Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/61
Minutes of the Meeting of the Supreme War Council Held at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Friday, March 21st, 1919, at 3 p.m.
|America, United States of||America, United States of|
|President Wilson||General Tasker H. Bliss|
|Hon. R. Lansing||Admiral Benson|
|Secretaries||Dr. I. Bowman|
|Mr. A. H. Frazier||Dr. Lord|
|Mr. Dolbeare||Mr. Scott|
|British Empire||British Empire|
|The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M.P.||General Sir H. H. Wilson, K. C. B., D. S. O.|
|The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, O. M., M. P.||Sir Eyre Crowe, K. C. B., K. C. M. G.|
|Secretaries||Maj. General W. Thwaites, C. B.|
|Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B.||Colonel F. H. Kisch, D. S. O.|
|The Hon. T. A. Spring-Rice||Mr. H. J. Paton|
|France||Capt. C. T. M. Fuller, C. M. G., D. S. O., R. N.|
|M. Clemenceau||Mr. J. A. Salter|
|M. Dutasta||M. Tardieu|
|M. Berthelot||M. Leygues|
|M. de Bearn||Marshal Foch|
|M. Arnavon||Admiral de Bon|
|H. E. M. Orlando||General Belin|
|H. E. Baron Sonnino||General Le Rond|
|Count Aldrovandi||M. Hermitte|
|M. Bertele||Lt. de Percin|
|Japan||Marquis della Torretta|
|M. Matsui||M. Kuriyama|
|America, United States of||Colonel U. S. Grant.|
|British Empire||Major A. M. Caccia, M. V. O.|
|France||Captain A. Portier.|
M. Clemenceau having declared the meeting open, called on Marshal Foch to make a statement in connection with the transport of General Haller’s army to Poland.
Transport of General Haller’s Troops to Poland: (a) Report by Marshal Foch Marshal Foch said that the question of the transportation of General Haller’s army to Poland by rail had been studied, and the conclusion had been reached that it could be carried out as soon as the Conference gave the necessary authority, five or six days only being required in order to get the rolling stock together. By the land route one or two trains could be despatched daily; but conversations in regard to details were still taking place between the general staffs of the Allied Powers concerned.
The transport of the troops by sea, via Dantzig, had also received consideration, and a conclusion had been reached in regard to the tonnage which would be required.
The carriage by rail would only give very feeble results; consequently, it should be supplemented by the sea route, provided an agreement could be reached in regard to the disembarkation of the troops at the Port of Dantzig, and their transportation thence over the railway lines, under proper guarantees.
M. Clemenceau asked Marshal Foch to make some statement about the views taken by the Germans in regard to the passage of the Polish troops through Dantzig.
Marshal Foch replied that all he knew on this subject was contained in the telegrams received from M. Noulens and General Dupont, copies of which had been circulated.
M. Clemenceau drew Marshal Foch’s attention to the recommendation contained in M. Noulens’ telegram of the 18th March, 1919, to the effect that the Inter-Allied Commission at Warsaw considered it necessary that the Naval forces of the Entente should immediately make a considerable demonstration opposite Dantzig, and enquired whether that proposal had Marshal Foch’s approval.
Marshal Foch said that with the information at his disposal, he could express no opinion. The Supreme War Council alone could determine the object to be attained; it would then be possible to determine the means of securing the end desired.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired from Marshal Foch what it was that he wished the Conference to decide. It had been definitely settled that General Haller’s army should be sent to Poland, provided the necessary tonnage could be made available. He failed therefore to understand what else was in Marshal Foch’s mind.[Page 425]
(b) Marshal Foch’s Proposal to Transport Haller’s Army by Rail to Poland Marshal Foch pointed out that in accordance with the decision taken by the Supreme War Council on 17th March, 1919,1 he had been merely authorised “to study the possibility of the transport of Polish troops to Poland from France”. He wished to know, therefore, whether the Conference agreed to the transport of the troops by rail to Poland.
Mr. Lloyd George said that as far as the Conference was concerned, the decision had been reached that General Haller’s army should be sent to Poland; and the only question left to be considered was the means of transport. In other words, the principle of the transport of the Polish troops was decided, the only question in doubt was the method of transportation. The latter obviously was a question which should be decided by the specialists; it could not be decided by the Conference.
Marshal Foch pointed out that the transport of the Polish troops by rail could be started at once, but as this method would be very slow, he proposed that transport by sea should continue to be studied by the Allied Maritime Transport Council, to whom the question had been referred by the Supreme War Council on the 17th March last.
In connection with the sea route, another question however, required to be settled, namely, whether the troops could be landed at Dantzig. This operation at the moment, seemed somewhat doubtful.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired to what place the troops sent by rail were to be taken.
Marshal Foch replied that the troops could be railed either to Lemberg, or to Cracow, or to any other part of Poland.
Mr. Lloyd George again asserted that the question was not one which the Conference could be called upon to decide; the Allied Maritime Transport Council alone was competent to furnish the necessary information. A decision had already been reached by the Conference that the troops should be sent provided tonnage could be made available, as would appear from the Resolution taken at the meeting held on 17th March last, namely:—
“To call upon the Allied Maritime Transport Council to submit a scheme showing what should be the contribution in shipping of each of the Allied and Associated Governments for the transport of General Haller’s troops from France to Dantzig.”
