw, or curtail facilities in the matter of commerce and shipping which the Allied Governments consider essential for the prosecution of the war, and which it is not unreasonable for the two Scandinavian Governments to concede.

(e) Further, seeing that the Allies are waging their war for aims which are as much in the interest of small states as in their own, the Allies cannot allow the course of the war to be influenced against them by advantages derived by Germany from Sweden and Norway. They therefore give notice that they reserve the right to take such measures as they may think necessary to hinder or prevent Germany from obtaining in Sweden and Norway resources or facilities which for the purpose of war would be to her advantage or to the disadvantage of the Allies.

(2) These communications should be followed a few days later by the laying of minefields in Norwegian territorial waters and by operations against German shipping thus forced out of those waters. This operation would be timed to take place shortly after a military operation of a special character on the western front.

(3) Plans should be prepared for interrupting German trade from Lulea as soon as the Gulf of Bothnia is open to shipping.

(4) Such action as might prove possible should be taken to diminish oil traffic from Rumania to Germany.

(5) A study should be undertaken by French and British experts into proposals to bombard from the air Russian oil supplies to the Caucasus with reference to (a) the likelihood that the operation can be carried out effectively (b) the probable effect of the operation on the U.S.S.R. (c) the extent and effect of possible retaliation by the U.S.S.R. (d) the probable attitude of Turkey.

Detailed plans should be prepared so that the operation could be carried out without delay if decided upon.

(6) As regards Holland and Belgium, the Allied policy should be as follows:

(a) If Germany invades Belgium Allied forces should immediately move into that country without waiting for a formal invitation to do so but this intention should not be made known to the Belgian Government lest it should give them the impression that it was a matter of indifference to us whether or not they gave us a formal invitation to enter their country.

(b) If Germany invades Holland and the Belgian Government go to the help of Holland, the Allied policy would be to support Belgium at once.

(c) If Germany invades Holland and Belgium does not go to the assistance of Holland the Allies should regard themselves as entitled to enter Belgium for the purpose of assisting Holland but would reserve liberty of action as to the precise course to be adopted.

(d) If Holland were to grant naval and/or air bases to Germany, this would be an unneutral act entitling the Allies to take any counter-action they might think fit but the precise action which they would take in any particular case would depend on the circumstances existing at the time.

(e) The contingencies in (c) and (d) should be the subject of study by the French and British staffs.

(7) Approval was given to the text of a joint Anglo-French declaration on unity of purpose. The declaration was published forthwith.

(8) The French and British authorities should undertake an examination into the possibility of making the blockade more effective by imposing quotas on such neutral countries as might be necessary.

(9) The application of contraband control to Asiatic Russia as follows- (a) The first stage should be to restrict the export to the U.S.S.R. of all commodities on the contraband list derived from the United Kingdom and France and their colonial Empire.

(b) The Allied naval authorities in the Far East should be instructed to arrange for the diversion, preferably into Indo- Chinese ports, of any vessels from the Philippines, Netherlands East Indies, etc., thought to be carrying cargo of enemy destination if their interception is practicable.

(c) The second stage should be for the Allied Governments to endeavour to reach some understanding with the Chinese Government regarding Chinese exports to Russia and to examine together how best to induce the Japanese Government to agree to the strictest possible limitation of goods carried in Japanese ships or on Japanese controlled railways and destined for Soviet Russia.

(d) Simultaneously with (c) above the French and United Kingdom Ambassadors in Washington and the Anglo-French Mission should be furnished with all material calculated to move the United States Government to take parallel action and if possible lead them to admit the necessity of Japanese co-operation.

(10) Approval was given in principle to the suggestion that more frequent meetings of the Supreme War Council should be held. [3]

1 On file AA: A1608, A41/1/1, viii. It outlined the agenda for the Allied Supreme War Council meeting.

2 R. G. Menzies.

3 Three further cablegrams about this meeting were received from the U.K. Dominions Secretary. Cablegram Z42 of 30 March 1940 noted that the U.K. Govt had convinced the French Govt that (a) the proposal to occupy Norwegian ports should be dropped and (b) in view of the probable Turkish attitude no immediate action should be taken against Russian oilfields. Cablegrams Z44 of 1 April and Z45 of 3 April advised that because of difficulties which had arisen in co-ordinating the two operations mentioned in paragraph (2) of cablegram Z41 the plan to address communications to the Norwegian and Swedish Govts had been postponed. All cablegrams are on file AA: A1608, A41/1/1, viii.

[AA: A981, WAR 45, iv]