The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Kennedy ) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 29—4:45 p.m.]
416. Your 216, March 28, 7 p.m.66 Inquiry has been made at the Foreign Office which has promised early reply.
An official invited attention to the Prime Minister’s statement on March 8 in the House of Commons in reply to the question whether in view of action by the British Fleet at the beginning of the Civil War in rescuing refugees from various Spanish ports who were in danger from the government side, the Prime Minister would see that the fleet is now employed on similar humanitarian work in rescuing persons who are in danger from General Franco’s side.
The Prime Minister replied that the Government was not prepared to act without the concurrence of the Spanish Government, but that in the event of an agreement being reached between the latter and some responsible authority on the Republican side for the safeguarding and evacuation of refugees, prisoners and others, the Government would be prepared to consider assisting in the execution of the agreement, if asked to do so, and if satisfied that its assistance was required for humanitarian reasons.
Referring to the Prime Minister’s first statement above, the official said that General Franco had been asked for his concurrence and refused and that the British had therefore stood on the Prime Minister’s statement as a whole. He said it had been their view that it would be out of the question for British men-of-war to enter Spanish territorial waters to protect refugee ships without the consent of the Spanish Government, and that convoy would in any case be futile if the refugees had no certain destination known to be willing to admit them.