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

Cablegram 143 LONDON, 24 February 1940, 7.38 p.m.


Dominions Office Cable to Whiskard 24th February. [1] In my view War Cabinet, carried away by acceptance generally accorded in neutral countries and enthusiasm aroused in Allied countries by Altmark incident, have lost sight of objectives of saving Finland and cutting off all, not part, of Gallivare iron ore supplies from Germany which were bases of Supreme War Council's endorsement of major proposals (D.O. cables to Whiskard) [2] and under dominance of Winston Churchill [3] have been concentrating on some further spectacular move.

In my view major proposal and action re Norwegian territorial waters must be kept in their proper perspective. Latter should only be considered if result of undertaking would be to aid and not to interfere with major proposal or if major proposal has to be abandoned when it should be examined on its own merits.

If action re Norwegian territorial waters decided on, form proposed statement sent to you today appears to me too wide. In my view it would be interpreted by world as a declaration of Allied policy for future in regard to territorial waters of all neutrals.

Such an interpretation would inevitably have profound repercussions on our relations with all neutrals including United States and South American countries. While such a declaration may have to be made at some time, if and when it is, it will require careful consideration and consultation. Present statement I believe United Kingdom intend only as basis for action in Norwegian waters and not as indication of wider intention.

Suggest most desirable you cable asking for clarification of points raised above.


1 See cablegram Z9 to the U.K. High Commissioner in Australia on file AA: A1068, H41/1/2. It contained the draft of a possible public statement justifying Allied action against German shipping in neutral territorial waters on the ground that German warships were using these waters as a sanctuary from which to attack Allied and neutral shipping.

2 See Document 69, note 2.

3 U.K. First Lord of the Admiralty.

[AA: A981, EUROPE 30, ii]