Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The British Ambassador called to see me at his request this afternoon. The Ambassador handed me a paraphrase of a telegram he had received from Mr. Eden17 on April 26 which related to a conversation I had some days ago with the Ambassador concerning the increasing bitterness developing between the Free French authorities in Syria and General Spears, the British representative there. I asked the Ambassador to thank Mr. Eden for his message and to say that immediate consideration would be given to his suggestion.


Telegram Received by the British Embassy From the Foreign Office, Dated April 26, 1942

Sir E. Spears has high opinion of United States Consul General and we have reason to think latter shares Sir E. Spears’ views about [Page 593] need for internal changes in Syria and Lebanon. If the United States Consul General is really anxious that Catroux is near breaking point I hope he will speak frankly to Sir E. Spears with whom he has always co-operated closely up to date. We had not heard things were as bad as this and we should expect to be told soon enough by de Gaulle if they were so. But I am warning Minister of State to keep his eyes on this and meanwhile you will note that we have expressly laid down that acting Minister of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Middle East should themselves put their recommendations to Catroux.

Please explain this to Mr. Sumner Welles and thank him for his message. The fact is that Sir E. Spears has most difficult role to play and fundamentally I do not think it can fairly be said that the fault lies on his side when he is carrying out a policy which has been approved by His Majesty’s Government and with which we understand United States Consul General himself agrees. This personal aspect shows clearly that support of United States Government would be most helpful over this question and I hope you will be able to get the State Department to send the necessary instructions to United States Consul General.

  1. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.