Marshal Foch pointed out that he sought the sanction of the Conference to both routes being used, namely, the rail route and the sea route; and enquired whether that proposal was approved by the Conference.
Mr. Lloyd George thought that the reply should be in the negative. The land route was extremely long, and complicated by the situation at Lemberg. The Conference had merely agreed to the transport by sea, because it was anxious not to appear to take sides in the quarrel which was taking place at Lemberg.
Marshal Foch enquired whether under those conditions the land route was ruled out.
President Wilson, Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau replied in the affirmative.
Marshal Foch continuing, said that the sea route then alone remained. A transport scheme had been worked out and could forthwith be brought into operation. Only two questions remained to be considered, namely, the possibility of landing at Dantzig, and the transportation by rail from Dantzig to Thorn.
(c) Mr. Lloyd George’s Remarks on Conduct of Negotiation at Spa Mr. Lloyd George said that he was not altogether satisfied with the manner in which the negotiations had been conducted in Poland. He could not bring himself to believe that the Germans would in reality point blank refuse to carry out one of the conditions of the armistice, and, as a matter of fact, it was not clear from the information available that the Germans had actually done so. It was not quite clear what had occurred at Posen and whether the Germans had really refused to carry out the accepted conditions of the armistice. Under those circumstances, he thought the best solution of the difficulty would be for Marshal Foch to put the question to the German representatives at Spa, particularly as a military operation was involved. Marshal Foch should, in his opinion, be authorised to tell the German delegates that the Allied and Associated Governments had decided to send troops to Poland through Dantzig in accordance with the provisions of Clause XVI of the armistice. He did not think the Germans would ever refuse compliance.
(d) Interpretation of Clause XVI of Armistice of November 1918 President Wilson drew attention to the fact that Clause XVI of the armistice stated that the troops of the Allies should have free access to Poland through Dantzig. A technical question might be raised as to whether the Polish troops could be defined as “troops of the Allies”. In his opinion, the answer would be in the affirmative since those troops had been raised in France and America to fight on the side of the Allies. Nevertheless that was a matter which would have to be explained to the Germans.[Page 427]
Marshal Foch pointed out that Clause XVI of the armistice of 11th November 1918, read as follows:—
“The Allies shall have free access to the territories evacuated by the Germans on their Eastern frontier, either through Dantzig or by the Vistula, in order to convey supplies to the populations of those territories or for the purpose of maintaining order.”
That was all it contained. Had troops been dispatched shortly after the signature of the armistice, the Germans would undoubtedly have allowed them free passage; but today the Germans would undoubtedly maintain that, since perfect order prevailed in Poland, it was unnecessary to send troops for the purpose of maintaining order and that the line could only be employed to convey supplies to the population. Furthermore, he would invite attention to the instructions sent to M. Noulens on the 25th February 1919, that the Germans should guarantee the proposed disembarkation of troops at Dantzig, and their transit thence by rail to Poland. It was necessary that the guarantee in question should be obtained, otherwise great risks would be run. In his opinion, that constituted a new condition, which could not be considered to form part of Clause XVI of the armistice of November 1918.
Mr. Lloyd George said he could not agree with the view taken by Marshal Foch. His information went to show that Haller’s army was essential for the maintenance of order in Poland, and to prevent the spread of Bolshevism. If those troops were not required to maintain order, he did not understand why they should be sent at all. They certainly were not required to fight against the Germans or anyone else: a definite ruling on that point had been given by the Conference at a previous meeting.
Marshal Foch pointed out that Clause XVI stated that: “The Allies shall have free access, etc.” He did not know whether the Poles were “Allies”: but, even so, it was certain that without proper guarantees, it would not be safe to convey troops over a railway line whose two extremities (Thorn–Dantzig) were fortified and held by the enemy, without taking other measures to secure the safety of the line.
M. Clemenceau asked Marshal Foch to put forward his own proposals.
(e) Marshal Foch’s Views re Transport of Troops to Poland Marshal Foch said that on the 11th January 1919, the Military High Command had suggested to the Supreme War Council the occupation by Allied contingents of the railway line in question, but the proposal had been rejected. Again, on the 24th February 1919, he had suggested that the only possible solution of the question appeared to be that the Eastern boundaries of Germany should forthwith [Page 428]be determined, and that the Germans should be required to accept that frontier line, and to withdraw their troops behind it. In that way, free transit over the Dantzig line would be obtained. In his opinion, as long as the railway line remained in the hands of the Germans, there could be no guarantee even if a verbal promise were given by them—a thing which, as a matter of fact, they had so far refused to do. He would again ask the Conference to consider the railway route to Poland, as by that route troops could be taken to any place desired. The traffic capacity of the line, as he had already stated, was very poor, but the troops would reach Poland eventually, whereas by the northern sea route, in his opinion, they would never get there. It would not be necessary for the troops to go to Lemberg, if taken by the land route. They could be sent wherever required, either to Cracow or to Warsaw.
