File No. 855.48/216

The Minister in the Netherlands ( Van Dyke ) to the Secretary of State

No. 215]

Sir: Supplementing my despatch 214 of March 2, and my telegrams 173 of February 27, and 178 of March 2,2 I have the honor to advise you that the German Minister has called upon me this afternoon, bringing a memorandum from his Government in regard to the ships of the Commission for Relief in Belgium. He expressed his personal regret that the memorandum had been so long delayed.

[Page 1035]

I have cabled the substance of the memorandum to you and to Mr. Hoover, the chairman of the relief commission in London. Herewith you will find a copy of the memorandum in the German text with an English translation attached.

It will be observed that this assurance covers the freedom of the relief ships, bearing the flag and markings of the commission, from all molestation by German submarines in the voyage through the English Channel, and that orders to this effect have been issued by the German Government. We have thus obtained a concession of distinct advantage.

But the German memorandum expresses regret that safe-conduct can not be issued to relief ships on their way to and from England, in view of the existing mine danger in the war zone. The exact meaning of the reservation is not clear.

I have [etc.]

Henry van Dyke

Memorandum of the German Government

Naturally the German Government is anxious to give every possible support to the humanitarian work of the relief commission. It will allow the ships of the commission to pass through the English Channel unmolested, if they are recognizable by the usual signs (i. e., name painted on the sides of the vessel in big letters, and white flag with similar designation in red letters) and visibly illuminated at night. German submarines have received instructions to this effect. The guarantee is given on condition that every measure shall be adopted to exclude the misuse of the signs of the relief commission. The German Government will at once communicate with the American Ambassador here, with a view to obtaining from the British Government a declaration that only ships which are really in the service of the relief commission will be allowed to carry the signs of that commission.

The German Government regrets that in view of the danger caused within the war zone by mines, it is impossible to issue safe-conducts for the ships of the relief commission for the voyage to and from England.

  1. Nos. 214 and 178 not printed.