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

Cablegram 155 LONDON, 2 March 1940, 11.03 a.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE FOR PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

Finns, after examination of the Allies' offer of assistance, have indicated to the United Kingdom and French numbers insufficient and that unless substantially increased and available by the end of March-French state date end of April-will have no alternative but to open negotiations with the Soviet for peace settlement.

French have replied stating that prepared to afford assistance asked. United Kingdom, while agreeing that numbers asked could be provided, feel that railways and other facilities inadequate to transport and maintain numbers asked for.

Accordingly United Kingdom reply[ing] [1] indicating that ready to afford the maximum practicable assistance to Finland and Norway and Sweden being approached (Dominions Office cable to Whiskard).

[2] As similar doubts of transport system felt in regard to aid to Finland in the event of German action indication of assistance being limited to maximum practicable and possible [3] immediate staff talks.

My impression of the position is that numbers indicated by Finns greater than needs or expectations but put forward to induce maximum increase of numbers first suggested by Allies which regarded as quite inadequate.

Prompt French acquiescence not the result of careful appreciation of practical possibilities, but due to political considerations, French public opinion being very roused and vocal as to the necessity of saving Finland. French action has considerably ...

[4] as opinion here similar though not so pronounced.

Allies' consideration not only being given to question of how to save Finland but also how to place responsibility elsewhere if efforts fail, e.g., France to United Kingdom, United Kingdom to Sweden.

BRUCE

1 Corrected from Bruce's file copy (on AA: M100, March 1940).

2 See U.K. Dominions Secretary's cablegram Z18 of 2 March 1940 to Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, U.K. High Commissioner in Australia (on file AA: A1608, H41/1/2). In messages to the Norwegian and Swedish Govts the U.K. Govt had pointed out that the only effective way to assist Finland, whose military position was becoming desperate, was to send Allied forces across Norway and Sweden. The Allies would afford Norway and Sweden extensive military assistance in the event of a strong German reaction. If, however, the Norwegian and Swedish Govts refused co-operation they would have to bear in the eyes of their own public opinion and of the world a heavy measure of responsibility for the fate of Finland.

3 Bruce's file copy (on AA: M100, March 1940) read 'suggestion of'.

4 This group was mutilated in transmission. The copy circulated in Canberra had 'encouraged United Kingdom Government' appended as a possible decipher, but Bruce's file copy read embarrassed United Kingdom Government'.

[AA: A981, EUROPE 30, ii]