Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/1



Procès-verbal of the Meeting of the Supreme War Council Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Sunday, January 12, 1919, at 2:30 p.m.

  • Present
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
      • M. Pichon
      • M. Clementel
      • M. Loucheur
      • M. Leygues
      • Marshal Foch
      • Gen. Weygand
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • M. Bearn
      • Capt. A. Portier
    • Great Britain
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour
      • Gen. Sir H. H. Wilson
      • Lieut.-Colonel Sir Maurice Hankey
    • Italy
      • Signor Orlando
      • Baron Sonnino
      • Count Aldrovandi
      • Major A. Jones
    • United States
      • President Wilson
      • Mr. R. Lansing
      • Gen. T. H. Bliss
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux

1. Marshal Foch’s Report on the Carrying Out of the Armistice M. Pichon proposed to begin by inviting Marshal Foch to give an account of the progress made in the execution of the Armistice by Germany.1

Marshal Foch said that the Armistice, as renewed on the 13th December2 and expiring on the 17th January, had been satisfied in a certain measure as regards the surrender of material; 5,000 guns and 25,000 machine guns had been handed over, with the exception of a few hundred guns which were expected shortly, and 300 trench mortars, in regard to which he had no exact information. We might be assured, therefore, that the whole of the war material involved would be in our hands within a few days.

As to railway material, on the 9th January we had 1,967 locomotives out of the 5,000 to be surrendered. Hence, important surrenders of locomotives had still to be made. There had, however, been a marked improvement in the second, as compared with the first month. In the first month the enemy had surrendered less than 500, and in the second month about 1,500. As regards trucks and wagons, on the [Page 470] 9th January 61,560 had been surrendered out of a total of 150,000. In regard to motor lorries the situation was better. On the 9th January we had received 4,422 out of a total of 5,000. The whole of the aircraft as provided in the Armistice had been surrendered, namely, 1,700. What we had now to press for was the completion of the railway material.

2. Prisoners of War On the 8th January 458,355 French prisoners had been returned. This left 28,000 still in Germany. On the question of prisoners we had many observations to make on such points as their treatment, the miserable state in which they were found, more especially the sick, and the sufferings to which they had been exposed. A certain number had even been killed. We had asked for justifications, and received none from the German Government.

Mr. Lansing asked if they had been deliberately killed.

Marshal Foch replied in the affirmative. They had been killed by firearms in camp.

Mr. Lloyd George said he had never heard of those cases. He asked if Marshal Foch meant that German guards had fired on Allied prisoners and killed them.

Marshal Foch replied “Yes”.

Mr. Lloyd George said that we must obtain justice for this.

General Weygand then read an extract from a Report by the French General Nudon (?) [Nudant], the President of the Spa Commission. The General said that every time he brought forward observations in regard to prisoners, the state of their food, and the care for them, the Germans asked for definite facts. When these were brought forward, they tried to evade their responsibility by entrenching themselves behind the state of anarchy in Germany, the lack of authority, and the excesses of the Soviets.

M. Clemenceau asked if there was any definite case in these reports of men being killed.

President Wilson asked General Weygand to turn to that part of the Report and read it.

General Weygand then read a long extract in French. At President Wilson’s request, only a few sample cases were translated from this extract. One referred to an instance at Mannheim on the 22nd November, 1918, when, according to the German version, some French prisoners had thrown stones towards the German sentry, shouting “Dirty Boche”. The German sentry had then fired, and three of the prisoners were killed. The Germans said that the sentry had suffered badly from shell shock. Another case occurred on 27th November, 1918. A number of workers had come back to one of the camps, [Page 471] and it had been necessary to utilise the camp theatre as barracks. This had caused trouble among the prisoners, who had indulged in pillage and destruction. The German guards had come up from both sides of the barbed wire and fired as much in the air as anything else. Nine French, three British, two Italians, and one Russian had been killed. Thirteen French, three British, one Italian, and two Russian prisoners had been wounded, and had all died. The German report spoke of the danger of rebellion among prisoners who were badly fed.

President Wilson said that these cases were quite sufficient.

M. Clemenceau promised to send copies of the Report to President Wilson, Mr. Lloyd George, and Signor Orlando.

Marshal Foch said that this was the situation in which we had to renew the Armistice.

3. Poland and the Armistice The question now arose whether we ought to include in the new terms of the Armistice other problems, such as that the Poland and the Armistice He handed in a Note on Poland (Appendix I).

