File No. 763.72111/2954
The British Ambassador ( Spring Rice ) to the Secretary of State
Dear Mr. Secretary: I have been in telegraphic communication with my Government on the subject of your unofficial letter of August 25, in which you express the hope that in the critical circumstances of the present day it may be found possible to instruct the captain of the British steamship Waimana to land the 4.7-inch gun, [Page 849] which she carries mounted for defensive purposes, before leaving the port of Norfolk.
I have now received an expression of the views of Sir Edward Grey which I beg to communicate to you in a personal letter.
My Government has every desire to meet the convenience of the United States Government at the present moment and would be glad to make an exception of the views they hold in the case of the steamship Waimana were it not for the fact that it would certainly be known elsewhere and quoted as a precedent for abolishing purely defensive armament on vessels engaged solely in the British mercantile service. This right was recognized even before Germany had adopted or threatened the illegal methods of attack pursued by her submarine vessels and Sir E. Grey expresses the hope that you-will understand the reluctance to compromise that right or to create a precedent which might be used to hamper His Majesty’s Government in other cases in taking admittedly legal steps to protect the lives and property of British subjects in non-combatant vessels.
It is believed that the armament of the Waimana and other circumstances comply with the regulations issued by the Department on September 19, 1914, relative to the status of armed merchant vessels, but if this is not so the captain of the vessel will be instructed to take such measures as may be required to ensure compliance with the regulations, and, if necessary, to land the gun and ammunition for the purpose.
I should appreciate it if you would kindly inform me so soon as it may be convenient whether the vessel contravenes in any respect the United States regulations governing such cases.
Believe me [etc.]