(f) President Wilson’s Views in Regard to Posen Negotiations President Wilson said it was not clear to him from the telegrams, which had been circulated, that the Germans had denied their obligations under Article XVI of the Armistice of November 1918. It appeared to him that they merely wanted to discuss the question at Spa at a meeting with the military authorities, just as had been done in the case of other similar matters. In his opinion, the Conference was taking a great deal for granted when it assumed that the Germans would attack the troops when passing over the Dantzig Thorn railway line, since that would mean a renewal of the war. He had been told that General Haller considered that an escort of Allied troops would not be necessary; merely a few officers were required to superintend the process of transportation. Consequently, if his information were correct, the Germans had not denied their obligations under the Armistice. On the contrary, it would appear from messages received from Poland that they actually admitted their obligations. In this connection he would point out that Marshal Foch had stated that all his information in regard to the unwillingness of the Germans to comply with the demands of the Allies had been obtained from M. Noulens’ messages. Now, M. Noulens was the head of a Commission that had been sent by the Allied and Associated Governments to Poland, and it was highly probable that the Germans might imagine that the Commission would naturally act in the interests of the Poles. Therefore, he could not help thinking that when the matter came to be dealt with by the Allied High Command at Spa, as suggested, the question would assume a different aspect in the minds of the Germans.
Marshal Foch drew attention to a very precise message dated Spa, 20th. March, 1919, in which the following statement occurred, namely:—
“In confirmation of these incidents, the German Commission communicated [Page 429]to me this morning a note which amounts to a clear and categorical refusal (1) to let Poles land at Dantzig, (2) to authorise Officers of Warsaw Mission to proceed to territory occupied by the Germans to the east of the Vistula”.
Mr. Lloyd George said he entirely shared President Wilson’s views. He did not know what had really occurred at Posen, but if Marshal Foch was satisfied that General Haller’s troops should be sent to Poland, provided tonnage could be set free for the purpose, then he would suggest that the Marshal should himself without delay interview the German representatives at Spa so that all necessary arrangements might be made. He could not believe that the Germans would refuse to allow the troops free passage along the Dantzig Thorn railway line; and the idea that the Germans would cut them off was most unlikely. What object would the Germans have in doing so? Even if a whole brigade were cut up, it would not reduce the strength of the Allied Forces in any way, whereas such an outrage would lead at once to the Allied troops marching into Germany, or to the renewal of a strict blockade. He was not surprised to hear that General Haller himself had no apprehensions from that side.
(g) Mr. Lloyd George’s Proposal for Marshal Foch To Proceed to Spa To Make a Formal Demand to German Delegates for Transport of Troops Through Dantzig In conclusion, he proposed definitely that Marshal Foch should be authorised to proceed to Spa to take the matter up with the German representatives there with a view to making a formal demand and the necessary arrangements.
Marshal Foch pointed out that Germany had already given, according to General Dupont, a point blank refusal. Under those conditions, it was a question whether negotiations should now be reopened. Certainly he could go to Spa and say to the Germans that they must either allow the passage of the troops or he would wring their necks. It might be a moot point whether the question to be put to the Germans did or did not constitute a new demand; but if he went to Spa, he must go there fully authorised to tell the Germans that they must comply with the demands of the Allies, failing which hostilities would be renewed.
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that Marshal Foch should first put forward his demand in exactly the same way as other similar conditions had previously been put forward, that is to say, tactfully but firmly. He could see no difference between the demand, now to be delivered, and those previously made.
President Wilson thought that the chief advantage of discussing the matter at Spa was that Marshal Foch would be able to explain, firstly, that the demand was made in execution of Clause XVI of the Armistice; secondly, that the troops to be transported were actually Allied troops; thirdly, that they were required for the maintenance [Page 430]of order in Poland; and fourthly, that there was no idea of using them against Germany. This explanation would relieve the Germans of any suspicions that might exist in their minds. He hoped Marshal Foch would give a frank and open explanation to the Germans and tell them that they were expected to yield in good faith to the conditions of the Armistice; there was no necessity to say what the consequences of a refusal would be.
Marshal Foch called attention to the character of the conversation which [he] had previously held with the Germans. In each case, he had had to deal with the renewal of an Armistice, which expired on a fixed date. That is to say, a refusal by the Germans to accept the terms to be imposed as a condition of the renewal of the Armistice by the date given naturally entailed the breaking of the Armistice, and the renewal of hostilities. Consequently, the Germans had no choice in the matter. Similarly, if on this occasion he did proceed to Spa to communicate the decision of the Supreme War Council to the Germans, he could not be expected to remain there indefinitely to await an answer.
(h) M. Pichon’s View in Regard to Procedure To Be Followed To Enforce Article XVI of the Armistice M. Pichon expressed the view that Marshal Foch’s proposals should be accepted, otherwise the Allied and Associated Governments would find themselves in a difficult and delicate position in view of the fact that the Germans had already given a categorical refusal to allow the Poles to land at Dantzig. Should Marshal Foch, therefore, simply ask for the enforcement of Clause XVI of the Armistice without being empowered to give an ultimatum, the effect would be merely to encourage the growing tendency of the Germans to resist the demands of the Allies. Therefore, he asked the Conference to authorise Marshal Foch to insist on an immediate compliance with the conditions of the Armistice. Public opinion was already much exercised by the fact that the Germans had apparently been able with impunity to confront the Allies with a refusal. He, therefore, very strongly seconded Marshal Foch’s proposal. If he correctly understood the telegram received from General Nudant at Spa, it was the German Peace Commission that had notified to the representative of the Allied and Associated Governments at Spa, the clear and categorical refusal of the German Government to allow the Poles to land at Dantzig, since the message in question had been given officially to General Nudant, Marshal Foch’s representative at Spa. Under those conditions he did not think Marshal Foch could be asked to proceed to Spa without giving him at the same time full authority to compel the Germans to submit.