M. Pichon invited any observations on Marshal Foch’s Note.

President Wilson suggested that it might be unwise to discuss a proposal of this sort on its individual merits, since it formed part of the much larger question of checking the advance of Bolshevism to the Westward. There was room for great doubt as to whether this advance could be checked by arms at all. Hence he felt doubtful whether it would be wise to take the kind of action proposed by Marshal Foch until we had agreed on a general policy as to how to meet the social danger of Bolshevism.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he was in general accord with President Wilson. He had serious doubts as to Marshal Foch’s proposition. He was certain, however, that we could not support his proposals, having regard to our general policy towards Bolshevism. This was a question we ought to discuss at the earliest possible moment. As yet the Allies had no general policy on the subject, and Marshal Foch’s proposals were subsidiary to our general reply.

M. Clemenceau said that, like President Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George, he considered the question had certainly better be postponed until we examined the whole question of Bolshevism. It must be remembered, however, that Marshal Foch was face to face with a renewal of the Armistice. In doing this would it not be wise to reserve the right to use the route from Dantzig to Thorn if we desired it?

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that all the powers required were covered by clause 16 of the Armistice, which was quoted in Marshal Foch’s Memorandum.

[Page 472]

Marshal Foch agreed that the necessary powers were conveyed by clause 16.

M. Pichon summed up the opinion of those present to be that it would be better to refer to the terms of the Armistice without insisting on additional conditions. The question as to whether we should put the powers in operation was reserved until the Allies had discussed their general policy in Russia.

4. Russian Prisoners Detained in Germany Marshal Foch handed in a Memorandum on this subject (Appendix II).

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that this question formed also part of the general Russian problem. He was informed that there were still 1,200,000 Russian prisoners in Germany who had not been handed over, and that when prisoners crossed the frontier the Bolshevists told them that they might choose between becoming Bolshevists and starving. The question had been put to him whether we ought not to deliver these prisoners in the Ukraine to General Denikin3 or to Admiral Kolchak4 in Siberia or in North Russia, instead of sending them across the frontier. This was all part of the larger Russian problem. If we decided to fight Bolshevism, this would be one of the methods available. At any rate, we ought to concert our policy and act together, and act efficiently, which we had not done up to the present.

M. Orlando said he was in accord with Mr. Lloyd George.

Marshal Foch said that he simply wished to draw attention to the condition of the Russian prisoners, and all he proposed for the moment was that the Allied Commission dealing with the question in Berlin should utilise all their resources to relieve these prisoners.

President Wilson suggested that the first part of Marshal Foch’s memorandum was a question of relief, which might be dealt with by the Belief Commission, and the second part was really a Red Cross matter.

Mr. Balfour said that everyone would be in agreement in regard to this, and that there was as yet no necessity to decide on the question of repatriation.

President Wilson said that the difficulty was that repatriation involved sending the Russians to their own country, which was ruled under conditions that we did not like. There was no question of repatriating Russians to Allied countries as part of the Armistice. Hence we must solve the question of repatriation in some other way.

M. Sonnino said that the terms of the Armistice gave us sufficient [Page 473] power for relieving the prisoners, but they did not give us sufficient power to enable us to send them to some other country.

Marshal Foch said this was not his proposal. All that he asked was that we should allow all the means of transport at Berlin to be operated by the Allied Commission at Spa, for the relief of the Russian prisoners.

M. Orlando approved this proposal.

President Wilson also approved.

Mr. Lloyd George approved, while laying stress on no condition being attached, that the Russian prisoners, when released, were to join any particular Russian force.

M. Pichon summed up by saying that Marshal Foch’s proposal was agreed to, namely, that all the means of transport in the hands of the Allies at Berlin should be operated by the Allied Commission at Spa, for the relief of Russian prisoners.

Mr. Balfour reverted to a point which had been mentioned by M. Sonnino, namely, that we ought to put some clause into the Armistice to enable us to send Russian prisoners elsewhere than across the line into Russia. If we did not reserve our rights in the terms of the Armistice we should not be able so to divert them if we wished.

Mr. Lloyd George said he wished to limit any reserves we made to what we could do and to what did not raise controversial questions.

President Wilson suggested that Marshal Foch should be asked to formulate a clause giving to the Allies the right to lay down to which parts of Russia Russians should be sent.

This was agreed to.

5. Technical Advisers in the Armistice Negotiations M. Pichon said that he had received messages from Colonel House and the Italian Ambassador asking for American and Italian technical advisers respectively to take part in the discussions for the renewal of the Armistice.

