760F.62/732: Telegram

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

897. My 896, September 10, 9 p.m.,17 and 891, September 9, 10 a.m. I have just seen Halifax. He read me this morning’s despatch from Henderson, in which Henderson urged most strongly that he not be obliged to present the ultimatum forwarded to him for presentation to the German Government; this ultimatum mentioned in my despatch of yesterday.18 He said he had talked with Goering who, in spite of his “table thumping” speech, Henderson still considers the leader of the moderates; Goebbels, who was also most reasonable; Ribbentrop, whom I judge, is still rather bad; also the head of the Foreign Office (the Cadogan of this office) and they all made it clear that they had definitely presented the British point of view to the Chancellor and [Page 588] they all warned that a démarche similar to May 21 would be the worst possible thing that could be done, that if they were to be able to persuade Hitler to remain moderate, action like this would make it impossible. The Government has therefore decided to accept Henderson’s viewpoint and to hold up the delivery of the ultimatum until some later time and then only if necessary. Henderson said that it is impossible to keep anything confidential, the Germans are aware that a messenger was sent to Nuremberg and last night they asked Henderson what the reason for it was. He told them that he had received an ultimatum from his Government but that he had urged the Government not to ask him to present it until some future time. Goering indicated that that was by far the wiser thing to do. Henderson still of course is of the opinion that Hitler is in warm mood to make an attack and in his latest information says the air force can move within an hour; the army is prepared to move at once. Goebbels indicated to Henderson that their influence was on the side of moderation provided the Czechs showed much more restraint than they are now showing in the handling of their Sudeten people.

Another incident that seems most significant is that yesterday afternoon the German Embassy here asked if their Naval Attaché might call on the Admiralty. He was granted permission and asked the Admiralty what they meant by moving up their mine sweepers. The Admiral acting under lead from the Foreign Office told him that since things were so uncertain and because he believed that England would positively move if France got into this fight, and that seemed inevitable to him, they were taking these as preliminary precautions. Halifax added that the Admiral went beyond his authority in this statement but he thought rather wisely because the Admiral reports that the reaction of the Naval Attaché was astounding. He said that he did not believe that anybody in Germany had the slightest idea that England intended to fight. Halifax and the Prime Minister were so interested in this reaction that they are considering, within the next 2 hours, the idea of starting a little movement in the destroyer fleet. They will let me know about this a little later this evening. Temporarily they have decided to continue bluffing with incidents like destroyers and mine sweepers and what not and not with words because they do not believe that Hitler would believe them even if they said they were going in definitely.

I am seeing the Prime Minister at 7:30.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram No. 893, September 10, 1 p.m., p. 585.