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

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 3 May 1940, 4.25 p.m.


My telegram 62 Circular Z. [1] We appreciate that the withdrawal of our forces from Central Norway may have adverse effect on world opinion generally but position was that unless we were to sacrifice our forces there was no alternative to withdrawal from that area since landing of even bare essentials through ports blotted out by bombing had become impossible. Even if we were successful in driving the enemy out of Trondheim the consolidation of the Position and maintenance of a force in Central Norway would involve a measure of dispersion of our naval, military and air effort which in the view of our military advisers would be strategically unsound. We shall still of course make every effort to capture Narvik as soon as possible and to carry out operations in Northern Norway.

As regards Italy latest position is set out in my telegram Circular D.159. [2] While we cannot foretell what effect the withdrawal of our forces from Central Norway may have on Signor Mussolini, it is clear that if we were to attempt to hold on and then suffer major disaster the effect would be more serious still.

You should communicate the above to the Prime Minister [3] for his secret information in supplement of Prime Minister's speech in the House of Commons yesterday [4] and tell him that we shall of course keep him very closely informed of developments.

Similar telegram sent to United Kingdom High Commissioner in the Union of South Africa [5] in reply to message received from General Smuts. [6]

1 On file AA: A1608, A41/1/1, viii.

2 On file AA: CP290/6, 39.

3 R. G. Menzies.

4 Chamberlain's statement is printed in House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, fifth series, vol. 360, cols 906-13. The text was dispatched to the Commonwealth Govt on 2 May 1940 in U.K.

Dominions Office circular cablegram C22 (on file AA: A1608, A41/1/1, ix).

5 Sir Edward Harding.

6 South African Prime Minister.

[FA: A3195, 1.3009]