No. 168 NAI DFA 219/4

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

Berlin, 4 May 1940

You will have seen in the press reference to the speech delivered in the Chancellery on Saturday afternoon by the Foreign Minister before the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of the foreign and home press. The invitations were issued suddenly on Friday evening. The entire Diplomatic Corps, from the Ambassadors down to the junior attachés, were invited.

The speech was intended to show that Great Britain had planned to land troops in Norway, and that the Norwegian Government would have connived at such action. British and French diplomatic and consular officials had been engaged for some time past in collecting information regarding Norwegian ports and aerodromes. An expedition was already on its way, but it was anticipated by the German Army and Navy. The British ships on the high seas turned back when the news of the German occupation of Denmark and the most important Norwegian ports became known.

After Herr von Ribbentrop's speech copies of a new White Book were distributed. The book consists of facsimile reproductions of documents found in Norway, as follows:-

  1. Papers taken from British prisoners captured at Lillehammer. It is claimed that these papers show that a British force was on its way to Norway on the 6th and 7th April. Among the ships engaged in the operation was the cruiser 'Glasgow'.
  2. Copies in clear of telegrams sent by the British Consul at Narvik.
  3. A questionnaire sent by the Director of Intelligence at the British Admiralty to the British Consul at Narvik.
  4. Extracts from the papers of the French Naval Attaché in Oslo.
  5. Documents found in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The instructions issued to the 8th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters on the 7th April would indicate that the battalion was on its way to Stavanger that day on board the cruiser 'Glasgow'. The 1st Battalion of the Leicester Regiment was to embark on the 7th April on the steamer 'Cyclops'. A captured diary has an entry under the 7th April: '10.00 hrs. Rosyth, on to H.M.S. Devonshire, to go to Stavanger'. In the German view, these papers refute completely British statements to the effect that the Allies at no time had any intention to occupy Norwegian Territory.

British and French agents had been making arrangements in Norway for some time beforehand. Former British naval officers were appointed as consular officials. They collected information concerning quays, docks, landing-places, etc. They endeavoured to conceal the real aim of their enquiries by mentioning the possibility of Britain's sending assistance for Finland. It appears from the reports of the French Naval Attaché at Oslo that even local military authorities were asked for information, from which the conclusion is drawn that the activities of these agents must have been known to the Norwegian Government – a further proof of unneutral behaviour on its part.

Documents found in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are reproduced to show that Mr. Koht, the Foreign Minister, was not in favour of taking any definite measures to resist a landing by Allied troops, should Britain and France propose to send assistance to Finland through Norway. In his opinion Norway should in such circumstances do no more than enter a formal protest.

The Norwegian Government must have been aware of the general nature of the Allies' intentions. On the 5th February the Norwegian Minister in London sent a confidential report of a meeting of Scandinavian press-men with Mr. Winston Churchill (See E. No. 4). Mr. Churchill is alleged to have declared openly that the aim of the British policy in Scandinavia was to bring Norway and Sweden into the war.

An introductory note to the White Book concludes as follows:- 'Although the Norwegian Government could thus be in no doubt as to England's real intentions, it allowed British espionage on Norwegian territory to continue further. Its whole conduct, as expressed in the anaemic protests against continued English violation of Norwegian territorial waters, amounted to a systematic favouring of anti-neutral intentions on the part of England. The then Norwegian Government thus knowingly advanced the plans of the Western Powers for the extension of the war, and ignored the vital interests of the Norwegian people'.

Both the speech and the White Book have made a profound impression on the German public, and the effect is increased by articles in the newspapers. German people are, in my experience, quite willing to place absolute faith in the utterances of their leaders, and never show much inclination to analyse or criticise them. At present they are in a very patriotic mood, and are cheerfully suffering discomforts in everyday life because they believe that they are fighting a just war – not one of their own choosing, but one which has been forced on them by the British, who grudge Germany a place in the sun. Great Britain with her vast empire, and enormous wealth, cannot bear to think that another country should prosper, for fear that she should lose her predominating position.

The news of the hasty retreat by the British from Southern Norway has, naturally, been received with great jubilation by the German press, and by the people, too. One is prompted to ask what has become of Mr. Churchill's boast that any German ship endeavouring to cross the Skagerrak would be sunk. The British wireless announced regularly every day last week that the German advance towards Dombaas in the Gudorandsdal was being checked, and that fresh British troops were arriving. At the beginning of the campaign it was reported that Bergen and Trondheim had been taken by British forces, and after this had been contradicted, it was announced that the Norwegians had re-conquered Narvik. The only people in ignorance of the Norwegian success were, said British propagandists, the Germans and the Italians. All this has made the Western Powers appear ridiculous in the eyes of the world, and their stock has sunk considerably. Acquaintances of mine from neutral countries are now, for the first time, expressing the opinion that Germany may win the war.

[signed] W. Warnock

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