President Wilson thought that if it were considered that a question of dignity was involved, he would like to ask whether it was more undignified to make sure that the Germans understood what was [Page 431]wanted, than it would be to send troops by another route, as proposed by Marshal Foch. In his opinion, to send troops by another route than Dantzig would constitute an entire yielding to German demands. He thought, therefore, it would be far more dignified to renew conversations with the Germans.
(i) Mr. Lloyd George’s Proposal re Action To Be Taken for Enforcement of Clause XVI of Armistice Mr. Lloyd George said that to bring the discussion to a point he proposed, definitely, that Marshal Foch should be authorised to place the demands of the Allied and Associated Governments before the German Delegates, calling upon them to comply with the conditions of Clause XVI of the Armistice, the correct interpretation of which would be set forth. He quite agreed that Marshal Foch should not be asked to make a demand, which the Allied and Associated Governments were not prepared to impose; but if the Germans refused to comply with the just interpretation of the terms of the Armistice, that would naturally constitute a serious matter. He thought most of the difficulties which had been raised by the Germans had reference to the occupation of the port of Dantzig. Marshal Foch treated the question of the passage of the troops between Dantzig and Thorn as a march through an enemy country, where bases and lines of communication would have to be held. Clause XVI of the Armistice, however, merely stipulated “free passage” and, therefore, Marshal Foch’s demands should be restricted to the free passage of troops from Dantzig to Poland, and the port of Dantzig should not be held any longer than was required for the troops to pass through. In his opinion it was possible that the Germans thought that the demands of the Allied and the Associated Governments merely constituted a method of prejudging the question of the ownership of Dantzig in favour of Poland. The Allied and Associated Governments, however, were entitled to the use of this route, and Marshal Foch should make it quite clear to the Germans that if free passage were not allowed, that would constitute a breach of the armistice, and he would return to Paris to consult with the Supreme War Council in regard to the further measures to be taken.
Marshal Foch argued that a clear and categorical refusal had already been given to the question he had been asked to put to the Germans. Suppose he agreed to repeat the question and met with the same reply, he could then hardly tell the Germans that he would proceed to Paris to consider what should be done. He felt that if he agreed to go to Spa he should have full discretion to take the necessary measures, should he meet with a refusal.
Mr. Lloyd George thought his proposal had not been fully understood by Marshal Foch. In his opinion, in the event of the Germans declining to accede to his demands, Marshal Foch should be authorised [Page 432]forthwith to tell the Germans that their refusal constituted a breach of the Armistice, and that he would proceed to Paris merely to decide what means should be taken to enforce his demands, namely, whether troops would be marched into Germany, or whether economic restrictions would be imposed.
He drew attention, however, to the fact that he did not know exactly what demands had been put forward by the Polish Commission to the Germans. The Conference had seen General Nudant’s telegram giving the reply of the German Commission,2 but no information was given in regard to the question put to the Germans.
President Wilson agreed with Mr. Lloyd George that General Nudant’s telegram gave the reply to demands which had been made by the Allies, but it was not known what those demands were.
Marshal Foch expressed the view that if the Conference considered that the terms of the armistice established the right of free passage through Dantzig, it would be sufficient for the Supreme War Council to inform the German Government of its intention to apply Article XVI of the Armistice and the necessary steps could then be taken to enforce compliance. It would not be necessary, therefore, for him to proceed to Spa.
Mr. Lloyd George said that someone would have to present the demand to the Germans.
M. Clemenceau suggested a written document could be delivered by Marshal Foch.
Mr. Lloyd George agreed to M. Clemenceau’s proposal, provided it were made perfectly clear in the document that an occupation of Dantzig was not intended, but merely a free passage through Dantzig.
M. Clemenceau said he understood that Marshal Foch’s proposal was accepted, namely, that the Supreme War Council would draft its demands and Marshal Foch would proceed to Spa to present the document to the German Delegates.
Marshal Foch agreed that he would transmit the document to Spa, stating that the Supreme War Council demanded the execution of Clause XVI of the Armistice. At the same time, in reference to Mr. Lloyd George’s argument, it would be necessary to establish a base at Dantzig in order to supervise the embarkation and entrainment of the Polish troops. He thought, therefore, that the document should contain a statement to the effect that provisions should be made by the Germans for the landing of the troops, housing and transport.
M. Clemenceau understood that Marshal Foch would himself take the document to Spa.
Marshal Foch said that he would telegraph the document to his representative, General Nudant, at Spa, since it was not intended that [Page 433]he should discuss the question with the German Delegates, and General Nudant was there to see to the execution of the clauses of the armistice. He would, therefore, merely tell General Nudant to insist on the execution of the conditions contained in Clause XVI of the Armistice which conditions had been held in abeyance.
