261 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr W. S. Churchill, U.K. Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered 22 May 1940,


We are in close consultation with Bruce [1], and conclusions reached in this telegram are founded on his appreciation, which is based on information at his disposal- We are following the present position with tense anxiety, and are fully conscious that if the present German drive northwards from Amiens to Abbeville continues, it will not only give command of all the Channel ports to Germany but gravely jeopardise the whole British and Belgian Armies.

We have no clear appreciation of the reasons for unaccountable collapse of the French Seventh and Ninth Armies, but assume that the Allies have had no counter ground measures to the combination of bombers and tanks. Further, we assume that the only effective counter is the bombing aeroplane.

It also appears to us that the Allies are suffering from a grave disadvantage in numerical inferiority in the air. Thus we are forced to the conclusion that the immediate expansion of the air arm is the most vital necessity of the moment.

This necessity will become paramount if the enemy occupies the Channel ports or embarks on large scale air operations against Britain. It will be obvious that in the initial stages such operations will be directed against our main centres of war material production, especially air, which will necessarily affect output at the most critical time.

In view of these possible contingencies, and of the general position so far as it affects the countries of the civilized world not yet under the domination of Nazism, we think that an immediate personal appeal should be made to President Roosevelt for the release of every available aircraft, not only drawing upon those now in use by the United States Army and Fleet Air Arm, but those immediately due for delivery.

Further, we should appeal for volunteer American airmen along similar lines to the assistance rendered to Spain by German and Italian military volunteers during the Spanish Revolution.

In this appeal, all the dangers and consequences to America as well as to the British Empire, not only of the present grave difficulties, but of the possibility of Allied submission to Germany and the loss of the British fleet, should be stressed.

At the same time it should be emphasised we are not requesting direct American participation-a step we gather the American people are not yet prepared to take-and also be emphasised that we are fully confident of our ability to bring about the defeat of Germany provided there is liberal co-operation in the immediate supply of aircraft.

I am sending copy of this to Smuts, Fraser and Mackenzie King [2] and suggesting that if their thoughts run along parallel lines they communicate with you immediately, with a view to the appeal to Roosevelt being not joint but a several one, but so far as possible simultaneous and indicative of a unity and spontaneity of feeling that the whole civilized world is looking to him for all assistance he can conceivably render.


1 High Commissioner in London.

2 South African, New Zealand and Canadian Prime Ministers.

[FA: A3196, 0.3135]