The Commission to Negotiate Peace to the Secretary of State
[Received November 19—6:27 a.m.]
5261. Following is the text of the memorandum presented by Sir Eyre Crowe to the Supreme Council and considered at the meeting yesterday. I pointed out that unanimity was necessary and that I was not prepared to take part in such a resolution. I undertook, however, to notify my Government that the proposition had been put forward by the British Delegation and was before the Supreme Council. Sir [Eyre] Crowe stated that this was entirely satisfactory to him. British memorandum read as follows:
- The following ex-German steamers were allocated for temporary management to the United States for the repatriation of their army by the Allied Maritime Transport Council at its fifth meeting in February 1919: Imperator 52, 117 tons; Kaiserin Augusta Victoria 24,581; Prim Friederich Wilhelm 17,082; Mobile (ex Cleveland) 16,960; Zeppelin 15,200; Cap Finisterre 14,503; Pretoria 13,234; Graf Waldersee 3,193 [13,193] (above figures gross tonnage).
- When these steamers were first obtained from Germany in March last Great Britain, recognizing the vital need of the United [Page 572]States to repatriate their army fully and frankly acquiesced in these steamers being managed and [employed] by them, though such action delayed seriously the completion of the British repatriation.
- The United States Government having subsequently intimated that their repatriation work was completed and that the steamers were available for other purposes, it was unanimously decided at a meeting of the Allied Maritime Transport Executive in London, on the 30th July 1919 that all the above-mentioned steamers should be allocated to Great Britain for management. Mr. Anderson representing the United States was present at the meeting.
- Subsequently, the French Government asked to be allowed to use some of these steamers. To meet this claim an arrangement between British and French Governments was arrived at, satisfactory to both parties.
- The allocation of these steamers is only a temporary management and does not in any way prejudice the final disposal of the steamers under the treaty of peace.
- Great Britain’s need of these vessels is acute. She has to demobilize her army in India before Christmas. Civilians, including business men, cannot go to the East this year owing to the lack of passenger ships. The waiting list of such passengers to all parts is enormous. Over 25,000 South African passengers are awaiting transportation quite apart from British passengers requiring accommodation. The same, if not worse, applies to India and the East, also to Australia and Canada. Great Britain has to repatriate 400,000 soldiers on long distance work.
- In the month of September British crews were sent to New York to bring back the Imperator and all arrangements were concluded with the United States Military and Naval authorities to move her, but at the last moment the American Shipping Board interfered and refused to allow the vessel to be delivered to the British representative, stating that their instructions were that the Imperator and seven other vessels [had] been assigned to them. All argument failed to induce them to admit that such was not the case.
- The vessels are consequently lying idle and His Majesty’s Government is incurring a cost of hundreds of pounds daily in feeding and housing these British crews which were sent to America to bring these ships over.
- Neither the United States Shipping Board nor United States Government have the smallest conceivable right to detain these vessels.
- The most pressing representations have been made by the British Government [Ambassador] at Washington to United States State Department on several occasions and the State Department admit that the ships ought to be handed over but its efforts have failed to move the American Shipping Board.
- Early in October Sir Joseph Maclay, the British Shipping Controller, made a personal appeal to the Chairman of the American Shipping Board to release these vessels, but with no result.
- A complete deadlock has been reached owing to the unjustified action of the Shipping Board.
- In these circumstances the British Government requests the Supreme Council to address a formal request to the United States [Page 573]Government to hand over the above mentioned vessels to properly appointed agents of the British Government without delay.”