The British Ambassador (Howard) to the Secretary of State

No. 718

Sir: In his note No. 146 of February 14th Mr. Chilton had the honour to draw the attention of the United States Government to the views of His Majesty’s Government as to the bearing of the Washington Naval Treaty on the proposals published in the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy in regard to the increase of the elevation of the turret guns of thirteen capital ships of the United States Navy. At the same time Mr. Chilton drew attention to the larger aspects of the question and pointed out that whatever arguments might be put forward in support of the contention that such alterations are in accordance with the letter of the Treaty, it cannot be doubted that they would involve a renewal of competition in armaments, with the resultant burden upon the peoples of the countries concerned, and would thus be in direct opposition to the objects of the Naval Treaty as expressed in the Preamble.

It was added that His Majesty’s Government therefore proposed that the United States Government and the Japanese Government and His Majesty’s Government should each undertake not to make, during the term of the Naval Treaty, any increase in the elevation of the turret guns of their existing capital ships.

I have the honour, under instructions from my Government, to inform you that, in the absence of a reply on the part of the United States Government on this question, His Majesty’s Government have now made a similar proposal to the Japanese Government, as foreshadowed [Page 13] in the last paragraph of Mr. Chilton’s note, and that His Majesty’s Government have further suggested, in connection with the undertaking above referred to, that, should any increase in the elevation of the turret guns have already been made in any capital ship, by any of the signatories of the Washington Naval Treaty, the other signatories should be informed.

In this connection I would draw your attention to a statement which appeared in an editorial article in the Washington Post of July 31st in the following terms:

“It is asserted that both Great Britain and Japan have elevated some of their big guns since the Treaty became effective; but this has been denied and the point is in doubt”.

In view of the explicit assurance contained in the seventh paragraph of Mr. Chilton’s note, the latter part of the above quotation is a mis-statement of fact. Such statements by influential newspapers are all the more unfortunate in that they inspire other sections of the press with erroneous ideas. For instance, since the above article appeared in the Washington Post the St. Louis Star in its issue of August 4th has stated editorially in describing the Washington Conference and its results:

“Britain accepted the limitations as to the great line battleships and in a way persuaded the United States and Japan to make the most sacrifices. She then proceeded to modernize her fleet, and when the United States and Japan announced a similar programme raised numerous technical objections.”

In acquainting you with the above, I have the honour to emphasize once more the unfortunate and widespread results which the elevation of turret guns on the 13 capital ships above referred to would have upon the competition in armaments, and to express the hope that you will be so good as to communicate to me in due course an expression of the views of the United States Government.

I have [etc.]

Esme Howard