Marshal Foch said that, following the procedure adopted up to the present, technical advisers could hardly appear in the discussion with the German Representatives. His practice was to consult with technical advisers beforehand, but when he met the German Representatives he was accompanied only by Admiral Wemyss, who had been nominated by the Allied Governments to a position in regard to naval matters corresponding to his own position in regard to military matters. In fact, he acted as a plenipotentiary of the Government, and there would be no room for technical advisers in the present procedure.

[Page 474]

M. Sonnino stated that he had received communications, first from M. Klotz and then from Colonel House, respecting the intention to add clauses to the Armistice conditions on financial questions, such as the gold supply, the printing of paper money, &c. Colonel House had told him that he had sent a note to M. Pichon saying that the United States Government intended to send four special delegates to Marshal Foch for financial and economic subjects raised, in the renewal of the Armistice. As soon as he heard of this he asked to send representatives also.

M. Clemenceau said that if it was not a question of military technical advisers, then it was all right.

President Wilson said it was not a question of sending additional plenipotentiaries, but only advisers.

Mr. Balfour asked whether the British had any expert advisers.

Marshal Foch said they had not, with the exception of Admiral Wemyss, who had been nominated by the Governments to a position similar to his own.

Mr. Balfour suggested that all four nations should be entitled to send technical advisers.

President Wilson agreed.

M. Clemenceau said there were already some experts at Spa, but that if any nations wished to send additional experts they should certainly be permitted to do so.

M. Sonnino said that there were certain military gentlemen at Spa who had been consulted, but they had not really any expert knowledge as to technical, economic, financial and commercial questions.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he knew there were French economic experts.

(It was agreed that any of the Allies represented at the Supreme War Council should have the right to send technical advisory delegates to Spa.)

6. Navel Conditions of the Armistice M. Leygues said that the Naval Commission established in London to supervise the execution of the naval clauses of the Armistice had, after an inspection in German ports, extending from the 3rd December to the 20th December, established the presence of—

  • 65 submarines complete in German ports capable of being towed.
  • 125 submarines capable of completion in German yards.
  • 30 submarines were also estimated to be at Dantzig, and in other ports which the Commission had not had time to visit.

[Page 475]

The Commission had accordingly made the following proposals for inclusion in the renewed Armistice:—

All submarines capable of being towed should be sent to England.
All submarines in German shipyards and on the stocks should be destroyed.
Construction work on all warships in German ports should cease.

President Wilson asked if these were additional to the submarines that had already been handed over.

Mr. Lloyd George explained that the figure of 160 had been chosen because the Germans had insisted that it was all they had. Now it seemed from the investigations of the Naval Commission that there were more. His personal view was that these pests ought to be disposed of.

Marshal Foch read the text of a clause which he proposed to include in the Armistice, stipulating that all submarines were to be handed over.

President Wilson asked why we should demand their delivery in this formal manner. Why should we not demand the execution of the original agreement, namely, that all the submarines should be delivered? He asked what was the text of the original Armistice conditions.

M. Pichon read the text of clause 22, which is as follows:—

“Delivery to the Allies and United States of all the submarines (including submarine cruisers and all mine layers) which are at present in existence, with their complete armament and equipment, at the ports specified by the Allies and United States. Those that cannot put to sea will be disarmed and their crews disbanded, and must remain under the supervision of the Allies and the United States. The submarines which are ready to put to sea shall be prepared to leave German ports immediately on receipt of wireless orders to sail to the ports specified for their delivery, the remainder to follow as soon as possible. The terms of this Article shall be carried out within a period of fourteen days after the signature of the Armistice.”

President Wilson said that all we had to do was not to add additional conditions to the Armistice, but merely to insist that the terms of the original Armistice should be carried out.

M. Sonnino said he understood the view of the Commission to be that something more was required, since submarines not completed were not specifically included. Thus Germany, by this interpretation of the terms of the Armistice, could undo the intention of the Armistice. By not handing over the submarines remaining in her [Page 476] ports, and by completing those that were building, she would produce a new fleet of submarines.

President Wilson said that the question seemed to come to this: whether a submarine that was not completed was nevertheless a submarine.

Mr. Lloyd George suggested that we should support the Naval Commission by insisting on a proper interpretation of the term “submarine”, which should include those building.

President Wilson said he wanted to avoid seeming to add conditions to the Armistice. He wanted a complete fulfilment in the spirit, as well as in the letter, of the terms of the Armistice.

M. Pichon pointed out that the only difference between the original terms of the Armistice and what was not [now] proposed was that, in the original terms, those that could not put to sea would remain under the supervision of the Allies and the United States. This supervision would end with the Armistice, and the enemy would still retain their submarines. He understood now, however, that it was agreed that these should be destroyed.