Mr. Lloyd George said he would ask the Conference to accept the following resolution:—
“It is agreed:
(j) Mr. Lloyd George’s First Resolution That Marshal Foch shall receive full authority to demand from the Germans that Clause XVI of the Armistice of November 11th shall be so interpreted as to permit the free passage of General Haller’s army, as part of the Allied army, to Poland through Dantzig, to maintain order in Poland. That he will inform them that this passage does not involve a permanent occupation of the port of Dantzig and that a refusal to accede to this demand will be interpreted as a breach of the armistice by Germany. In the event of a refusal on the part of the Germans to accede to this demand Marshal Foch will inform them that the armistice has been broken and that he is returning to Paris to take the instructions of the Allied and Associated Governments as to the action to be taken.”
Marshal Foch maintained that if the intention were merely to apply Clause XVI of the armistice, it would only be necessary to call on the Germans to execute its provisions.
Mr. Lloyd George said that it would be necessary to insist on the Germans interpreting Clause XVI to mean that General Haller’s Army must be given free passage through Dantzig in order to proceed to Poland for the purpose of maintaining order, and that the passage asked for did not mean the occupation of Dantzig.
Marshal Foch called attention to the fact that Mr. Lloyd George’s resolution contained a statement to the effect that the free passage of General Haller’s Army to Poland did not involve the occupation of the port of Dantzig. In his opinion, no such undertaking could be given since it would be necessary to constitute a temporary base at Dantzig in order to supervise the disembarkation and entrainment of the troops, operations which might continue for two or three months, if five or six divisions were to be transferred.
Mr. Lloyd George expressed the view that such temporary establishments could not be defined as an occupation. Nevertheless, if the Conference preferred he would suggest adding the words:—“that every facility must be given for the temporary accommodation of the troops passing through the port.”
President Wilson said he did not like to force on Marshal Foch an unacceptable mission. If Marshal Foch’s judgment were against this, the Conference should not urge him to undertake it, and should he so desire, some other channel of communication should be sought. [Page 434]He could see that the mission was extremely distasteful to Marshal Foch, and he did not wish to insist on his carrying out a work against his wishes. As an alternative, he would therefore suggest that the Supreme War Council should draw up its demands in writing to be conveyed in a formal manner to the German Delegates through General Nudant at Spa. That would be a less impressive way than the delivery of the message by Marshal Foch in person; but this method might have to be taken if the Marshal did not like to undertake the duty himself.
Mr. Lloyd George agreed that it might be necessary to find some other channel of communication; but he did not think the proposal to transmit the message through General Nudant was a good one.
President Wilson said he would read, for the information of the Conference, a portion of M. Noulen’s despatch dated Posen, 18th March, 1919:—
“The following conclusions have been reported by the Commission which returned to Warsaw on March 15th, after having been instructed to go to Dantzig to examine the possibilities of disembarking Polish troops: this operation will be very easy, for the wharfs, in particular those of Kaiserhafen, are large and well-suited for unloading several large steamers. The apparatus for unloading is sufficient. There are also two large empty warehouses for the housing of troops, and accommodation and sheds for material and provisions. The railways connect the quays with the principal lines; in a word, all facilities exist for a fairly extensive disembarkation of troops. Colonel Marshal and Intendant Gruet started for Paris on Sunday, and will give all detailed information with a view to effecting as soon as possible the despatch of General Haller’s troops, the urgency of which is felt more and more.”
M. Clemenceau said that, putting aside altogether his own personal opinions, which by the way coincided with those of M. Pichon, he would allow himself to ask Marshal Foch whether he would not subordinate his own personal feelings and inclinations, in order to remain the mouthpiece of the Allies—and they were Allies. It was essential that no dissensions should appear among the Allies on the eve of taking a decision which might lead to very serious consequences, even to a renewal of hostilities. Marshal Foch had been the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies and had led them magnificently to victory. He had thus acquired great influence, and unless he were the Allied spokesman on this occasion, the Germans would be led to believe that serious differences existed among the Allies, and these imaginary differences would be taken to explain the delays which had occurred, even though he and his colleagues knew that a delay was unavoidable, owing to the inherent difficulties of the questions to be settled. Nevertheless, the Germans would take this as further evidence that disagreements existed between the Allies [Page 435]and would draw therefrom additional encouragement. We trusted that such an unfortunate incident would be avoided and that a formula would be found, which would meet Marshal Foch’s objections. With this object in view, Mr. Lloyd George had proposed the following amended resolution:—
It is agreed:—
(k) Mr. Lloyd George’s Second Proposal That Marshal Foch shall receive full authority to demand from the Germans that under Clause 16 of the Armistice of November 11th, they shall permit the free passage of General Haller’s army, as part of the Allied Army, to Poland through Dantzig to maintain order in Poland. That he shall inform them that this passage does not involve the occupation of the port of Dantzig, although every facility must be given for the temporary accommodation of the troops passing through the port. That he shall notify the Germans that a refusal to accede to this demand will be interpreted as a breach of the armistice by Germany. In the event of a refusal on the part of the Germans to accede to this demand, Marshal Foch is instructed to take counsel with the Supreme War Council as to the action to be taken.”
Marshal Foch thought there existed a contradiction in the resolution just read. On the one hand, he was given full authority to make demands, whilst on the other hand, he was told to come back for further instructions. In other words, he was authorised to speak, but not to act.
