The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Matthews) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 25—11:59 p.m.]
1424. I communicated the Department’s 1161, February 22, 8 p.m., to Admiral Stark who tells me that he has been informed by the authorities here that the procedure outlined in my 1278, February 18, midnight, has been modified after an exchange of telegrams with Lord Halifax50 in accordance with the latter’s suggestions. Seamen will not be forcibly returned to ships or deported to Africa, pending agreement between de Gaulle and Giraud. The new procedure authorizes enlistment of the Fighting French and transportation to England of seamen who refuse positively to serve under their present officers. It is claimed by British Security authorities that some of the officers in question “fired on Allied forces in November and are still rabidly pro-Axis and anti-British.”
It is understood that Lord Halifax reported that this applies to the 40 seamen of the Wyoming and Lotnowin, Halifax, awaiting transport to England in accordance with General de Gaulle’s request. The British are instructing Macmillan51 to urge on Giraud the importance of making an early recruiting agreement with de Gaulle and likewise of taking steps that no vessels sail for British or American ports with officers whose records might provoke the crews to desert.
Admiral Stark is of the opinion that it is advisable that both countries should follow the same procedure. He suggests that the Navy Department adopt the amended British procedure or propose changes to render this acceptable.
Repeated to Algiers.