Italy declares war on Britain and France

Hitler and Mussolini at an earlier joint parade

The Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini had bided his time since meeting Hitler at the Brenner Pass in March. He was determined to enter the war only if assured of being on the side of the victorious. The collapse of France now seemed imminent and many people believed that Britain would follow soon afterwards. Mussolini wanted the spoils of war without too much risk. He had long wanted to expand his ‘Empire’ and now saw the opportunity to take British dominions in Africa. He told his Armed Forces Chief, Marshal Badoglio:

I only need a few thousand dead so that I can sit at the peace conference as a man who has fought.

Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister, records in his diary:

Mussolini speaks from the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia. The news of the war does not surprise anyone and does not arouse very much enthusiasm. I am sad, very sad. The adventure begins. May God help Italy.

See The Ciano Diaries 1939-1943: The Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943

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