841.2222/39: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State

785. Personal for the President. Sir Eric Phipps, British Ambassador in Paris, said to me this evening that he had transmitted to Chamberlain65 today a most impassioned appeal from Daladier66 for the introduction of conscription in Great Britain before Hitler’s speech on April 28.

The British Ambassador said that he entirely agreed with this appeal and felt that it was essential that conscription should be adopted in order to prove to the people of Central and Eastern Europe that Great Britain really was in earnest and to silence the voices in France and throughout Europe which were beginning to say (he believed as a result of German propaganda) that England was ready to fight for the liberties of Europe until the last Frenchman was dead.

He asked me what was your point of view with regard to this matter.

I replied that I was certain you believed that at the present time it was of the highest importance that Great Britain should introduce conscription. He said that no such indication had reached the British Government through Ambassador Kennedy. I replied that it should be obvious that it was difficult for you to send your Ambassador to the British Prime Minister to state your opinion on this question. Phipps asked me if I was certain that your opinion was as I had stated and I replied that I was.

I was informed by Blum67 this evening that he has great hopes that his conversations with the British Labor Party would result in the Labor Party withdrawing its opposition to conscription. There will be a meeting in London on Thursday, April 27, of representatives of the British and French trade unions and the British Labor Party and the French Socialist Party to decide this question.

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Because of doubts throughout Europe as to Chamberlain’s determination to implement his pledges—doubts which have been expressed to me by representatives of nearly every country in Europe during the past few days—there is a growing feeling that Great Britain can not really be counted on for active help. In the period of intense diplomatic activity before Hitler’s reply to your message68 it is vital that this doubt should be eliminated. It can be eliminated only by the introduction of conscription.

I believe, therefore, that it is intensely important that you should telegraph to Ambassador Kennedy personally and immediately instructing him if he should be asked for your private and personal opinion with regard to the question of conscription in England to reply that you believe that it is of the highest importance that conscription should be introduced before Hitler’s speech.

Bullitt
  1. Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister.
  2. Édouard Daladier, President of the French Council of Ministers and Minister of National Defense.
  3. Léon Blum, member of the French Chamber of Deputies and Leader of the Socialist Party; formerly Premier.
  4. See telegram of April 14 from President Roosevelt to the German Chancellor, p. 130.