(The Supreme War Council agreed that clause 22 of the original Armistice with Germany should be so interpreted as to enable the submarines under construction to be destroyed and the remainder handed over.)

7. Naval Aircraft M. Leygues said that the same Commission had established that the quantity of aircraft material in the German naval bases was very considerable, and the measures taken were insufficient. The result would be that by adding a few additional parts a large number of aircraft could be assembled within a few hours. The Commission had come unanimously to the opinion that there were no less than 800 aircraft, together with eleven Zeppelins of large size. The Commission advised the surrender of these, including the dirigibles.

Mr. Lloyd George intervened at this point to say that he had not understood that this was the kind of question to be discussed to-day. From M. Clemenceau’s communication he had understood that the present meeting had been summoned to discuss questions preliminary to the more formal Conferences on peace. If the formal Conference was to meet to-morrow and the present discussions were to continue, there would be absolutely no preliminary understanding on the subjects which would be raised. He did not dispute that these were very important details; but they were details,—and the present assembly had not been called together for this purpose. He had had no warning, and had brought no technical advisers, and these were questions that he could not discuss in their absence.

[Page 477]

M. Clemenceau said he agreed, but Marshal Foch had to settle the terms of the Armistice, and what was he to do?

President Wilson said that this was really a meeting of the Supreme War Council.

Mr. Lloyd George said that there might be a very good reason for a meeting of the Supreme War Council to-morrow. Today, however, he had no technical advisers with him, and had received no warning in advance that these questions were to be raised. He suggested that, if the present Conference was sitting as the Supreme War Council, it should now adjourn until a later date, and that previous to its re-assembly the technical experts should assemble and discuss these questions, in order to clear the way for their rapid disposal at a meeting of the Supreme War Council on the morrow.

M. Clemenceau agreed, and suggested that the Prime Ministers, with their Foreign Secretaries, should now discuss questions connected with the Peace Conference, and before dissolving their meeting should agree as to the date and time of the meeting of the Supreme War Council.

(At the subsequent meeting it was agreed that the technical experts should meet at 10 a.m. at the Quai d’Orsay on Monday, the 13th January, to prepare the decisions for the consideration of the Supreme War Council, which should meet at 2.30 P.M. on the 13th January at the Quai d’Orsay. M. Clemenceau undertook to communicate on the same evening the subjects for discussion by the technical conference.)

Villa Majestic, Paris, January 12, 1919.

Appendix I

Commandant en Chef
Des Armées Alliées
(Etat-Major General)

No. 555 bis

Note on the Situation in Poland

At the moment when the Armistice is about to be renewed, it is necessary to profit by the German Plenipotentiaries being assembled to ensure the settlement of a most highly important question: namely, the situation on the Eastern frontiers of Germany.

As a matter of fact, hostilities have never altogether ceased there, owing either to the Bolsheviks or to the Germans. The disturbances I which exist in those regions are a danger for the whole of Europe; the situation of the Polish populations is not in bearing with the promises made by the Allies in regard to Poland.

This situation must be altered without delay.

[Page 478]

It is therefore absolutely necessary to organize the Polish Army as quickly as possible and to ensure its transportation.

This transportation can be undertaken, under the most secure and rapid conditions, by the sea-route and by the use of the rail- and river-route of Dantzig-Thorn, of which it is therefore necessary to take possession in the first place.

The possession of this route can only be sufficiently secure if it is held by Allied troops.

To obtain these results, the practical execution of clause 16 of the Armistice should be entered upon; the said clause runs thus:—

“The Allies will be allowed free access to the territories evacuated by the Germans on the Eastern frontier, either by Dantzig or by the Vistula, so as to be able to furnish supplies to the populations and also so as to be able to maintain order.”

The application of these plans entails the transport to Dantzig, by Allied tonnage, of about two Allied divisions, whose duty it will be to secure the Dantzig base, the Dantzig-Thorn line, and to ensure the general protection of the line of communication.

In order to prove the disinterestedness of this occupation—until the Peace Congress takes a final decision in regard to the regions which are to be held—it would be advantageous to entrust the holding of these territories to an American command, and to give American troops a prominent part in the composition of the occupying force.

The Occupation Corps could therefore be composed as follows:—

Americans: 1 Division.
French: 1 Regiment.
British: 1 Regiment.
Italians: 1 Regiment.

If the Allied Governments agreed on these fundamental lines, they could result in the insertion of the attached clause in the Convention which will have to be established for the prolongation of the Armistice.

F. Foch

Commandement en chef
Des Armées Alliées
(Etat-Major General)

Au G. Q. G. A., le 11 Janvier 1919.

