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File No. 763.72/4499

The British Ambassador ( Spring Rice ) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: The Foreign Office have telegraphed to me asking if you could lend us your assistance in the following matter.

You are no doubt aware of the recent increased activity of German submarines against Allied hospital ships. These inhuman and illegal practices have made it necessary to contemplate keeping the wounded for treatment in the various theatres of military operations, instead of bringing them away to England and other countries where they could, to a large extent, be treated in civilian hospitals. This course would necessitate obtaining a large increase in staffs of doctors and nurses, of whom there is a danger of shortage even now.

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With a view to meeting this difficulty it has been suggested that the United States Government might be willing to adopt, as one of the measures of cooperation in the Allied cause, a scheme for organising military hospitals, for service in England and abroad, based on United States Army establishments and paid and administered by the United States Government, each hospital being complete with personnel and all material other than buildings. The idea is that any hospitals so formed should be put unreservedly at the disposal of the British Government, on the condition that in the event of United States troops coming to Europe these hospitals should be handed over to their use. I venture to hope that this scheme may commend itself to you and the United States military authorities. Among many other advantages, it is evident that the experience gained by such American hospital units would be of great use to them when they rejoin their own troops.

My Government have decided, on reflection, that the most satisfactory solution of the difficulty would be for the new hospitals to be organised by the military medical authorities in the United States Department of War, rather than by a voluntary organisation. In order to give you an idea of the extent of our immediate needs, I venture to enclose herewith, a summary of the constitution, establishment, and rates of pay of a British general hospital.1 Six such hospitals are urgently desired.

I am writing to you on this subject in advance of the arrival of the British mission now on its way to this country, in view of the extreme urgency of the matter.2

Believe me [etc.]

Cecil Spring Rice
  1. Not printed.
  2. This letter was referred to the Secretary of War, Apr. 21. For an account of the arrival in England of the first base-hospital unit, see despatch No. 898, May 19, received June 4, from the Consul at Liverpool, post, p. 84.