811.34544/16/12

The British Ambassador (Lothian) to the Acting Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Welles: I have now heard from London regarding the proposed naval assurances.

The Prime Minister says that if Great Britain were over-run the present Government would certainly use the Fleet, or such of it as was intact, to defend the Empire overseas and would neither sink nor surrender it. At the same time he finds it difficult to make any further reference publicly to the subject at the present time because to do so would inevitably provoke discussion and would involve grave risk of creating both in the minds of the British people and of their enemies abroad the impression that the Government had in mind the collapse of Britain as a possible contingency.

In this connexion it is relevant to quote the following extract from the last declaration by Mr. Churchill as to the future of the British Fleet made on June 4th:—

“We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God’s good time the New World, with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.”

As regards the naval and air facilities of the East Coast I have been authorised to confirm that the facilities which His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom are prepared to extend to the United States Government are those which I enumerated in my letter to the President of August 5th, copy of which was sent to you on the same date. For convenience of reference a copy of the document enclosed in that letter is attached.85

I have however been instructed to make it clear in this connexion that His Majesty’s Government feel obliged to stipulate that any British air transport undertaking designated by His Majesty’s Government, engaged in the operation of air transport services between the West Indies and North and South America will have the unconditional [Page 65]use of these facilities—i. e. aerodromes, wireless installations, etc.—established by American interests on British soil and that these facilities will be made available to such British undertakings at reasonable commercial charges.

[Complimentary closing illegible]

Lothian
  1. Enclosure 2, supra.