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

Cablegram 412 LONDON, 13 June 1940, 2.25 a.m.


Prime Minister's [1] report unhappily shows that Pessimistic views expressed in my telegram No. 411 [2] not exaggerated. Dominions Office cabling summary [3] but in view of importance desirable that I amplify with my impressions. They are-Weygand [4] very tired; considers present position last on which he can resist. His 65 divisions have been faced by 120 German divisions-has no more reserves-men have been continuously fighting for seven days-if now driven back he could no longer undertake to conduct a resistance on organised lines-would serve under any one else but he no longer could undertake the supreme command.

Prime Minister stated nothing could exceed Weygand's pessimism, who indicated he could not see the end being held off for more than two or three days and was inclined to blame politicians who had entered on war lightly. His attitude also was that Paris should be declared an open town and not defended. In this probably right as retirement south of Paris offers best hope of extracting French armies from encirclement by pincer operations (my telegram No. 411).

De Gaulle [5] apparently determined and in favour of maintaining resistance even to point of guerilla warfare. Further effective resistance difficult to visualise if the Seine-Marne line gone as any other line from the sea to Maginot longer and any shorter line would leave flank exposed.

Possible line might be Mediterranean to Atlantic but difficult to contemplate French offering stout resistance in such circumstances.

With regard to possibility effective guerilla warfare, cannot express opinion, but having regard to limited size France and mobility of air and mechanised forces effectiveness appears doubtful. If, however, Germans could be seriously harassed for even two or three months effect might be incalculable.

The Prime Minister's summing up of the position was 'Effective resistance of France as great military Power over'.

He, however, strongly shares De Gaulle's views as to continuing resistance. Doubt is if politicians will stand firm.

Reynaud [6] resolute and determined to go on.

Petain [7] prepared for peace almost to point of any terms on the grounds that resistance hopeless and France being sacrificed for nothing.

Petain's reputation so great, notwithstanding his age and fact that last war he was defeatist, that doubtful if Reynaud will be able to maintain his position with politicians such as Laval [8] and Daladier [9] using Petain against him.

Our policy obviously must be to endeavour to stiffen French to continue resistance and if this fails to try and create similar position to Holland-Government leaving the country and laying down of arms and continuance of the struggle with French fleet and in the Colonies.

I am, however, doubtful of success in either and fear that a new French Government will come to terms with Germany.

Darlan, Naval Commander in Chief, has declared that nothing will induce him to give up ships. How far this would be practicable in face of all relatives of personnel being in France under domination of Germany I find difficulty in visualising.

The point in the event of France capitulating is to find means whereby French fleet will be prevented from falling into German hands.

The Prime Minister is cabling Roosevelt fully and frankly views French position.

A French collapse will create all the problems I have suggested in my recent cables.

I am doing everything in my power to make United Kingdom Government face them and immediately consult Dominions.


1 Winston S. Churchill.

2 Document 369.

3 See cablegram Z104, on file AA: CP290/6, 60.

4 Commander-in-Chief of the French Army.

5 French Under-Secretary of National Defence.

6 French Prime Minister.

7 French Vice-President of the Council.

8 French Prime Minister 1935-36.

9 French Foreign Minister.