760F.62/666: Telegram

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

869. From a thoroughly reliable official source the following strictly confidential information has been obtained which may supplement information from other sources in the Department’s hands.

1. At the end of last week the British Ambassador in Paris had a conversation with Bonnet in the course of which he indicated that Runciman had a plan up his sleeve which in the main consisted of Henlein’s Carlsbad proposals and he asked Bonnet what would be the attitude of the French Government if Beneš should reject it. Bonnet is reported to have replied that if the Czechs should reject a plan which Runciman and the British considered fair and equitable, French opinion would find it impossible to support the Czech attitude. The British Ambassador asked Bonnet to tell that to Beneš.

2. The British Dominions have been kept currently informed of the course of recent developments. The only Dominion that has thus far officially defined its attitude is Australia. In a long telegram received on Saturday it expressed disapproval of Beneš’ machinations and in effect advised the British Government that if the Czechs did not satisfy the Sudeten Germans they should be told where to get off.

This will no doubt prove a useful lever in the hands of the British both internationally and in due course nationally vis-à-vis the opposition. It may be of interest to note how these things are worked here. For example the same source states that prior to Simon’s Lanark speech the French Chargé d’Affaires was instructed to ask whether it would be possible for Simon to go beyond Chamberlain’s May 24 [23] statement10 and likewise that Halifax’s memorandum of his conversation showed that he told Cambon that this would not be possible because of public opinion in this country and in certain of the Dominions. The telegraphic report of this conversation which was sent to the [Page 578] several Dominions omits the reference to public opinion in certain of the Dominions.

3. There was cited as illustrative of German political ineptitude in the face of events working rapidly in Germany’s favor that at the end of last week a telegram was received from the British Embassy at Berlin stating that the German authorities had indicated that German fleet maneuvers would shortly take place in the North Sea but they would not occur nearer than 30 miles to the British coast. Despite the present comparative sizes of the German and British fleets the spectre of a German fleet operating within 30 miles of the British coast is said to have touched off traditional emotions.

  1. Made in the House of Commons and reported in the press of May 24.