500.A15A5/413: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Bingham ) to the Secretary of State

259. French, Japanese and Italian Embassies have been handed the following “secret” aide-mémoire by the Foreign Office today.

  • “1. At the outset of the Anglo-German naval conversations the German Government announced their decision to build in the future a fleet which would be in the proportion of 100% for the British fleet and 35% for the German fleet.
  • 2. The German Government would also be prepared to agree:
    That this should be a permanent relationship between the two fleets, i. e. that the strength of the German fleet should never exceed 35% of the British fleet;
    That they would adhere to this limitation in all circumstances, e.g. it would not be affected by construction of third powers;
    That this ratio need not be incorporated in any future international treaty provided that the alternative method eventually adopted for the future limitation of naval armaments were to give Germany full guaranties that this relationship between the British and German fleets will be maintained;
    That the ratio should, in principle, be calculated on the basis of the tonnage in the separate categories (i.e. not merely on the “global” tonnage).

Before, however, giving an undertaking in the sense of paragraph 2 above, they asked whether His Majesty’s Government were prepared to accept this arrangement.

The German offer has been carefully considered by His Majesty’s Government who have reached the conclusion that it should be accepted. They regard it as a contribution of great importance to the cause of future naval limitation and consider that it furnishes an important assurance for the future security of this and other countries. [Page 164] Before, however, giving their formal reply to the German representatives, His Majesty’s Government would be glad to learn whether the United States Government desire to offer any observations. In view of the urgency of the matter they trust that they may receive any such observations in the course of the next few days.”

Craigie added the present naval discussions were dealing entirely with under-age tonnage, and pointed out the above agreement gave the French an estimated 30% superiority over the Germans.

The conversations opened last Monday with the Germans asking whether the British accepted Hitler’s 35% proposed ratio of last March. In attempting to clarify exactly what this meant the British were pleasurably surprised when on Wednesday, with Hitler’s authority, agreement was reached as set forth above and furthermore that the British might inform the interested naval powers. As a matter of tactics the British delayed immediate formal acceptance but regardless of what the views of continental naval powers may be it is understood the British have given informal acceptance to the Germans. In view of the fact that Germany possesses ships outside the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the British deemed it expedient not to raise this issue. However, it is expected the French and Italians may do so.

The Germans are returning to Berlin and the conversations have been adjourned until Friday of next week. Craigie hopes that before that time observations (if any) of the interested governments will have been received.

Craigie stressed that all data contained herein should be regarded as most strictly confidential.

This Embassy views this preliminary Anglo-German accord as a constructive contribution and should this also be the Department’s opinion I venture to suggest your consideration of a telegram instructing this Embassy to convey some favorable observation in general terms to the Foreign Office where I have reason to believe it would be welcome.