The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

No. 7031

Sir: I have the honor to state that, according to a Foreign Office official, one of the most disturbing problems confronting the British in their relations with the smaller Allied Powers is the situation of General Mihailović. The Department is aware of the assistance that the British have been able to render the General by dropping necessary supplies to him in the Jugoslav mountains where he is conducting his operations. Such tangible support coincides with active political support, as he is the titular Jugoslav Minister of War.

A discordant note has, however, been thrown into this relationship by the increasing activities of certain guerrilla groups, or partisans, which have come into prominence in the last six months. These partisans are mostly located along the Dalmatian coast and in Croatia; and they appear to be small bands with local leadership who at first confined themselves to attacks on General Mihailović. Lately, however, they have also been sabotaging and attacking the Nazis and Italians. (There are enclosed extracts19 from an article in the Observer of January 3, 1943, giving further information concerning Mihailović and the guerrilla groups.) There seems to be no really prominent leader of these groups, but they are numerous enough to warrant the attention and concern of the Jugoslav, British, and Soviet Governments.

Naturally the Jugoslav Government is hostile to the partisans because of their attacks on Mihailović. Similarly, the British have, of necessity, to accord full backing to Mihailović as he is an actual member of the Yugoslav Government now in London.

On the other hand, the Soviet Government has seen fit, said the Foreign Office official, to give encouragement to the partisan groups, as evidenced by various radio messages from Moscow. These broadcasts also have attacked Mihailović. It is interesting to note that the partisan bands are, according to this official, approximately 70% Communist in character.

He points out that the Soviet’s support of the partisans is not only a source of deep embarrassment to the British Government, but also is not a good augury for the future. If the Soviet Government is trying to capitalize on the local Jugoslav situation to foment Communist disturbances at this time, it indicates further activities along these lines in the future as well as possibilities of additional chaos in the Balkan peninsula at the conclusion of the war. The British Government [Page 970]has directly approached the Soviet Embassy in London regarding Soviet support of the partisans and the attacks on Mihailović. The Soviets claim that they have no direct influence or communication with the partisans, which may in effect be true, but nevertheless messages must reach the partisans from the Moscow radio stations.

Another contributing factor to this embarrassing situation is the attitude taken by the London Daily Worker towards Mihailović. In its issue of December 29, 1942, this paper stated in part:

“His [M. Ninćić, former Jugoslav Minister of Foreign Affairs]20 departure, however, would not necessarily mean a serious new approach to the military problems which must be tackled if Mihailovich’s attitude is to be prevented from any longer weakening the resistance of the Yugoslavs to the invaders on the wide partisan battlefronts in Yugoslavia itself.”

The Foreign Office official stated that, regardless of other circumstances, the British Government would of course continue its support of General Mihailović.

Respectfully yours,

For the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim:
W. J. Gallman

First Secretary of Embassy
  1. Not reprinted.
  2. Brackets appear in the original despatch.