740.0011 Mutual Guarantee (Locarno)/370: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Atherton) to the Secretary of State

89. Although as reported in my 86, March 6, 9 a.m. [p.m.]61 the Cabinet discussed, but I understand, reached no decision on Friday61a as to England’s action should Germany remilitarize the Rhineland zone, yesterday’s news caused great surprise but little apparent excitement in London. At 11 o’clock the German Ambassador handed the Foreign Secretary a memorandum containing the substance of Hitler’s speech and immediately afterwards Eden invited the French Ambassador, the Italian Ambassador and the Belgian Chargé d’Affaires, as representatives of the Locarno Powers, to call at the Foreign Office separately. In his conversation with the French [Page 214] Ambassador he deprecated precipitate action and advised careful restraints of the German proposals. Shortly after these three interviews Eden left for a consultation with the Prime Minister at Chequers and at a late hour last night had not returned. I understand further consultations with the Prime Minister are planned for today, and tomorrow there will be a meeting of the Cabinet. The Foreign Office has been reticent with the press as to any indication of British policy although it has stated the French Ambassador called on the Foreign Secretary this morning to discuss procedure for the Locarno meeting the French desire to call in Paris on Tuesday and the subsequent Geneva meeting. It is reported here that the League of Nations meeting scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed until Thursday.

In estimating the situation from London it should be borne in mind that the present Cabinet is weak and that public opinion is strongly for peace, and that even that large element which supports the League of Nations does so in the belief that it offers the best machinery for maintaining peace. Thus the German offers are well framed not to displease the man in the street, since it may be argued that a real offer has been made to replace treaty obligations which events have rendered practically worthless. For the moment official opinion here is conscious that the German proposals are in the main directed to France. Thus there will be no hasty action here and no action until after mature deliberation. England has already apparently urged such a policy on France, conscious that in the last analysis the real answer to Germany’s action must be based on how far England and France can agree to support a common policy.

[Here follow excerpts from editorial comment in the British press.]

  1. Not printed.
  2. March 3.