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

No. 989

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 562 of September 27,9 1934, enclosing a paraphrase of a telegram, dated September 22, 1934, from the American Ambassador at Moscow, and a copy of a report, dated August 29, 1934, from the Military Attaché at Rome, relative to the proposed action of the Italian Government in Ethiopia, and requesting the Embassy to submit its comments.

On a visit to the Foreign Office on October 9th, the Embassy [sic] discussed the question with the Acting Chief of the Egyptian Department, whose remarks are summarized in the following paragraphs.

He said that though he knew the Italians had discussed the question of Ethiopia with the French, he did not know whether a definite agreement had been reached, and added that he wished he did know. He volunteered the information that the rumor that the British Government [Page 760] had given the Italian Government the assurance of a free hand in Ethiopia was entirely without foundation. He said that the Italians had latterly pretended, at least, to be suspicious of the British in that part of the world, and a short time ago when a Secretary of the British Embassy at Rome was discussing another question with an Italian Foreign Office official, the latter talked very sharply and almost rudely about the Tacna [Tsana] Dam project. The British Foreign Office official thought this proceeding rather silly and especially uncalled for at this time, since the question is not a live issue at present.

He also referred to the continued occupation by the Italians of important wells at and near Walwal in Eastern Ethiopia, clearly within the latter’s territory under any interpretation of the Treaty with Italy, and to what he described as the absurdly rigorous policing by the Italians of their frontier with British Somaliland, which had resulted in the killing by the Italian troops of some natives from the British side. He understood that the movements of the natives were controlled by the available supplies of water and the conditions of grazing land, and feared therefore that the Italian activities mentioned above might have a disturbing effect on the natives.

He mentioned that the British Embassy at Rome had reported that though there was a great deal of talk in Italian military circles of an impending campaign in Ethiopia, the Embassy was of the opinion that the great expense of such a venture if for no other reason, made it unlikely.

During the conversation, which was quite informal, the Foreign Office official made it quite clear that he had a poor opinion of the Italians’ behavior in this relation and felt that they had unnecessarily given everyone concerned cause for annoyance. Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Ray Atherton

Counselor of Embassy
  1. See footnote 5, p. 758.