Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Circular Cablegram D68 LONDON, 9 November 1939, 10.15 p.m.


My telegram today, Circular D.67. [1]

Draft statement begins:-

Before receiving memorandum of French Government [2] , His Majesty’s Government had already given some preliminary consideration to the question of war aims. They had been prompted to consider this matter not only in order that some guidance might be given at a suitable opportunity to certain sections of British public opinion, but in order that the cause, in whose observance His Majesty’s Government stood united with the French Government, might gain a wider and correctly intelligent support.

2. The cause for which the allied Governments of France and Great Britain have taken up arms is to stop acts of aggression on the part of the German Government in the present, and to ensure against their repetition in future. Two wars imposed on Britain and France in a single generation, by the action of the German Governments differing in outward complexity [sic] but inspired by the same aggressive and invading spirit, are a solemn warning that this spirit, if it be not extinguished and laid to rest by the Germans themselves, must be rendered harmless by those whom it threatens.

3. His Majesty’s Government are therefore in agreement with the French Government desiring to find the surest and most enduring guarantees against any further repetition of German aggression.

They are convinced that such guarantees can only be based on close immediate and continued co-operation between the French Government and His Majesty’s Government during the period which will follow after the defeat of Germany. That co-operation, which during the war will have covered economic as well as military and political problems, should be extended after the war has ended and should, as His Majesty’s Government would hope, be inspired by a common purpose and the outlook on the machinery required to enable the nations of Europe to regain or maintain their liberties and to strengthen their political, social and economic structures.

4. To achieve this common purpose His Majesty’s Government and the French Government must, unless a German Government can be found which is willing and able voluntarily to accept their terms, securely defeat Germany, and this, in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government, constitutes the primary war aim of the two Governments. It is only in the light of circumstances prevailing at the time when their object is achieved that the lines of any territorial settlement can be profitably considered. It would therefore be premature to enter detailed discussion of territorial question. For this reason His Majesty’s Government have been careful not to define in precise terms what they imply by the restoration of independence to Poland and Czechoslovakia, and to limit themselves to referring in general terms to the recovery by the Polish, Czech and Slovak peoples of their liberties. His Majesty’s Government hope that the French Government will adopt a similar attitude. It should, however, be pointed out that while it is hoped to secure independence for all European peoples, one of the weaknesses of post-war settlement was the establishment of a number of small National States which were ‘viable’ neither in military nor economic sense. The settlement was therefore highly unstable, and proved an ineffective barrier to the expansionist ambitions of great Powers either in the West or in the East.

Accordingly it may be necessary to contemplate some form of closer association, at least a system of financial and economic co- operation in Central and South-eastern Europe.

5. For this purpose His Majesty’s Government suggest that it would be wise to encourage at once closer co-operation of the Balkan States and closer co-operation between various refugee groups of Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, and Austrians.

6. As regards the future of the German Reich, His Majesty’s Government agree that the removal of Herr Hitler [3] and his entourage may not be a sufficient remedy against the re-emergence of German militaristic and expansionist ideas but it is not at present possible to tell in what conditions defeat or surrender of Germany will take place, and any suggestion that it was the intention of His Majesty’s Government and the French Government to seek political dismemberment of Germany or to disrupt German unity would have the immediate effect of rallying the German people behind their present leaders. His Majesty’s Government therefore consider it wiser to watch the course of events and to arrange for further consultation as soon as it is possible more closely to forecast the course of internal political developments in Germany.

7. As regards material guarantees the first must evidently be that Germany shall never again be allowed to build up a preponderance of armed force in relation to the United Kingdom and France. The methods of establishing this guarantee may perhaps be left for further consideration and in view of what has been said above it would seem premature to make any public statement of war aims in precise terms. His Majesty’s Government would prefer that the negotiators in agreement should limit their public declaration of general principles on which their common policy is and will continue to be based and that while protecting the world so far as is humanly possible from a recurrence of war, they should emphasise their common desire to secure a post-war settlement, which would be satisfactory not only to themselves but to all the other peoples whose collaboration will be essential in the work of reconstruction.

8. These are the preliminary comments of His Majesty’s Government on the approach made by the French Government. His Majesty’s Government will welcome a further exchange of views with the French Government and will be glad to consider any proposals which the French Government have to make both in regard to the terms on which peace should be concluded With Germany and the wider European settlement which might follow the termination of hostilities.


1 Document 339.

2 See Document 307.

3 Adolf Hitler, German Chancellor.


[AA: A981, WAR 45B, ii]