Proposed Text of Clause for Renewal of Armistice

With a view to enable the Entente Powers to bring home the Polish troops which are at present in France and Italy, to ensure Poland’s being furnished with supplies, and to help that country in the task of re-establishing order on its territory, the Allies decide to [Page 479] put into immediate execution the clauses of Article XVI of the Armistice Convention, dated November 11, 1919.

To this effect, they reserve their right—

To occupy and operate the Dantzig Base and the Dantzig-Thorn railway and waterway;
To cover this line of communication by occupying with Allied troops, such territory as they will deem necessary.

Moreover, and in order to enable the operating of railway lines and inland waterways in the above-mentioned area of occupation, as well as in the part of Poland which used to be Russian territory, Germany must refit the corresponding railways and river systems with such equipment as will be decided on by the Armistice Commission, and which will be estimated according to the needs of normal operations.

Appendix II

C.-in-C, Allied Armies

General Staff

No. 321 bis

Memorandum on the Russian Prisoners Detained in Germany

The Russian officers and men prisoners of war in Germany are now in true distress.

The fact is confirmed by all available information.

In the camps the situation is appalling. The prisoners are short of clothing, half-starved, and receive no attention of any kind.

Furthermore, if they are sent back to the East, they incur the risk—

Either of being shot as suspects,

Or of being incorporated by force in the Red Army.

It is for the Entente a duty of humanity to save the lives of soldiers who fought for her.

It is also her interest to keep them away from Bolshevism, and to prevent the Red Army from being reinforced with their contingents.

She has two means of realising this objective:—

By improving the material and moral situation of Russian Prisoners.
By sending them back to provinces which are free from the Soviets’ regime.

1. Improvement of the Prisoners’ Material and Moral Situation.

The improvement can and must be looked for by immediate measures aiming at— [Page 480]

Supplying prisoners with food.

Giving to the sick necessary attention.

Making their accommodation satisfactory.

A first part of the food supply to be delivered by the Entente to Germany will be reserved for Russian prisoners.

Until then, Germany ought to be called upon to—

Provide for their need in food, clothing, &c.;

Give to the sick the attention they need;

Arrange the prisoners’ camps so as to make them sanitary.

An Allied control of food supply and sanitary arrangements ought to be organized without delay.

2. Return of Prisoners.

This return must be considered carefully, taking into account the available transport, the previous evacuation of Serbian, Greek, and Roumanian prisoners, which is now taking place, and with due regard to the internal situation of Russia and also to the prisoners’ inclinations.

It is therefore an operation which cannot be realised without delay, and which, for the time being, can be only prepared.

On account of the above-mentioned dangers, the direct return eastwards ought to be avoided.

The only provinces towards which transport of prisoners might be prepared are therefore—

On the first hand, Poland;

On the other, Southern Russia;*

and we must be content with forwarding towards these areas cases not suspect of Bolshevism and able there to reinforce parties faithful to our cause.

The organisation of these two foreseen streams of returning prisoners renders it necessary to make a selection between prisoners and to divide them between camps echelonned along the lines of communication to be used.

Thus, Allied intervention in favour of Russian prisoners implies—

Immediate measures:
Improvement of their existing conditions, making preparations for their return.

Measures to be realised later:
Carrying out the transport of repatriated prisoners.

[Page 481]

The essential conditions for the successful and speedy realisation of this programme is the organisation at Berlin of an Executive Committee, which might be constituted on the spot, with military representatives already detached by the Allied Powers for taking care of their own prisoners of war.

This Committee ought to be provided with the necessary means, receive additional personnel, military and civil, interpreters, medical attendance, etc., and be duly empowered to—

Direct and co-ordinate the activity of the Red Cross Societies and other charitable institutions.

Notify in the name of the Entente, to the German Services concerned, all instructions concerning camp accommodation, food supply, the grouping of prisoners and their return.

If the Allied Governments approved of the above arrangements, instructions to that effect would be forwarded to the Armistice Commission at Spa.

  1. For terms of the Armistice with Germany, signed November 11, 1918, see vol. ii, p. 1.
  2. Ibid., p. 11.
  3. Gen. Anton Ivanovich Denikin, commander in chief of the Armed Forces of South Russia.
  4. Admiral Alexander Vasilevich Kolchak, proclaimed Supreme Governor of Russia at Omsk on November 18, 1918.
  5. Siberia is too far.

    Northern Russia (Archangel and Murmansk) is inaccessible during winter.

    The Baltic Provinces are threatened with falling soon into the hands of the Reds. [Footnote in the original.]