On the 23rd December 1940 Churchill broadcast a speech directed at the Italian people. Various sources, not least interrogation of prisoners of war, made it clear that many Italians were ambivalent about the war and the direction that the dictatorship was taking them. This was all part of a longer campaign to turn the loyalties of the country:
We have never been your foes till now. In the last war against the barbarous Huns we were your comrades. For fifteen years after that war, we were your friends. Although the institutions which you adopted after that war were not akin to ours and diverged, as we think, from the sovereign impulses which had commanded the unity of Italy, we could still walk together in peace and good-will. Many thousands of your people dwelt with ours in England; many of our people dwelt with you in Italy.
We liked each other. We got on well together. There were reciprocal services, there was amity, there was esteem. And now we are at war – now we are condemned to work each other’s ruin.
Your aviators have tried to cast their bombs upon London. Our armies are tearing – and will tear – your African empire to shreds and tatters. We are now only at the beginning of this sombre tale. Who can say where it will end? Presently, we shall be forced to come to much closer grips. How has all this come about, and what is it all for?
Italians, I will tell you the truth.
It is all because of one man – one man and one man alone has ranged the Italian people in deadly struggle against the British Empire and has deprived Italy of the sympathy and intimacy of the United States of America.
That he is a great man I do not deny. But that after eighteen years of unbridled power he has led your country to the horrid verge of ruin – that can be denied by none.
It is all one man – one man, who, against the crown and royal family of Italy, against the Pope and all the authority of the Vatican and of the Roman Catholic Church, against the wishes of the Italian people who had no lust for this war; one man has arrayed the trustees and inheritors of ancient Rome upon the side of the ferocious pagan barbarians.
On the very same day in Italy Mussolini is despondent about the quality of Italian troops, who have been forced out of both Greece and Egypt within the last month. He tells his Foreign Minister, Count Ciano:
I must nevertheless recognise that the Italians of 1914 were better than these. It is not very flattering for the regime, but that’s the way it is.