File No. 763.72114/2856

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page ) to the Secretary of State


7084. Your 5282 August 9, 5 p.m. My 7023, August 24, 6 p.m.1 Foreign Office memorandum states that the question of supplies for Allied prisoners has been receiving earnest consideration.

Respecting Russian and French prisoners the British Government’s activities have been limited to meeting so far as possible requests for supplies from this country. Respecting the Rumanians, however, the British Government has also financially assisted their relief organizations, and in the case of the Serbs the British Government has both provided funds and sent wheat from England to Berne through British General Headquarters in France. Thus Russian prisoners are now receiving no direct assistance from either the Britannic or the French Government, and it is therefore suggested that if British and American Governments can jointly find the necessary tonnage the American Red Cross might feel able to extend some relief to Russian prisoners.

Regarding shipping there are two proposals: (1) the Danish Red Cross desire to charter a Danish ship not required for general Allied purposes, or to persuade the German Government to lend a ship with neutral crew on condition that half her space be devoted to loading supplies for German prisoners in Russia; (2) the Russian Embassy has suggested the use of some of the Dutch ships now detained in the United States.

The British Government regards Allied prisoners as having as strong a claim to be fed as any other Allied persons not actively engaged in warfare, and will act on this principle subject to the consideration from time to time of the total Allied requirements and supplies and of the security in each case available as to the supplies reaching prisoners. The amount of the supplies allowed by British Government to enter enemy countries will be governed by these considerations regarding center of distribution:

Berne as the sole center seems unsuitable because, first, the forwarding of sufficient supplies over French railways is already very difficult; second, Berne is the only center from which any particulars can be sent to Austria. For these reasons any additional relief to prisoners in Germany should so far as possible be given from Holland or Denmark.
Food from Great Britain is mainly sent in parcels to individual prisoners, but the Allied countries mostly send it [Page 629] in bulk consigned to camp committees, the British Government recognizing that the parcels system is inapplicable to Russians in Germany owing to absence of lists of names and to bad faith of large numbers.
There are no other conditions.
The British Government has no objection to supplies for Russian prisoners of war being distributed from Copenhagen.

The British Government considers that a scheme should be drawn up for relief of Allied prisoners of war and proposes to avail itself of Mr. A. C. Harte’s visit to England early in September to convene a conference for discussion of this question. It is hoped that the American Red Cross may be able to send a representative to this conference.

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  1. Not printed.