No. 179 NAI DFA 219/4

Confidential report from William Warnock to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Berlin, 18 May 1940

The German advance into Holland and Belgium took everybody by great surprise, even though there had been the suggestion from time to time that such might happen. The breaking of Dutch resistance after a few days adds, in the German view, another country to the list of victims of British and French promises, which now reads:- Abyssinia, Red Spain, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Finland, Norway, and Holland.

The general feeling is that the War has at last begun. It has always been said here that Germany will win, and that everything will be over by next autumn, and if the astounding successes of the German armies continue as at present (the news of the entry of German troops into Brussels came last night), it looks as if there may be something in this belief.

There is no hilarity, and there is much anxiety, but, naturally enough, pride and satisfaction are expressed on all sides. The man-in-the-street regrets the necessity for the invasion of Belgium and Holland (particularly the latter country). He has however, read in his newspapers that the Western Powers were planning to attack the Ruhr through the Low Countries, and consequently, in self-defence, the Fuhrer decided to anticipate them. In one week's fighting the following has been accomplished:

(1) The Dutch Army has capitulated. The flooding of the dykes, which was thought would work wonders of defence, presented no great obstacle to the German advance.

(2) The most modern of the Belgian forts and defences have been taken, and more than half of the country has been occupied.

(3) The Maginot-Line has been broken on a sixty-mile front, and its alleged impregnability shown to be a myth.

(4) The German Air Force has been proved to be an irresistible striking force, particularly in combination with tanks and armoured cars. The diving-bombers can silence even seemingly impregnable fortresses.

(5) Great Britain, the real enemy, is within easy striking distance, and her population, secure for hundreds of years, are in dread.

British air-raids on German territory have not caused much damage to military objectives, but the civil population has suffered. The Western Powers are endeavouring to distract attention from their failures by stories of German atrocities, which are usually old stories of the last war served up anew. It is strongly denied that German parachute-troops land in disguise, and the Supreme Command has issued a warning that severe reprisals will be taken if any parachutists are maltreated or wrongfully shot by enemy forces or by civilians.

The German forces are still smashing their way through Anglo-Belgo-French forces in Belgium and systematically breaking down all resistance, and I must say that even neutral circles here are expressing the view that Germany will win the war. But, even though events seem to be very much in favour of Germany at the moment, and the Allies have lost all the initiative, it is perhaps still too early to attempt to forecast the result.

Everybody is agreed on one thing:- that Germany will endeavour to get in a sharp blow on actual British territory, probably by intense air-raids, and maybe even with parachute troops. It is thought that this would have a shattering effect on the morale of the self-centred and self-satisfied British, who, secure on their island, have been free from foreign invasion for centuries, and have been able to regard Europe from a distance, and have one nation after another shed its blood for them. If any fighting had to be done, it was done on the Continent. But as the Fuhrer says, 'there are no longer any islands now!' The Germans, if successful, will by a mass combination of aeroplanes and submarines, isolate Great Britain completely.

The Taoiseach's reference in his speech at Galway to the invasion of Holland and Belgium was not reported, but his re-affirmation of our neutrality was given much publicity.1 I gather from some remarks passed to me by a member of the Press Section of the Foreign Office that the Taoiseach's remarks on the invasion were not too well received. I may say by way of explanation that every German is convinced that the Fuhrer was right in anticipating an Allied attack through these countries, whose Governments had ill-concealed their enmity to Germany ever since the outbreak of war.

[signed] W. Warnock

1 See No. 175.

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