M. Clemenceau explained that it would only be necessary for Marshal Foch to consult with the Supreme War Council as to the particular action to be taken in the event of a refusal. In his opinion, Marshal Foch should merely deliver the message to the German delegates at Spa, and then return immediately to Paris. On receipt of the Germans’ reply, the Marshal would then consult the Council as to the further measures to be taken.
Marshal Foch said that he did not think it necessary that he should go to Spa merely to deliver a letter.
M. Clemenceau replied that the Council placed considerable importance on the delivery of the message by Marshal Foch in person.
Marshal Foch called attention to the fact that he would find no-one at Spa, except General Hammerstein, who would say he had no authority; he was merely a letter-box and he himself also had a letter-box a representative at Spa in the person of General Nudant.
Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether no means existed for informing the Germans that Marshal Foch would come to Spa to lay an ultimatum before them on the subject of the transport of troops to Poland, and that a delegate should be sent to receive that message. In that case the question would not be left to General Hammerstein.
Marshal Foch agreed that if a German Plenipotentiary were [Page 436]sent to receive the message he would go; but otherwise he did not see what useful purpose would be gained by his proceeding to Spa.
President Wilson thought that Marshal Foch clearly regarded this Mission, for some reason which he could not understand, as humiliating to himself. He (President Wilson) was the last man to propose anything that was humiliating to a man he so much admired as Marshal Foch. Therefore, he would ask Marshal Foch to suggest a solution of the difficulty.
Marshal Foch saw nothing humiliating to himself in the proposal under consideration. He only saw in the proposal a violation of the principle which had so far governed his relations with the Germans. In other words, he was now asked to talk and argue with the Germans, whereas his strength had so far lain in silence. In reply to President Wilson’s question, he proposed that a telegram to the following effect should be sent:—
“The Supreme War Council calls the attention of the German Government to Article XVI of the Armistice and demands its immediate execution in regard to the disembarkation and free passage of troops from Dantzig to Thorn, and the grant of all facilities for the transport of the Polish forces. Guarantees shall be given for the complete execution of the conditions contained in that clause. Refusal to comply with the demands herein contained shall constitute a breach of the Armistice, leading to immediate renewal of hostilities.”
President Wilson enquired whether any means existed for communicating with the Authorities in Berlin, who might be informed that the Supreme War Council had received a message from General Nudant, which was not understood. The German Authorities would at the same time be informed that the Allied and Associated Governments had decided to send the Polish troops through Dantzig to Poland, and they desired the Berlin Authorities to give the necessary instructions to their military authorities on this point. He should be glad to know whether there was any direct or indirect channel of communication with Berlin.
Mr. Lloyd George thought that no other means of communication existed, except through Spa.
(l) President Wilson’s Proposal to Adjourn Further Consideration of Question Pending Receipt of Further Documents From General Nudant President Wilson suggested that no decision should be taken until General Nudant’s promised reports had been received, so that the Conference might know exactly what demands had been put forward by M. Noulens, and whether these demands were consistent with the terms of the Armistice.
Mr. Lloyd George thought that the proposals put forward by M. Noulens might have been inconsistent with the letter of Article XVI. In this connection he called attention [Page 437]to the following extract from the Minutes of the Conference held on the 19th March:—
“M. Cambon said that he had received a telegram from M. Noulens to the effect that the Germans wished to discuss the question of the landing of Polish troops at Dantzig at Spa instead of which [with] the Inter-Allied Commission in Poland. A draft telegram had been prepared for the approval of the Council in answer to this message.
General Weygand explained that Marshal Foch had given orders to the Armistice Commission at Spa that any discussion on this subject should be refused, and that the Germans should be referred to the Inter-Allied Commission in Poland. A copy of this information [order] had been sent to M. Noulens for his information.”3
President Wilson called attention to the fact that the Warsaw Commission had been instructed to arrange for the receipt and transportation of the Polish troops at Dantzig. The Germans, on the other hand, had asked to have the discussion transferred to Spa, and the Council had been told that this request had been refused. The Germans then refused to discuss the matter further. This might be a perfectly proper refusal, and he suggested that M. Cambon be called on to furnish all the correspondence on the subject, so that the Council should know exactly what M. Noulens’ Commission had asked and what had been refused.
M. Cambon explained that the Secretariat-General of the Peace Conference had from time to time forwarded to him as Chairman of the Committee on Polish Affairs, all the documents received from M. Noulens in order to keep him fully advised. The day before yesterday the following telegram, dated Posen March 18th, 1919, received from M. Noulens, had been communicated to him:—
“The Inter-Allied Commission has taken note of the declaration according to which the Berlin Government guarantees the safety of transport to German territory, but the Commission protests against the inadequacy of the reply on the other points of detail set forth by the Commission at the Conference held at Kreutz on March 5th.
As a matter of fact, the German Government is seeking all possible ways of escape in order to delay and avoid the landing of Polish troops at Dantzig.
We have proof of this in intercepted telegrams. If the Allied Governments do not rush things through and demand the complete execution of Article XVI of the Armistice, the Germans will manoeuvre between the Commission of Spa and that of Warsaw in order to delay all decisions.
