270 Mr P. Liesching, U.K. Acting High Commissioner to Australia, to Lord Stanley, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 184 21 September 1938,

My telegram No. 182, of the 20th of September. [1] Impressed by what was said to Stirling [2] in London as to the need for extreme reticence on the present state of affairs affecting Czechoslovakia Prime Minister [3] announced in the House of Representatives that in view of the delicacy of the situation he would defer his proposed statement until to-morrow. [4] There is no change in the attitude of the Cabinet as described in my telegram No. 1765 and previous messages. Public opinion, in so far as I can gauge it, is still ready to support United Kingdom policy to the point where the Sudeten areas might be ceded under pressure from the United Kingdom and France on the ground that the preservation of Czechoslovakia's territorial integrity has from the first been a lost cause not worth a war for the United Kingdom and the Empire.

But in view of Press reports of remarkable accuracy which have appeared since Berchtesgaden conversations the last few days have seen the growth of a genuine and more outspoken apprehension (similar to that being voiced in some sections of the English Press and cabled here) at the prospect that our influence in favour of cession, if it is set in a context of anticipating a German ultimatum and is not accompanied by some wider settlement and by a clear indication that Germany will be halted at that point, will certainly fail to save us from a war on which we shall have to embark after now suffering 'a staggering blow to British prestige' (these words were used in a recent telegram from Bruce to Lyons) [6] and incurring a dishonour from which we shall not deserve to recover. Some newspapers (including influential Sydney Morning Herald) speak daily of 'dismay and incredulity' which such a policy must provoke but others and with them I think the bulk of the general public are waiting with a patient if slightly impaired confidence a clearer view of the outcome as a whole before passing judgment.

1 Not printed.

2 External Affairs Officer in London.

3 J. A. Lyons.

4 Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, vol. 157, p. 3. His statement was eventually made on 28 September (ibid., PP. 306-26).

5 Document 253.

6 Document 262. The word actually used by Bruce was 'shattering'.

[PRO : DO 114/94]