856B.20/21: Telegram

The Minister to the Netherlands Government in Exile (Biddle) to the Secretary of State

Netherlands Series No. 3. My 2, January 5, 8 p.m. In a conversation this afternoon, Foreign Minister Van Kleffens fully reflected the frame of mind conveyed in my telegram of yesterday. He was if anything more categorical than Dr. Gerbrandy had been. First of all, he said he desired to state with regard to a possible invitation to Venezuela to send a three man military mission to Curaçao that there was no such word as “muvt” [must?] in the Dutch dictionary.

Apart from this he wished to say that pending the adjustment of the arrangements connected with the setting up of the staff in the Pacific under General Wavell, the Government here should not entertain any suggestion whatever regarding Venezuelan mission to Curaçao. He added that the revision which had been recommended by the Netherlands Government were regarded as a minimum and it considered our acceptance of them as a “test of the New World.”

He referred with intense emotion both to the manner in which the Wavell arrangements had been made and to their deficiencies as to substance. On the former point he spoke indignantly of the announcement of the arrangement before the Netherlands point of view had been heard. He then pointed out how prejudicial to the Government had been the noninclusion of any Dutch military personality in the arrangements. This disregarded the pivotal military position of the [Page 53] Dutch Empire in the Far East. It undermined the position of the Government with its own people both in Holland and in the East Indies. And it played into the hands of those elements which were fond of accusing the Government of losing control of its empire.

Dr. Van Kleffens showed me a telegram from the Governor General at Batavia12 which not only endorsed the point of view which the Government here had taken but went beyond this in that he insisted that not only should there be a Dutch chief of staff but that annex number 2 of the Wavell arrangements should mention the Dutch Prime Minister in the same manner as the President and the British Prime Minister. The Government here, however, has not itself insisted upon this to me.

Van Kleffens was inflexible for the better part of the 2-hour conversation regarding Venezuelan military mission for Curaçao but toward the end stated that after the Wavell matter was adjusted the Netherlands Government, although it had gone as far as it could by its offer mentioned in my No. 68 of December 3113 and although it opposed a military mission, would consider any counter suggestions that we might make.

He also said a telegram from London reported we were on point of negotiating a bilateral agreement with Venezuela which would contain a clause guaranteeing that Venezuela would take no action against Aruba or Curaçao during the war.

He emphasized that the Cabinet unanimously took the view that it could not admit that such a question should be the subject of negotiation by any third power.

Van Kleffens told me that Mr. Churchill had sent a message to Dr. Gerbrandy which was in the nature of an expression of regret over the circumstances surrounding the Wavell matter. I gather that this has had some effect in mollifying the members of the Government. It is my impression that if some soothing word could come from us this would have a beneficial effect as it was clearly intimated that the Government and the Queen herself had been deeply hurt by what they regarded as a lack of consideration for their position.

  1. A.W.L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stacnouwer.
  2. Not printed.