Copy of a telegram from Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt, 19 November 1944
➜ CHAR 20/175/47-48
PRIME MINISTER'S PERSONAL TELEGRAM
PRIME MINISTER TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT No. 825
PERSONAL AND TOP SECRET 19.11.44
- Naturally I am very sorry to receive your telegrams Nos. 649 and 650.
- Your message to Uncle Joe (Stalin) means that he will not meet with us before the end of January. Also you give the important reasons which make it difficult for you to come earlier.
- I fear that your long promised visit to Great Britain will not happen, and that we will not meet here in December and ask Stalin. to send Molotov (his foreign secretary) who would be an adequate deputy. It is a great disappointment to me that your visit will be postponed indefinitely.
- I doubt whether Stalin would be willing or able to come to a meeting in the Adriatic (the sea between Italy and Greece) by January 30, or that he would be willing to come on a non-Russian vessel through this extremely heavily mined sea. However, if he accepts we shall of course be there. I note you do not wish the French to be present. I had thought they might come in towards the end because they are so important for helping to control Germany as well to discuss the border between Germany and France along the river Rhine.
- Even if a meeting can be arranged by the end of January, the two and a half month delay will be serious. There are many important matters to settle, for example, the treatment of Germany and the future world organisation, relations with France, the position in the Balkans, and the Polish question, which ought not to be left to get worse.
- Paragraph 2 of your telegram number 649 causes me alarm. If after Germany's collapse you "must bring the American troops home as rapidly as possible" and if the French are to have no equipped or experienced army, how will it be possible to hold down Western Germany which is not under Russian control? We certainly could not do it without your help and that of the French. Everything would get worse as it did after the First World War. I hope I am worrying unnecessarily. I put my faith in you.
Sir E. Bridges
SERIAL NO T.2137/4.
PRIME MINISTER TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT No. 825.
PERSONAL AND TOP SECRET 19.11.44.
- Naturally I am very sorry to receive your Nos. 649 and 650.
- Your message to U.J. [“Uncle Joe”, Joseph Stalin] will of course make it certain that he will not come anywhere before the end of January. Also you yourself give independently the important reasons which make it difficult for you to come earlier.
- These reasons I fear destroy the hope which we had cherished that you would now pay your long-promised visit to Great Britain, and that we two could meet here in December and ask U.J. to send Molotov who would be an adequate Deputy. It is a great disappointment to me that this prospect should be indefinitely postponed.
- There is in my opinion much doubt whether U.J. would be willing or able to come to an Adriatic port
by January 30, or that he would be willing to come on a non-Russian vessel through this extremely heavily mined sea. However if he accepts we shall of course be there. I note you do not wish the French to be present. I had thought they might come in towards the end in view of their vital interests in the arrangements made for policing Germany as well as in all questions affecting the Rhine frontiers.
- Even if a meeting can be arranged by the end of January, the two and a half intervening months will be a serious hiatus. There are many important matters awaiting settlement, for example, the treatment of Germany and the future world organisation, relations with France, the position in the Balkans, as well as the Polish question, which ought not to be left to moulder.
- Para. 2 of your 649 causes me alarm. If after Germany's collapse you "must bring the American troops home as rapidly as transportation problems will permit" and if the French are to have no equipped post-war Army or time to make one, or to give it battle experience, how will it be possible to hold down Western Germany beyond the present Russian occupation line? We certainly could not undertake the task without your aid and that of the French. All would therefore rapidly disintegrate as it did last time. I hope however that my fears are groundless. I put my faith in you.
Sir E. Bridges
What is this source?
This is a telegram from Churchill to President Roosevelt in reply to a message cancelling a proposed meeting in November 1944.
Background to this source
June 1944 saw the long planned invasion by American, British and Commonwealth forces to liberate occupied France in the D-Day campaign. Despite heavy fighting the allies gradually pushed the German forces back and by November had liberated Paris and were advancing through Belgium and the Netherlands. The Russians were also advancing rapidly through Eastern Europe and it was clear that the war against Germany was entering its final phase. Churchill was very keen to host a meeting with Roosevelt and Stalin in Britain during November to discuss plans for the end of the war but Roosevelt postponed the meeting until February 1945.
Churchill refers to Stalin using the initials “U.J” as an abbreviation for “Uncle Joe”. In February 1945, at the Yalta conference, Roosevelt let it slip to Stalin that he and Churchill called Stalin “Uncle Joe”. Churchill felt that Stalin was annoyed by this, although he attempted to conceal his irritation.
Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had already met in Tehran in early 1944 and Churchill was becoming more concerned that Roosevelt regarded Stalin as his main partner in ending the war against Germany. Churchill was clearly deeply worried about what the arrangements would be at the end of the war, particularly if the American forces withdrew from Germany leaving a significant Russian presence in Eastern Europe. Roosevelt did not agree with Churchill’s proposals to re-instate France as a major European power.
Churchill repeatedly pressed Roosevelt to visit the UK but something always prevented a visit actually taking place. Roosevelt had frequent health difficulties but he was also keen to avoid provoking Soviet suspicions about being excluded from discussions and concerned about the possible negative political impact of a visit in the United States.
How can we use this source in the investigation?
Remember we are hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating what was special about the relationship between Britain and America in the latter years of the Second World War. Sources usually help historians in two ways:
Surface level: details, facts and figures
- Churchill sends the telegram from ‘Prime Minister to President Roosevelt’. How is this different to previous telegrams?
- Why is Churchill concerned about Roosevelt postponing the meeting with Stalin?
- What else has Roosevelt said which causes Churchill concern?
- Why is Churchill so worried about what Roosevelt has said?
Deeper level: inferences and using the source as evidence
Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?
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On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference?
Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
America sees the Soviet Union as a more important power in the future
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Churchill and Roosevelt are no longer on such good terms
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The strength of Churchill and Roosevelt’s friendship lets them be open and honest with each other
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There was a special relationship between Britain and America during WW2
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Need help interpreting the source?
- Churchill referred to himself as “Former naval person” in his telegrams to Roosevelt for much of the war, yet in this telegram he chose not to use the term. Churchill had been in charge of the Admiralty (the government department which ran the Royal Navy) in the First World War and it was a link he had with Roosevelt who, at the same time, had served in the US Navy as Assistant Secretary.
- Some historians would argue that this source suggests that the special relationship is virtually non-existent by this stage. But others would disagree.
Explore the guide to interpreting telegrams
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