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

Circular Cablegram D69 LONDON, 9 November 1939, 11.30 p.m.


My telegram Circular D.52 24th October [1], my telegram Circular D.67 of today. [2] Following is text of telegram of November 6th from His Majesty’s Charge d ‘Affaires at Paris [3]:-

‘In his despatch No. 1442 of 23rd October [4], Sir E. Phipps [5] reported the profound conviction in France that there are not two Germanys, the Germany of Hitler, and another to whose better nature it may trust to advantage as a good neighbour and that peace which follows an allied victory must be one which will ensure French security and preserve peace in Western Europe for something more than a brief generation. He added that there are already signs that many Frenchmen doubt that Great Britain will do what is in their view necessary to win a lasting peace. Sir E.

Phipps reported further by telegram the same day that if the fear in France that Great Britain will again wish to encourage a beaten Germany to greatness were given definite shape, for example, by an announcement of war aims disappointing to the Frenchman, he might well consider that it was not worth while to continue to fight.

2. Information which continues to reach me from all sides confirms the depth and extent of the above feeling. Sir E. Phipps stated that he had received the reports to the above effect from every consular district in France. His Majesty’s Consul at Lille wrote on October 26th that there was no sympathy in his district for any suggestion that allies are fighting for overthrow of Hitler. The aim was destruction of Pan-Germanism and imposition of terms at Peace Conference containing none of the areas (of weakness) commonly associated by Frenchmen with the Versailles Treaty. His Majesty’s Consul-General at Strassburg reported on October 29th that what are considered to be generous illusions of Great Britain about Germany continue to be the subject of persistent but unfounded comment throughout local press, which insists that, if the German people are to form part of a happier Europe, great Germany must be divided into its component units. His Majesty’s Consul at Lyons and the Vice-Consul at St Nazaire have sent similar reports.

3. I cannot be too strong that, while there may be exceptions here and there, perhaps chiefly amongst intellectuals, the above feeling is widespread and profound. As a further illustration I may state that when the British correspondents were first received at French General Headquarters they were addressed by General Pretelat who commands one of the groups of Army on the Front who developed the ideas I have outlined above and added:

“I speak not only for the whole of the Army but for the whole of France”.

4. At the present moment when France feels herself closely united to Great Britain in sympathy and destiny and when the British war effort is being increasingly understood the principal danger to French morale and most fruitful field for conscious or unconscious [? propaganda by] Germany for the present seems to lie in a divergence on the question of war aims. There is already disquiet at the article in The Times, November 3rd [6] , and criticism is appearing in the press. I have suggested semi-officially to Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it would be wise to take any possible steps to avoid a press controversy and I suspect that if it were not for official restraint a great deal more would be said. I feel it would be advisable to try and secure that the British press refrain from too much discussion of war aims on lines that might alarm French opinion and possibly discourage French war effort.

5. I may explain that it would be a complete misunderstanding to interpret French opinion as wishing to crush Germany and keep her crushed. The mass of Frenchmen have certainly not clarified their ideas as to military security and possible division of Germany.

Many undoubtedly think of the creation of a Catholic unit including Austria and part of Southern Germany. Others concentrate merely on the isolation of Prussia. But in any case there is discussion of access to raw materials and the importance of economic organisation and prosperity of component parts of Greater Germany. These ideas in so far as they are expressed are tentative and nebulous but they embody the idea of happier conditions of life for the Germans in a different political and military structure in the hope of diverting their thoughts to worthier objects.

6. The above is the present background of French opinion against which any discussion of war aims must take place. There is at the moment room enough for, and a sufficient body of opinion in France, to lessen compromise between extreme idealistic suggestions such as are sometimes made in letters and articles in the British press and the extreme demands at the opposite end of the scale, such as are sometimes heard in conversations of Frenchmen and (more rarely) advocated in the French press. The compromise would of course have to satisfy the French from the point of view of security. My point is that this desirable situation may well be destroyed by a press discussion which invites a public unofficial controversy between the extreme French and the extreme British points of view. I know that the high officials at Quai D’Orsay are strongly opposed to any public discussion of war aims at present. The prospects of an agreement on war aims reached by confidential inter-Governmental discussion might thus be seriously compromised.’ Copy of His Majesty’s Ambassador’s Despatch 1442, 23rd October is being sent you by this week’s mail.


1 Document 307.

2 Document 339.

3 R.I. Campbell.

4 Not printed.

5 U.K. Ambassador to France.

6 This article (on p. 9) said, inter alia: ‘Great Britain and France are not fighting to-day to maintain the Versailles settlement. They recognise that the building of a new world, so hopefully undertaken in 1919, has all to be done over again’.


[AA: A981, WAR 45B, ii]