File No. 811.203/2

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page ) to the Secretary of State 1

[Telegram]

7142. I have received under date of the 5th instant from the Foreign Office a note of which the following is the full text:

I have the honor to inform you that the competent department of His Majesty’s Government have drawn my attention to certain difficulties that may be found by the United States military authorities in the maintenance of discipline among United States officers and soldiers when serving in this country owing to the existing English law relating to arrest for and the trial and punishment of offenses committed in this country.

His Majesty’s Government are advised that by the doctrine of extraterritoriality organized bodies of United States troops in this country are, within the limits of the quarters occupied by them, subject to their own system of discipline and their own laws and may be dealt with by their own military authorities and may be arrested, tried, and punished accordingly. Outside the limits of their quarters, however, they are liable to be dealt with by the English criminal courts for any offenses against the English criminal law but could not be apprehended for any purely military offense (such as desertion, absence without leave, etc.) either by their own or the English military police or by the civil police, nor could they in any case legally be handed over to their own military authorities to be dealt with. His Majesty’s Government are also advised that the preceding observation with regard to officers and soldiers forming part of an organized body of troops whilst outside the limits of their quarters applies equally to individual officers and soldiers not forming part of an organized body in the [this?] country. It would, I understand, be in accordance with the wishes of the United States authorities if steps could be taken to legalize the assistance of the military and civil authorities in this country in handing over to their own military authorities United States officers and soldiers who may be found outside the limits of the quarters occupied by United States troops in this country and who may appear to have committed an [Page 734] offense against their national military discipline or law with a view to their being dealt with by the United States military authorities.

His Majesty’s Government are advised that, if the United States authorities are desirous of such assistance as is outlined in the preceding paragraph, the best and speediest method of giving effect to such desire would consist in the passing of a regulation under the Defense of the Realm Acts, giving power to the British military authorities in general terms to make and revoke or vary orders from time to time for subjecting United States and other Allied troops in this country to their own systems of military discipline and for arresting and handing them over to their own military authorities, either in this country or abroad, in case of any alleged military or criminal offense whether such offense was contrary to English law or not. I have the honor to request Your Excellency to be so good as to inform me whether the above suggestions recommend themselves generally to the United States authorities and whether there are any special points which suggest themselves as requiring consideration in the framing of the suggested orders. In particular I should be [pleased] to learn whether, if it can be so arranged, the United States authorities would desire to have the right to retain in imprisonment in this country United States soldiers who may be sentenced by their military courts to undergo terms of imprisonment. Finally, I may point out to Your Excellency that by virture of sections 153 and 156 of the Army Act it is an-offense for a civilian to assist a deserter from the British Army and to purchase equipment from an officer or soldier of the British Army unless such equipment were sold by permission of the military authorities. I shall be grateful if Your Excellency will state whether the United States authorities would desire similar provisions to be applied as regards their troops in this country.

Page
  1. This telegram was referred to the Secretary of War, Sept. 17.