740.00119 European War 1939/2537

The British Embassy to the Department of State


Reference is made to discussions which have taken place between Mr. Jones97 of the State Department and Mr. Hayter98 of the British Embassy regarding the notes99 addressed to the United States and United Kingdom Governments by the Belgian and Netherlands Governments on the subject of the terms of surrender for Italy.

His Majesty’s Government believe that the real object of the notes is to obtain an assurance that the procedure followed in the case of the Italian instrument of surrender will not be used as a precedent in future cases. The answer to be given must therefore deal with this particular point.
His Majesty’s Government adhere to the views that they have expressed on previous occasions (see for example paragraph 3 of the Embassy’s Aide-Mémoire1 handed to Mr. Matthews2 of the State Department on January 18th on the subject of German Armistice Terms) that on both legal and practical grounds any general armistice presented for signature to an Axis power must apply to and cover the interests of all United Nations who are at war with that power. Such United Nations must, therefore, be given the opportunity of concurring in the Armistice presented in their behalf, in order that they may consequently be bound by it. Owing to the number of United Nations who are at war with the Axis, it would be unduly cumbrous to attempt to agree detailed terms with all of them in advance; and His Majesty’s Government accordingly consider it legitimate to make a clear distinction as to the amount of prior consultation and agreement which can reasonably be required in order [Page 44] to produce the desired result. In the case of Latin American or Middle Eastern countries which are not actually engaged in hostilities against, for instance, Germany, and have no particular interests which would be directly affected by an Armistice, a certain amount of prior information as to the terms to be presented might well suffice. But in the case of those Allies whose forces are actually engaged in hostilities or whose countries have been over-run by the Axis power in question, much more is required because their forces will have to comply with the terms of the armistice, and because they have special interests which will require to be protected in the instrument of surrender. It therefore seems to His Majesty’s Government that these Allies should, if possible, be informed beforehand of the precise terms which it is proposed to present, should have an opportunity of commenting upon them and of having their comments considered, and should definitely agree to the presentation of the terms in their names. The precise method of consulting such Allied Governments and securing their concurrence is a matter which will have to be decided in due course by the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union in the light of recommendations submitted to them by the European Advisory Commission (so far as the European members of the Axis are concerned). In the meantime the United Kingdom representative on that Commission has suggested to his United States and Soviet colleagues that the Commission in the course of its consideration of possible Armistice terms should bring certain Allied Governments into consultation, in view of the discretion conferred upon the Commission in paragraph 4 of its terms of reference.
While His Majesty’s Government do not wish to pre-judge the exact method of associating the Governments of the United Nations with future surrender terms, they feel that it is necessary to give some assurance now to the Belgian and Netherlands Governments in answer to their notes. His Majesty’s Government accordingly propose, if the United States Government agree, to inform the Netherlands and Belgian Embassies that the procedure followed in the case of the Italian Armistice will not serve as a precedent in future cases, and that for their part His Majesty’s Government are glad to give an assurance that the Netherlands and Belgian Governments will be given prior knowledge of the terms of surrender to be imposed upon Germany and an opportunity of commenting upon them.
His Majesty’s Government have recently received from the Czechoslovak Government a specific request that they should be given the opportunity of participating in the preparation of the armistice to be imposed upon Germany and Hungary. Subject to the views of the United States Government, His Majesty’s Government propose to [Page 45] reply in the same terms as those used with the Netherlands and Belgian Governments.
Lord Halifax3 would be glad to receive an expression of Mr. Hull’s views on the above points.
  1. J. Wesley Jones, of the Division of Southern European Affairs.
  2. William G. Hayter, First Secretary of the British Embassy.
  3. Note D.8248, No. 5951 from the Belgian Embassy dated December 3, 1943, Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. ii, p. 398. A similar note of the same date from the Netherlands Ambassador, not printed.
  4. Not printed; attached to this aide-mémoire were copies of British Draft German Armistice and Summary, printed on pp. 121 and 116, respectively.
  5. H. Freeman Matthews, Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs.
  6. British Ambassador in the United States.