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

Cablegram 359 LONDON, 27 May 1940, 2.15 a.m.


Dominions cable to Whiskard [1] replies to your cable to-day's date. [2] I have been specifically asked not to refer to information contained in first part.

In my view French collapse may come at any moment. This possibility having been clear for days our position in such event should have been examined by the War Cabinet in the light of full appreciations by the Chiefs of Staff and Economic Warfare and the definite course to be pursued determined on after consultation with the Dominions to whom the fullest information of all relevant facts should have been supplied. None of this has been done and the War Cabinet are only facing the issue tomorrow morning. This to my mind is criminal and I have so said. [3]

If the examination is to show we can carry on by ourselves this delay is immaterial, if however it reveals we cannot it may well be disastrous.

The examination may reveal either- (1) that we can carry on with a prospect of victory (2) that we can carry on for a period (a) but must eventually admit defeat: (b) with the prospect that Germany would eventually have to admit she cannot defeat us and have to come to terms on some reasonable basis (3) that we cannot carry on.

In the event of (1) our course is clear.

In the event of (2) (b) our decision must be based on a determination of whether the terms we could then obtain would be better or worse than those we could obtain immediately.

In the event of (3) if we can obtain terms that retain for us our liberty and independence we must consider them. If we cannot then we must fight on to annihilation better dead than under German rule.

In the event of (2) (a) position much the same as (3) except that there would be an element of doubt as to position when we had to admit defeat.

With regard to the above with the exception of (1) the following considerations arise.

Germany's spectacular and overwhelming military success have created consternation in U.S.A. the gravest anxiety in Italy and must have alarmed Russia. All these countries are menaced. As the position has developed they are faced with the alternatives of a world dominated by Germany or a reconstructed world.

Mussolini has the ambition to be the peace maker of Europe. If our conclusion is that (1) is impossible should not every endeavour be made to stimulate Mussolini and Roosevelt to coming forward so soon as the German occupation of Belgium and Northern France is complete with proposals down the lines that further bloodshed is useless and that an immediate conference should be held to formulate proposals as a basis for a cessation of hostilities.

If these proposals safeguarded our freedom and independence they could be considered; if they did not they could be rejected without prejudice to our continuance in the struggle.

If anything is to be done down this line immediate action is vital in view of the possibility of France's early collapse.

Innumerable other points will emerge in the cables you should receive from the United Kingdom Government tomorrow such as part U.S.A. can play and attitude of U.S.S.R. in a continuing war.

These cables I will amplify. In this cable I am only sending some anticipatory thoughts.


1 Document 282.

2 Document 281. Although dispatched on 27 May 1940 Bruce's cablegram would have been drafted on the previous day.

3 Bruce's records of meetings with Lord Caldecote, U.K. Dominions Secretary, and Neville Chamberlain, Lord President of the Council, on 26 and 27 May 1940 are in series AA: M103, January-June 1940.

[AA: M100, MAY 1940]