Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr N. Chamberlain, U.K. Prime Minister, and Mr S.M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London

Cablegram unnumbered 15 June 1939,


A perusal of the cables and other communications received from the Dominions Office in relation to the international situation has left me with a definite impression that France has not been as helpful as she might have been in clearing up matters outstanding between Italy and herself I have been much struck by the idea that Italy is in reality uneasy about her German alliance and realises that the strengthening of Germany which that alliance brings about may very well result in making Germany a Mediterranean power, since it is difficult to believe that Hitler [1] would any more scruple to break his word to Mussolini [2]-once his objective seemed within reach-than he has scrupled to break it to other people. For weeks past I have had the feeling that a generous approach by France would have pleased Italy and would therefore have weakened the axis and also the possibilities of Spanish alliance. A settlement between France and Italy would also, I imagine, have a big effect on Russia and both the Baltic and the Balkan States.

I cannot escape the thought that, while at one stage in the face of Italy’s threatening demands Daladier’s [3] attitude was the only possible one, now that there has been a long silence on the part of Italy, France might without danger of the loss of prestige take the initiative towards negotiations.

Naturally I realise that these considerations have been in your mind and that my underlining of them is probably quite unnecessary. But from the point of view of Australia, the continued deterioration of French/Italian relations may very well lead to some arrangement with Spain, and to a most dangerous Mediterranean position which would have its inevitable effect upon the security of Singapore and therefore of Australia.

I know that you have the best possible information and would like you to know that your wisdom and strength are much appreciated by all the members of my Cabinet, but at the same time feel that you will understand my giving all emphasis to the points I have mentioned. [4]


1 Adolf Hitler, German Chancellor.

2 Benito Mussolini, Italian Head of State.

3 Edouard Daladier, President of French Council of Ministers.

4 Bruce met the U.K. Ambassador to France, Sir Eric Phipps, in Paris on 22 June 1939 and informed him of the Australian Government’s view that the French attitude on negotiations with Italy, Spain and Turkey was creating an extremely difficult and dangerous position. Bruce stressed that the U.K. Government’s fear of hurting French susceptibilities carried the danger of antagonising both Australia and South Africa. Phipps responded with a defence of the French Government’s position (see record of conversation on file AA: M104, item 7(i)).


[AA: A981, FRANCE 67, ii]