No. 209 NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)
(Most Secret)

Dublin, 1 July 1940

Weekend Developments in the War Situation

The hourly increasing gravity of the war situation and its implications for us can be seen in the events of the weekend, which are briefly as follows:-

1. The Open Breach between France and England. The British have allowed General de Gaulle, an Under Secretary of State in charge of military operations in the Reynaud Cabinet, to set himself up in Great Britain as head of a National Committee for France. General de Gaulle, in a broadcast statement last night, makes it clear that his Committee does not regard Marshal Pétain's Government as the legal and established Government of France. He has been cashiered by Gen. Weygand, Minister for Defence, and ordered to return at once to France. Churchill made a statement yesterday expressing the grief and amazement of the British Government at the acceptance by the 'French Government at Bordeaux' of the armistice terms. He said that such an acceptance meant that the soil of France and the resources of the French Empire and the French Government would be used against France's ally with the approval of the Bordeaux Government. In an official statement issued from London, described on the radio as 'official comment', Pétain's Government is accused of having submitted to the shame of handing over territory and material for war against the ally with whom France has a solemn agreement not to conclude a separate peace.

Last night on the French radio, Marshal Pétain answered the British. He said that Churchill was a judge of the interests of his own country, but he could not be a judge of the interest of France. France's honour was in the keeping of France and her flag was without a stain. No one could divide France at the moment when her country was suffering. The French people, he said, were showing a greater spirit in their defeat than if they had given in to 'vain and illusory suggestions'.

It is quite clear from Pétain's statement that he and his colleagues rejected Britain's suggestion for a Franco-British union and a sharing of all resources because they were fully convinced that a British defeat was inevitable.

2. The German terms, as published by the British exclusively, while severe enough on the military side, provide for the continuation of the French Government's jurisdiction over the whole of France. The Navy, except so much of it as is required for the defence of the French overseas empire, is to be disarmed. No part of it is to be used for the prosecution of the war against Britain except those units necessary for coast-watching and minesweeping.

3. The Japanese Government have _________1 up their forces to the close neighbourhood of British territory at Hong Kong, and Japanese Committees in Tokyo are sending messages of congratulations to the German and Italian Governments.

Russia has officially denied that she is concentrating any forces against Germany.

The taking over of the Baltic States is, no doubt, in accordance with her original pact with Germany, which must include a reversion to the 1914 position, and perhaps also an Atlantic port in Northern Norway as well as freedom of action towards India and the Persian Gulf. There cannot be any reasonable doubt that the partition of Asia between Japan and Russia, with formidable concessions to Germany and Italy, has been decided upon in detail.

The King of Egypt, following the resignation of Ali Maher Pasha's Government, is having long discussions with the British Ambassador in Cairo, clearly resisting the latter's attempt to bring Egypt into the war. The Arab States are discussing with Turkey the future position of the Middle East.

Roumania has created a Totalitarian State, with King Carol as the principal leader, and a pro-Axis policy has been outlined. Bulgaria is leaning more and more towards Germany. The Press of Greece and Yugoslavia has gone pro-Axis, and Russia has declared on the Moscow Radio that she has no intention of resuming 'the Imperialistic policy of Pan-Slavism'; therefore, she is not going to interfere on the side of the Slav States in the Balkans.

It does not seem that there is a single organised State left in Europe or Asia which is not ready to profit by what they regard to be the impending downfall of Britain.

In America, President Roosevelt seems to have overreached himself. He has infuriated the Republican Party by the appointment of Stimson2 and Knox,3 and Isolationism, which up to now was held by nebulous and scattered groups, is likely to become the fixed policy of the Republican Party.

4. Anglo-Irish Position. The British weekend Sunday Press takes a very serious view of the situation.

There is an interesting article by Major Fielding Elliott4 in the 'Sunday Express'. It was clearly released or sponsored by the British Government in order to show the people how dangerous the situation is and perhaps to prepare their minds for peace. He declares that the task of the Navy is more difficult than it has ever had to face before. Germany can blockade the Straits of Dover so that no merchant vessel can pass up that way. From Norway, she can prevent entrance into the North Sea. The greater part of British shipping will have to use west coast ports, principally Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. The approach between Land's End and Ireland will be far more dangerously covered by German aircraft operating from Brittany, than the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland. 'Both of these channels will see a tremendous congestion of shipping in conditions which will be ideal for the operation of submarines as far as the location of targets is concerned.' 'Even an attack on Éire is not to be discarded. At the tip of Brittany, the Germans would be under 300 miles from the south coast of Éire'. In this connection, it is interesting to note a statement made by Admiral Luetzow5 on the German radio last night in the 11.15 p.m. talk. He said that the east and south coasts of England were already almost useless, and that Germany would very soon put the west coast into a similar position by operating with her aeroplanes and U-boats (plus the Italian U-boats) against Britain in the Irish Sea.

Hilaire Belloc,6 in the 'Sunday Times' on the 'Pros and Cons of Invasion', having mentioned the possibility of aid coming from the Soviets or from the United States, went on to say 'there are other indeterminates (including Ireland) upon which we cannot yet pronounce, but which might in a moment change the whole situation'.

The weekend British Press is remarkably quiet in our regard. The articles in the 'Daily Mail' and the 'Evening Standard' of Friday (the latter clearly officially inspired) seemed to presage a fierce campaign over the weekend. It may be that our protest (made on Friday) has been effective. We cannot, however, exclude the hypothesis that the Press campaign to bring us in through fear on the side of Britain has been given up in favour of direct and immediate measures to be taken without warning.

The High Commissioner saw Lord Caldecote yesterday. The latter was exceedingly distressed. He was unshaven. He and his colleagues had been up during the whole of the previous night waiting for the Armistice terms. He described the late, but especially the present, French Government as 'rapscallions', who had no sense of honour or right dealing. They had made the position of the British Ambassador impossible by refusing to keep him au courant or give him information. Caldecote believed that they were all right as they had the Fleet, etc., but God help us. At lunch yesterday, Dulanty met Chamberlain's Private Secretary,7 who said to him 'You are going to have a terrible time, you will all be murdered.'

In connection with the British description of the present French Government, it is interesting to recall that Pétain and Weygand are, and have been, very distinguished French Catholics held in the highest esteem. They belong to the French traditionalists who take the view that France has been brought to the present pass by the corruption of Freemason and pseudo-Democratic Governments, especially that of the Front Populaire.8 We may, therefore, expect to see developing in France very soon an anti-Semite and anti-Freemason campaign. Indeed, although the French are not likely to be so ruthless as the Germans, a movement towards Totalitarianism must be regarded as a probability of the immediate future. The probability has been increased by the foolish policy of Britain in ignoring the movement towards the Right in France and Spain and in supporting elements who did not represent the fundamental traditions of the people. Britain's final folly was committed during the weekend, when Churchill, by his accusations and his support of de Gaulle, threw France into the Totalitarian bloc and made England's defeat inevitable.

1 Word missing in original typescript.

2 Henry L. Stimson (1867-1950), United States Secretary of War (1940-45).

3 Frank Knox (1874-1944), United States Secretary of the Navy (1940-4).

4 Major George Fielding Elliot (1894-1971), journalist, military and naval correspondent and news analyst for CBS, also a prolific writer of short stories.

5 Vice Admiral Luetzow (1881-1964), German radio commentator on naval matters, attached to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine (1939-45).

6 Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), French-born Catholic writer who later became a British subject; a prolific commentator and writer during the first half of the twentieth century.

7 Possibly John Colville or Douglas Alexander.

8 The alliance of left-wing movements and parties that formed the government of France from 1936 to 1938.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO