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27 Cranborne to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 21 LONDON, 19 January 1944, 10.27 p.m.


Your telegram 12, 11th January. [1]

1. We are grateful to you for your views on the three problems dealt with in your telegram under reference. We hope that the following comments will be of assistance in explaining our attitude.

2. Yugoslavia Our attitude is governed by two factors which make it very difficult for us to adopt the course which you propose. These are :

(a) In April, 1941, King Peter was generally accepted by the Yugoslav people as the legitimate head of the Yugoslav state. When he came into exile we welcomed and recognised him as such and he has ever since consistently behaved as a loyal ally. We cannot, therefore, dissociate ourselves from him unless we are convinced beyond any doubt that the Yugoslav people no longer want him. This cannot be until the whole country has been liberated and the people are in a position to decide freely their future form of Government.

(b) Serbia is the heart of monarchist feeling in Yugoslavia and as far as we can judge the great majority of Serbs are still completely loyal to their young king. It is not for us to throw him over on their behalf and perhaps against their wishes.

3. On the other hand, we recognise the Partisans as a formidable military movement fighting side by side with the Allies against the Germans and on this basis we shall continue to send them all possible military assistance irrespective of political developments.

4. The only way which we can see of reconciling this military necessity with our political obligations to King Peter and the Serbian people is to try to bring the King and the Partisans together. We do not intend to force the pace but it is our duty to do everything in our power to reconcile the two groups since there is no other prospect at present of unifying the various political and military forces in Yugoslavia in a common war effort.

5. As for Mihailovic [2], we agree that sooner rather than later he will have to go. We do not feel, however, that we can advise the King to take the risk of destroying his one remaining link with his country and of alienating the loyalty of a large proportion of his subjects unless we know what we can offer him in return. We propose, therefore, to wait for the result of Brigadier MacLean's [3] approach to Tito before deciding how we can best withdraw our support from Mihailovic and persuade the King to do likewise.

6. Greece The position of the King of Greece [4] is very similar to that of King Peter as stated in paragraph 2 (a) above. It is the Greeks themselves who are responsible for raising the constitutional issue and we have felt bound to make it clear that the King as our ally and as the constitutional head of the Greek state is entitled to our support until the Greek people themselves can pronounce on the future regime of Greece. We are, however, most anxious that the question of the King's position should not prejudice unity in Greece and we know that the King himself shares this view. In his broadcast of 4th July he declared that the constitutional issue would be submitted to the Greek people after liberation and in the letter to M. Tsouderos [5] of 8th November, which has recently been published, he agreed to reconsider at the moment of liberation the date of his return to Greece in agreement with his Government. We trust that these two statements will satisfy all reasonable Greek opinion, both in Greece and abroad, and that the question of the monarchy will cease to be a cause of disunity.

Meanwhile, the prospects of unity between Greek bands have improved.

7. Italy It remains our intention to encourage the formation of a widely- based Government as soon as practicable and Badoglio [6] has, in fact, stated that the present Government would resign as soon as Rome falls. But we very much doubt whether any of the political personalities now assembled at Naples will play a prominent part in whatever Government succeeds the present one. Macmillan [7] describes the majority of them as 'typical small-town politicians'.

1 Document 10.

2 See Document 10, note 5.

3 Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean, Head of the U.K. Mission to the Yugoslav Partisans, had taken message from Churchill to Tito urging a common front against the Axis powers, with the monarchy's fate to be decided after the war (see cablegram D92 of 19 January on file AA: A989, E43-44/1000/4/1).

4 King George II.

5 Greek Prime Minister.

6 Marshal Pietro Badoglio, Italian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to 9 June.

7 U.K. Minister Resident at Allied Force Headquarters, Mediterranean Command.

[AA:A989, E43-44/1000/4/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History