Volume 6 1939~1941

Doc No.

No. 172 NAI DFA Paris Embassy 19/34A

Extract from a confidential report from Seán Murphy to Joseph P.Walshe (Dublin)

Paris, 14 May 1940

The tendency here, both in official and other circles, is to represent the new stage on which the war has entered as a result of the German invasion of Holland and Belgium, as not likely to give any definite result for some time. M. Frossard, Minister for Information, spoke on the radio at least twice in the last three days, and exhorted public opinion not to be expecting any rapid developments. The Military Correspondents all take the same view. They contend that the Allied plan of campaign involves preparations extending over several days, and that until these preparations are complete, Allied resistance to Germany cannot be expected to reach its maximum. On the whole they argue that the Belgian resistance is as effective as was to be expected, although they regret the fall of the fortress of Eben-Emael.1 As far as the Dutch resistance is concerned, General Duval and the Paris Soir both point out that the traditional Dutch military tactics are to withdraw into the stretch of country between Haarlem, Utrecht and Rotterdam. Duval, in today's Journal says that 'the general progress of the Germans has only a relative and temporary substance. The battle is only beginning; it is clear that it will be hard and will require all our energy.' The military correspondent of today's Petit Parisien expresses more or less the same view. He lays particular stress on the success of a detachment of French tanks, which in the region of St. Trond were reported in last night's French war communiqué, to have counter attacked, and inflicted heavy losses on a German tank detachment. He states that this encounter proved the great superiority of the French tank material. The Journal and some others have suggested that the French should carry out reprisals for the bombardment by the Germans of French cities.

2. The military situation is naturally the dominating pre-occupation of the press at the moment. The 'Journal des Debats', however, had a leader on the changes in the French Cabinet. The paper more or less maintains its critical attitude towards the participation of the Socialists in the Government. It doubted whether 'the presence of two national Ministers will suffice to correct the notorious imperfections of the Cabinet' and held that it was 'with the idea of being useful, preventing bad decisions and urging good ones' that M. Marin2 and M. Ybarnegaray3 joined the Cabinet. On the other hand the Socialist Party Congress which met on the 12th inst. agreed to postpone all discussion of internal politics. It was thought that much might have been said both in regard to the responsibilities for M. Daladier's fall and participation in the Reynaud Cabinet.

The retirement of Mr. Chamberlain, and the arrival of Mr. Churchill as Prime Minister have not been extensively commented on. Bernus in the 'Journal des Debats' thinks that Mr. Churchill will be excellent, 'if – as there is reason to think, experience has added to his energy and spirit of initiative, an element of prudence or ponderation.' He thinks that history will do justice to Mr. Chamberlain's efforts for peace. This was also the view of Le Temps.

[matter omitted]

1 Belgian fortress on the Belgian-German border between Liège and Maastricht, near the Albert Canal. Built between 1931 and 1935 it was thought impregnable. On 10 May 1940 German paratroopers landed on the fortress with gliders and one day later, reinforced by German infantry, they captured the fortress.

2 Louis Marin (1871-1960), academic and politician, joined Reynaud's cabinet on 10 May 1940.

3 Michel Albert Jean Joseph Ybarnegaray (1883-1956), served as Minister of State in Reynaud's government from 10 May 1940.