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

Cablegram 431 LONDON, 16 June 1940, [9.45 p.m.] [1]

MOST IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET FOR THE PRIME MINISTER PERSONAL

Today's developments have been dramatic. Following receipt of information as to attitude French Government given in Z.114 [2] decision referred to in that cable taken. Before decision conveyed to French Government de Gaulle [3] arrived from France and with French Ambassador [4] saw the Prime Minister [5] and both urged United Kingdom should refuse to agree to an armistice being sought. De Gaulle urged that if some dramatic action could be taken which would appeal to the French nation it would prevent the Government from pursuing the idea of armistice and would ensure transference large forces and equipment to Africa, the retention of French Fleet and continuance of the struggle in the Colonies.

As a result of these representations a document was drawn up, which, after modification by War Cabinet, took form cabled to you in Z.116. [6] This document was drafted by de Gaulle, Monnet [7], another Frenchman and two senior British civil servants whose names I do not yet know. De Gaulle came representing Reynaud [8] to whom text has been communicated. The Prime Minister and Halifax [9] meeting Reynaud late tonight or early tomorrow morning, when decision will have to be taken as French on brink of collapse.

Whole object of dramatic course contemplated is to keep the French in war and prevent them coming to terms with Germany. The more I have examined the position with the French the more I am convinced how imperative this is. I suggest your examination of declaration should be in the light of transcending necessity.

With regard to the declaration, the paramount question is whether Union is contemplated to be permanent or for duration of war. The original document made it clear the intention was permanency. As modified it is possibly open to either interpretation. If it is to achieve its object of keeping France in the war I am certain, as a result of discussions with Reynaud, it will have to be made clear that it means something more than the period of war.

The innumerable difficulties and complexities in giving effect to declaration save as a pure war measure I need not elaborate. On one, the position of the King, I understand the French are prepared to accept him as the Head of the State.

With regard to the Dominions, my first reaction is-I only saw document two hours ago-that provided position of King is safeguarded and as citizenship of Frenchmen is limited to that of United Kingdom, we, notwithstanding our great interest and concern in everything affecting Great Britain, can hardly, in face of deadly and imminent peril with which she is now faced, object to United Kingdom Government pursuing a course which they believe vital. What reactions of Parliament and people here will be is difficult to estimate. I think Parliament is sufficiently alive to the dangers of position and would endorse Government's action: of attitude of general public I am not so sure.

BRUCE

1 The time of dispatch has been taken from Bruce's file copy on AA: AM100, June 1940.

2 On file AA: CP290/6, 60. It reported that the French Govt had decided it could not leave France and therefore wished in have the U.K. Govt's permission to ask on what terms Germany would grant an armistice. Permission was granted provided the French fleet was sailed forthwith to British harbours. The U.K. Govt had not consulted the Dominions because of 'the extreme and critical urgency of the situation'.

3 French Under-Secretary of National Defence.

4 A. C. Corbin.

5 Winston S. Churchill.

6 Document 391.

7 Chairman of the Franco-British Economic Co-ordination Committee.

8 French Prime Minister.

9 U.K. Foreign Secretary.

10 The number has been inserted from the Prime Minister's Dept inward cable register (FA: A3635).

[FA: A3195, [1.4341] [10]]