No. 151 NAI DFA 219/7

Extract from a confidential report from Francis T. Cremins
to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(S.Gen.1/1) (Confidential)

Geneva, 12 April 1940

[matter omitted]

The pro-German attitude of the Italian press and radio in connection with the attack on Norway and Denmark has been much commented upon in this country where it is a matter of extreme concern. As regards the radio, the Italian accounts were violently pro-German on the first day, but several persons remarked that it was slightly more 'nuanced' on the second day. The attitude of the Swiss press is whole-heartedly against the German action, and the German losses have been set out in large headlines. Amongst the public, I have so far detected little anxiety regarding the possibility of the early intervention of Italy in the war, to which I referred in my note of the 10th instant,1 though British official circles are, I find, anxious in that regard. Everybody, however, is interested in the possibility of developments in the Balkans and the near East, and are speculating as to the attitude of Italy if trouble developed in those regions. There is also a growing fear that if Germany sustained a really serious check in Scandinavia, she might feel compelled to seek another victim in order to create a diversion for German opinion, and that that victim might be Switzerland 'in order that Italy might join in the war and take over the Tessin area.' The acquisition of the Tessin area in Italian Switzerland would certainly not be a sufficiently important bait with which to tempt Italy. Mussolini would I think enter against the allies if he judged that his entrance would be decisive. But, as Briquet says, Italy would not wish to join the losers, and that no doubt applies whether the losers were the Reich or the others. That is a reason why the first checks which the Germans have sustained in connection with their Scandinavian adventure might prevent Mussolini from taking precipitate action, and cause him to hold his hand until he saw how the Germans finally shaped there, provided of course that he had not committed himself irrevocably to something at the Brenner conversations.

The fear here that Switzerland might be a later victim does not at all mean that the Swiss do not hope for a German failure in Norway. The fact that the allies had at last shown themselves as being serious, and effective, in their help to a small State would greatly increase the morale of all those neutrals who feel themselves to be in danger and are, like Switzerland, ready, and well-prepared, to defend themselves.

There is somewhat less optimism here than existed up to a few days ago in regard to the question of hostilities on the West, chiefly owing to the news which is reaching from Holland and Belgium. M. Colijn's recent article, in which he suggested that small States, which found themselves in danger of attack, should seek allied help before the danger came, instead of waiting until it was too late, is much commented upon. I attach an extract,2 though you probably have seen the article. Such a suggestion from M. Colijn is taken as an indication that he believes an early attack on Holland to be almost a certainty. One would imagine that the Germans would not so soon attack in the West, where so much time has been given for defensive preparation, but the misadventures of Germany in the sea operations off Norway suggest that Hitler is capable of serious misjudgments of the situation. He seems to have counted upon a complaisant Norway, which, with his seizure of Denmark and of so many vital points right around the Norwegian Coast, could be relied upon to secure him quickly the control of the country. With Norway secured, he could hope to deal at his ease with Sweden, and thus ensure continued and increased supplies of ore and other commodities, though the latter would have to travel by slower routes than before. At the same time he would have cut off very considerable supplies of foodstuffs and materials from Britain. He could then turn to Roumania for more foodstuffs, etc. and claim that his resistance to the blockade could be continued indefinitely. It would be an attractive programme, but his sea losses at the hands of Norway and the allies show that his first plans at any rate have largely miscarried. It remains to be seen how he will fare in the next few weeks in Norway and possibly Sweden, and whether he will be prepared deliberately to open up new fronts where the allies can make contact with him.

Needless to say, there is much speculation here as to whether the U.S.S.R. will intervene in Norway and Sweden in order to secure an Atlantic port and a share in Swedish iron. The intervention of the U.S.S.R. in the north might make allied intervention in the south-east of Europe inevitable. I have heard here in official British circles the fear expressed that Italy might at any time endeavour to occupy Salonika, a suggestion which I understand comes from Balkan sources. That would immediately involve Greece, and of course Turkey and the allies would hardly be slow to react. I am told that Yugoslavian policy is 'wobbly'. A serious check for Germany in Scandinavia might, however, for the moment at least, cause 'non-belligerents' to avoid adventures. I am told by a Frenchman here who has the reputation of being closely in touch with French Government circles, that if it came, the military people in France would view Italian intervention without too much anxiety. Italy might not of course, if not pressed by the French, interfere at first in the West, unless there was some sort of large-scale offensive in the West by Germany. She would in any case in all probability have her hands pretty full elsewhere.

In view of the uncertainty of the situation, it would be well if the Department could send me at once the instructions applicable to a time of crisis, which I asked for some time ago. (Your semi-official letter of the 27th October, 1939,3 refers).

[signed] F.T. Cremins

1 See No. 149.

2 Not printed.

3 Not printed.

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