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

Cablegram 429 LONDON, 7 September 1939, 8.55 p.m.


Allied strategy.

As I was most anxious to send you some communication with regard to allied strategy, I saw on Monday [1] Chatfield [2] and Hankey [3] as two members of War Cabinet, apart from Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who were not available, who I felt were most likely to be able to give useful information and who would have the greatest influence in ensuring that Cabinet immediately faced up to all the vital issues involved.

As a basis for the discussions I prepared two questionnaires visualising:

(a) Italy not in war, and (b) Italy in war.

The following are the questionnaires.

(a) (1) This presumably would mean even if Anglo-Turkish Agreement signed Turkey would remain neutral.

(2) Position of Poland as to munitions. If short-any possibility of supplying-if so, how and by whom? (3) How long is it anticipated that Poland can hold out? (4) What steps [is] it contemplated can be taken to relieve the pressure on Poland (i) in the west (ii) in the east? (5) How is the position in Poland visualised after her armed resistance has been overcome, i.e. what forces would Germany have to retain in the country? (6) Is it contemplated that any steps can be taken to prevent the situation arising that Germany, having defeated Poland militarily, would be in so strong and menacing a position vis-a-vis Rumania that she would be compelled to maintain strictest neutrality and Germany could enforce her will on all Danubian countries including river transport through their territories of supplies particularly oil from Russia? (7) Is it contemplated that with the military defeat of Poland, war on the eastern frontier would cease? (8) If cessation of war on eastern front contemplated, how is it visualised that the war will be continued after military defeat of Poland? (9) If it is contemplated that either the French will break through the Siegfried Line or the Germans through the Maginot Line or that the Germans would attempt to out-flank the Maginot Line through the Netherlands and Belgium, does that not mean armies on the scale of the last war and would not Britain have to go to the aid of France to the same extent as in 1914-1918? (10) Is it considered that British and French would command a sufficient number of divisions to hold full forces of Germany when the lattcr only fighting on one front? (11) Assuming no break through on either side or out-flanking as contemplated in (10)-can a war be kept going with two sides sitting down inside their own defensive lines and carrying on with aerial warfare and blockade? (12) How long is it calculated Germany could keep going economically and financially and in such calculations has the position created by Germany’s becoming responsible for feeding over thirty millions of Poles whose country and resources would have been decimated in the struggle been taken into account?

Questionnaire (b) (1) Assuming complete Anglo-Turkish agreement this presumably means Turkey would be a belligerent.

(2) Turkish participation would presumably not affect Polish munitions position.

(3) What action would be practicable against Italy directly and on the African continent? (4) Would it be contemplated to put a force into Salonica? What strength and how composed? (5) How far would action against Italy and other action in the East assist the Poles in holding out? (6) Would it be contemplated that with Turkey as a belligerent Rumania might be brought in and Turkish and other reinforcements brought into the eastern area? (7) With Turkey a belligerent, would steps be taken to prevent Germany so dominating the Danube countries that they would be compelled to allow river transport through their territories of supplies to Germany particularly from Russia? (8) With Turkey in presumably steps could be taken for policing the Black Sea and preventing supplies flowing into Germany through the Danubian countries from Russia.

Upon the above questionnaires a most useful discussion took place but as the whole strategy will be entirely altered if in fact Polish resistance is rapidly overcome, it is unnecessary to risk sending you dangerous and most secret information I obtained.

Paragraphs (9) to (12) of questionnaire (a) and parts of questionnaire (b) would appear, in the light of developments of the last two days, roughly ones on which we shall have to concentrate and with regard to them I will send a further communication.



1 4 September 1939. Bruce’s notes of this conversation are on file AA:M100, September 1939.

2 Lord Chatfield, U.K. Minister for Co-ordination of Defence.

3 Lord Hankey, Minister without Portfolio in U.K. War Cabinet.


[AA:AA1972/341, Box 6, TELEGRAMS … SEPTEMBER 1939]