As the Allied Governments have instructed the Warsaw Commission to find a solution to this question we demand that the Berlin Government should be once more informed of the matter officially, and that the Commission at Spa should force the Germans to address themselves to us and insist on their submitting, without delay, in all the measures of detail which the Inter-Allied Military Commission may have to require. Further, the Inter-Allied Commission at Warsaw [Page 438]holds it necessary that the Naval Forces of the Entente should immediately make a considerable demonstration opposite Dantzig. This will be the way to prevent the Germans stirring up troubles on the day before that when the port will be opened to the troops of General Haller, and assigned according to the wireless messages to Poland.”
A draft telegram had been prepared by him for the approval of the Council in answer to this message; but General Weygand had explained to the Meeting that Marshal Foch had already, in reply to a similar telegram, received by him, given orders to the Armistice Commission at Spa that any discussion on this subject should be refused, and that the Germans should be referred to the Inter-Allied Commission in Poland. A copy of this order had also been sent to M. Noulens for his information. Consequently, there was nothing more to be said.
Mr. Lloyd George drew attention to a previous telegram of the same date, signed by M. Noulens, which read as follows:—
“The pourparlers with the German Delegation are almost ended. As a result of our demand with regard to the disembarkation of Polish troops at Dantzig, von Rechenberg has just written to say that the German Delegation had no authority to consider this point, and that his Government had the right, and also the duty, of approaching the Armistice Commission at Spa, as the exact interpretation of Article XVI was not fixed. He added, ‘My Government authorises me to say that, in the event of an eventual disembarkation at Dantzig, it would doubtless reserve the right to discuss the application of the principle set up by the Agreement of the 11th November, but that it was able to guarantee the safety of transport on German territory’.
“Finally, as the Commission complained some time ago that orders had not been given to the local authorities at Dantzig when our Mission arrived there, von Rechenberg says that it will be necessary to be informed in advance of the time fixed for disembarkation, the numbers and composition of the expeditionary corps, and the length of time it will stay in Dantzig.”
In his opinion, the requests made by the German Delegation were very reasonable and there was nothing contained therein which would justify the renewal of hostilities.
In regard to the reply sent by General Weygand to the telegram read by M. Cambon, he regretted that the question had not first been referred to the Supreme War Council.
General Weygand explained that he had sent the telegram on his own responsibility, because the Supreme War Council had authorised the Commission in Poland to take all necessary action.
President Wilson said that the Conference was still ignorant as to the demands made by M. Noulens to the German Government. [Page 439]That is to say, the Conference did not know what their Commission had demanded and what had been refused.
M. Cambon said that the following telegram sent by M. Noulens on the 16th March, 1919, gave some indication as to the demands made by him to the German Government:—
“On account of the frequent bombardment of the Polish front by the Germans, the Inter-Allied Commission at Posen has thought it necessary to impose on both the parties the obligation to withdraw their artillery to a distance of 20 kilometres on either side of the line of demarcation. This condition, which had at first been accepted by the Germans at Kreutz, has subsequently been put in question by them. They state to-day that the German High Command refuses to withdraw the artillery to a greater distance than 6 kilometres from the line.
As regards Dantzig, after having declared that they awaited instructions, and thereby delayed a solution of the question, the German Delegates state to-day that their Government wished to discuss the question at Spa. This request is put forward in the hope that different views may be taken by the various Missions representing the Allied Governments. It is necessary that the German answer should be given to the Commission charged with the study of the question of the debarkation of Polish troops at Dantzig. The local authorities at Dantzig have given permission to the Mission of Lt.-Col. Marshall to study the available resources for this operation, but they have refrained from giving any assistance and from taking any engagements on the pretext that they had received no instructions from their Government. We have therefore actually no guarantees that the disembarkation can be carried out with safety. The Inter-Allied Commission considers it indispensable in order to put an end to the dilatory proceedings of the German Delegation that the wishes of the Allied Governments should be communicated to Berlin by the Allied High Command.”
It was on the strength of that telegram that he had drafted a reply for the approval of the Supreme War Council, informing M. Noulens that negotiations would not be transferred to Spa and should be continued by him at Posen.
President Wilson said that the telegrams which had been read showed that everything was approaching a satisfactory conclusion on the 17th and 18th, while on the 20th everything was exploded. In that connection he would again invite attention to the fact that General Dupont had telegraphed to General Nudant from Berlin that negotiations at Posen had been broken off for reasons given by M. Noulens. General Nudant, in forwarding that message had said:—
“In confirmation of these incidents, the German Commission after sending several vague notes has communicated to me this morning a note which amounts to a clear and categorical refusal (1) to let Poles land at Dantzig, (2) to authorise officers of Warsaw Mission [Page 440]to proceed to territory occupied by the Germans to the east of the Vistula”.
He again wished to draw attention to the fact that the Conference did not know what the “vague notes” referred to by General Nudant were, nor what it was that had been categorically refused by the Germans.
General Weygand explained that the telegram from General Nudant, just read by President Wilson, had been despatched at 14 hours 15 the previous afternoon. At the same time, the papers relating thereto had been sent by special messenger, but they could not reach Paris before tomorrow, the 22nd March.
