The British Ambassador (Halifax) to the Secretary of State


My Dear Ed: I send you a copy of a personal telegram I had last night from the Prime Minister, that will set out the feeling of His Majesty’s Government about Sforza more completely perhaps than you have yet had it before you.

I have, of course, made plain to London that I supposed the principal point on which the State Department had felt disturbed, had been the fact that we had said what we had in regard to Sforza without previous consultation with you.

The feeling of London on this would be, I think, that the thing came up very suddenly and Noel Charles had to express an opinion almost immediately, having regard to the undesirability of allowing the Italians to go on with their Cabinet making, without knowledge of how His Majesty’s Government felt about Sforza.

I am going off to New York and will call you up and come and see you, if I may, when I get back in two days time.

Yours ever,

top secret

Personal Message From the Prime Minister to Lord Halifax, Dated December 4th, 1944

“1. There is no question of His Majesty’s Government putting a veto on the appointment of Count Sforza to be Prime Minister or Foreign Minister of Italian Government. What is certain however is that he will not command the slightest trust or confidence from us, and that the Italian Government might be thought ill-advised in making difficulties for themselves in this matter with one of the two Great Powers to whom Italy has unconditionally surrendered and whose armies are still skirmishing on a large scale in their country. We felt ourselves fully entitled to make the Italian Government aware of our view upon this matter because we have been accorded command in the Mediterranean, as the Americans have command in France, and therefore we have a certain special position and responsibility. Before Italian personalities take their decision about the [Page 268] appointment of Count Sforza, they ought surely to have been put in possession of our thoughts upon such a subject.

2. The reasons why we have lost all confidence in Count Sforza arise primarily from his letter to Mr. Berle of September 23rd 1943.1 This letter was written at a moment when we were deprecating to the State Department his being sent to Italy at all. We felt sure that he was only going to make trouble with the struggling community and administration, of whose help, though they were defeated, we had military need. The arrival of this letter which was communicated to us, decided His Majesty’s Government to withdraw our objections to Count Sforza’s repatriation. On his way to Italy, Count Sforza lunched with me and I took occasion to show him a copy of his letter to Mr. Berle and asked him to say on his honour, as a gentleman, whether these were his sentiments or not. He gave me the most positive assurances. Witnesses can be produced.

3. No sooner however had he returned to Italy than he began violent and continuous intrigues against the Badoglio Government. This Government, it may be remembered, had effected surrender to us of the Italian fleet. So great an importance did we attach to this surrender that, rather than divide it up with the Russians we provided 13 ships out of 14 from the Royal Navy to satisfy the Russian claim, the United States providing the cruiser “Milwaukee”.

4. When the Badoglio Government fell in the circumstances which both our great Allies, the United States of America and U. S. S. R. have admitted were irregular, Signor Bonomi took office under the prescribed conditions. Count Sforza figured as Minister for the purge, and it was under his administration that the far from edifying incident of two hour lynching of Donato Carretta took place in Rome. All the time Count Sforza has been intriguing against Signor Bonomi, with the formation of whose Government he had been prominently concerned. In particular he had interfered so much with the work of the Italian Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Visconti Venosta, that the latter declined to continue in office. The opinion of the Italian Government and of its Prime Minister has been clearly shown by their marked wishes to have Count Sforza’s civil capacities win their full play at a very considerable distance from the shores of Italy. The Count has, for some time past, been weighing honourable employment of Ambassador to the United States against his chance of getting something better out of a political upset in Rome. He has played a leading part in making Signor Bonomi’s position so impossible that he had to resign.

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5. In short, if I were compelled, which I should regret, to state my objections to Count Sforza as Prime Minister or Foreign Minister, I should be forced to tell the House of Commons, in my own defence, that I regard him as a man who has broken his word of honour to me, as set forth in a document which I put to him categorically. I should also be forced to disclose the fact that I consider him not only a man who has broken his word but also an intriguer and mischief-maker of the first order, and that there was a very strong suspicion that in these evil courses consideration for his own advancement played an important, if not a decisive part. It should also be remembered that he, like these other Italian Ministers who are put in as stop gaps till the will of the Italian people can be expressed, has absolutely no popular mandatory or democratic authority of any sort or kind, and that this would have to be pointed out too. These would certainly not prove favourable auspices for his future relationships with His Majesty’s Government.

6. Finally, you should remind our friends, as I shall, if necessary, remind the President, of the great trouble I have taken personally to secure mitigations of Italy’s position. At Quebec I laid before the President a series of proposals, all of which have been carried out and some improved upon, for easing the Italian situation, especially before the Presidential elections. I consider therefore that I am entitled to expect considerate treatment from the State Department.”

  1. Not printed.