840.50/3–1445: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

2638. Judge Rosenman requests the following message be given to the President:

I have had personal talks in London with the Prime Minister and Messrs. Attlee, Anderson, Law, Lyttelton, Leathers, Grigg and Llewellin of the British Cabinet.

From the talks thus far held, the following is a consensus of views of the members of the British War Cabinet. The northwest European supply problems which are most acute are food, coal and those in connection with transportation equipment (trucks, rolling stock, locomotives and maintenance equipment). Lack of internal transport causes serious dislocation of available local supplies and hampers the movement of imported supplies. This is true throughout northwest Europe. British opinion is that the food situation in France is basically not serious. In Belgium it is improving. All are however deeply concerned with conditions in Holland. The food consumption in liberated Holland is stated presently to be in the neighborhood of 1800 calories per day. In occupied Holland however it is said to have fallen to less than 400 per day and disease and death by starvation are already prevalent. Every effort is now being made to build up stocks in Belgium for use immediately upon liberation of areas in northern Holland. The British stress that as the Allied Armies advance in Holland the present food supply problem will become greatly intensified in view of the fact that western Germany is a food deficit area and that importation of food will be required to feed displaced United Nations persons as well as to provide minimum substance among the civilians behind the military lines. Am sending you by courier pouch an interim report on the food problem of northwestern Europe.

The British recognize that the British food stocks are the only source which can be drawn upon quickly for western Europe in case of emergency. They are prepared as in the past to release food to the extent possible to meet emergencies but emphasize that this can at best provide only temporary and limited relief and that such released food should be replaced as soon as possible and that their food stocks must be maintained in order to meet such emergencies.

Some of the British Ministers lay great stress upon the proposal made by Eden to Stettinius and Molotov at Yalta that a conference be held as early as possible at Moscow to discuss among other things [Page 1081] the possibility of providing food from the surplus food producing areas under Russian control to northwest Europe. Others of them would like to try it but do not hold out much hope of success. I have discussed this with Ambassador Winant and he has sent a cable on the matter to our State Department (Embassy’s 2532, March 11).

The British are also much concerned with the coal shortage which prevails throughout northwest Europe. They believe that while it may be possible eventually to obtain some coal from western Germany this will require the provision of food for miners, the reorganization of mining which is now largely carried on by impressed foreign labor and the probable necessity of supplying some mining machinery to repair damaged mines. Transportation of coal will of course continue to be a serious problem. The British maintain that little if any coal can be made available from the United Kingdom. They hope that some assistance to the general problem will result from the establishment of the proposed European coal organization but they point out that lack of coal will constitute the limiting factor in all industrial activity in northwest Europe.

The British are gratified at the allocation of additional shipping for continental civilian supplies for the next 3 months. They fear however that this relief will be temporary only and they urge strongly that maximum supplies be made available and ready for shipment in order that the fullest possible use be made of the ships which have now been allocated in view of the expected renewed shipping shortage later on.

British feel time has arrived to combine army civil affairs program with national program for France and that we should move rapidly as possible in that direction in other countries.

The foregoing is a summary of British point of view.

I also conferred with Lord Keynes and have already cabled you fully concerning that interview.

Talks have also been held here with Dutch and Norwegian representatives in London. The Mission is proceeding to Paris today.