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that what was interpreted as “a clear and categorical refusal” would probably be found to be due to the refusal given to the Germans to discuss the question at Spa. It was probable that the German delegates at Posen were not authorised by the German Government to carry out the necessary negotiations relating to Armistice Conditions, which had invariably been carried out at Spa. He sincerely regretted the fact that General Weygand had sent his reply without first consulting the Supreme War Council, especially as the telegram was one which might have led to very serious results, including the resumption of hostilities.
General Weygand explained that the telegram from M. Noulens to which he had replied was one dated the 12th March 1919, which read as follows:—
“The Inter-Allied Commission of Warsaw learns from intercepted telegrams that the German Government were inclined to refuse to grant passes to Allied officers to study the preparatory measures to be taken in connection with the transport of troops through Dantzig, stating that a request had already been forwarded to Marshal Foch requesting that the troops should be disembarked at Konigsberg and at Libau. That proposal would put aside the decision taken by the Inter-Allied Commission to insist on the enforcement of Article XVI of the Armistice of November last. Should another port be approved by the Allied Governments, the Germans would take that condition to imply a disavowal of the Commission; inevitable complications would delay the transportation of the troops; and lastly, the fear of insurrections which the Germans invoked as a reason for keeping the troops away from Dantzig would certainly take place, whereas it was hoped that the early arrival of Haller’s Division and the authority which that event would give us to reason with the Poles, were likely to prevent the occurrence of any disturbances.”
General Weygand, continuing, said that he had forthwith replied to that telegram, because he knew that the Germans, if unable to get what they wanted in one way always tried to get it by other means. In this case again their intention had been to complicate the issue and to create dissensions. Had he given any other reply to the [Page 441]Germans, they would have taken it as a disavowal of the Commission, to whom the Council had given full powers to settle this question, Thus, M. Noulens having been given full authority, the Germans appealed to Spa, and Dantzig having been selected as the port of debarkation, the Germans offered Konigsberg or Libau. Consequently, he had felt justified in replying at once to M. Noulens to allow him to continue his negotiations.
M. Clemenceau suggested that under the circumstances the meeting should be adjourned to await the receipt of General Nudant’s reports from Spa. A telegram should also be despatched forthwith to M. Noulens asking him to report in clear and precise terms what demands had been made to the Germans. He regretted that an adjournment until Monday should be necessary; but that was unavoidable even though the Germans might thereby gain confidence from a knowledge of the fact that no decision had been reached.
Mr. Lloyd George suggested that a copy of the exact answer given by the German Delegation should also be obtained.
M. Pichon proposed sending the following telegram to M. Noulens at Warsaw:—
(m) Draft of M. Pichon’s Telegram To Be Sent to M. Noulens “You are requested to telegraph immediately the exact terms of your demands to the German Commission to permit Allied Polish troops to disembark to Dantzig and their free passage on the railway line to Thorn: also the precise replies made by the Germans.”
Mr. Lloyd George requested that the reports received from General Nudant should forthwith be circulated.
(n) Marshal Foch’s Request for Transport of Polish Troops by Rail to Poland Marshal Foch enquired whether, pending further decision the transportation of troops by rail to Poland was duly authorized. The transportation of troops by that route would be extremely slow, but still some results would be obtained.
Mr. Lloyd George thought that President Wilson’s comment on that subject was irrefutable. Should the Allied and Associated Governments agree to send the Polish troops to Cracow by that route after the Germans had refused passage through Dantzig, it would mean yielding to the German pretentions.
President Wilson suggested that in the interval preparations for the expedition of the troops to Dantzig should be completed.
(o) Communication to Press in Regard to Decisions Reached by Meeting M. Pichon enquired, in view of the fact that an adjournment had been agreed to, whether the fact should not be published that the Supreme War Council had decided upon the transportation of the Polish troops via Dantzig.
Mr. Lloyd George thought it would be advisable to wait before publishing anything on the subject.[Page 442]
Mr. Balfour pointed out that considerable difficulty existed in connection with the supply of the required tonnage for the transport of troops via Dantzig. He was informed by the experts that passenger ships would alone be suitable for this work, and that none were available, unless ships at present employed for the transport of British and American troops were temporarily withdrawn for the purpose.
President Wilson pointed out that the Allied Maritime Transport Council had already been called upon, in accordance with a decision taken on the 17th March last,4 to submit a scheme showing what should be the contribution in shipping of each of the Allied and Associated Governments for the transport of General Haller’s troops from France to Dantzig.
Mr. Lloyd George thought it would be extremely unwise under these circumstances to publish the fact that the Supreme War Council had decided to send General Haller’s Army to Poland by sea, because considerable difficulties existed in regard to tonnage, the withdrawal of which would seriously affect the shipping programme relating to Australian troops.
(It was agreed:—
- To send the following telegram to M. Noulens at Warsaw:—
“You are requested to telegraph immediately the exact terms of your demands to the German Commission to permit Allied Polish troops to disembark at Dantzig and their free passage on the railway line to Thorn also the precise replies made by the Germans.”
- To adjourn further consideration of the question pending receipt and circulation of reports to be received from General Nudant for M. Noulens.
- To obtain report from the Allied Maritime Council, in accordance with the decision taken on 17th March, 1919.)
(The Meeting then adjourned).
Paris, 20th March, 1919.