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

Cablegram unnumbered 14 April 1940,


I shall be glad if you will kindly convey the following to the Prime Minister personally [1]- I have no desire to add to your burdens but feel that a frank statement to you from time to time upon how certain matters look to us at this distance might be useful. We are of course not in the best position to form a judgment but we cannot free ourselves from a feeling that the Allied conduct of the war on the diplomatic side has lacked firmness and activity.

After the defeat of Finland we felt that there might be a grave loss of prestige and a tendency on the part of European neutrals to move in the direction of Germany, and that accordingly a resolute diplomatic policy should have been pursued in Norway and Sweden.

This feeling in our minds has of course been substantially affected by the Scandinavian developments of the last few days, but these developments seem to us to make it even more important that the greatest possible diplomatic pressure should be exercised in the Danubian and Balkan countries. Any hostile move by Italy at this time, following upon the German absorption of Denmark and a possible move into the Low Countries, might well induce these Southern nations to adopt policies friendly to Germany and it is difficult to imagine that under such circumstances Turkey would be willing to co-operate with the Allies. We therefore feel that imaginative and active diplomacy; both official and unofficial, and first-class propaganda should be pursued in the Balkans.

From a careful study of daily Dominions Office cables we have not gained the impression that this has been sufficiently appreciated.

We realise, however, that these anxieties of ours may be ill- founded and we would welcome your own advices [sic]. Our belief is that diplomatic action, backed by convincing assurances of military aid, might well secure active co-operation and, in the case of Turkey, might lead to the granting of a right of passage for Allied warships through the Dardanelles.

I understand that it has been suggested that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should proceed to Ankara. I hope that this will be done. A visit of a Minister of the high reputation and moral force of Halifax might well have a steadying effect upon Mussolini and upon the Balkan States, and if this were so, a definitely co-operative policy agreed with Turkey in relation with South-Eastern Europe might open the way to a diplomacy which openly rested upon a German/Soviet threat to Europe and to the world.

Along this line, one can imagine that co-operation by Japan might not be impossible and that the effect upon American public opinion would be invaluable.

To sum up, there was until recently a feeling here in some quarters that the Allies were not sufficiently active in a military sense. I have not completely shared that view, nor has my Government-though we have occasionally felt that, particularly in connection with the attacks upon shipping, we have been somewhat passive. But on the diplomatic side, there is a widespread feeling that we have too frequently allowed Germany to take the initiative and to succeed by threats while we in our turn have been too orthodox, too polite, and too defensive.

If you could find time to give us some information on these points we would be grateful.

I send this cable with great diffidence, but I am encouraged to do so because I think you realise the great confidence that the Australian Government and the Australian people have in you.


1 This cablegram was not in fact delivered to Chamberlain. See Document 147.

[FA: A3196, 0.2213]