103 Attlee to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 9 LONDON, 14 January 1943, 11.35 p.m.

SECRET

1. Swiss Government have been asked by Vichy Government to safeguard latter's interests in Australia. Have expressed readiness to accept providing His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia have no object[ion]s and have asked that Commonwealth Government's views be ascertained.

2. Position in this country is that Vichy Consul General in London [1] who broke with Vichy when Germans occupied whole of France has been informed that he can no longer be recognised as Consul General but has agreed to act as unofficial intermediary on behalf of Frenchmen who have not rallied to de Gaulle [2] and to retain custody of French Embassy and Consulates. Vichy Government have not since raised the question of the representation of Vichy interests here.

3. We understand that United States [?State] Department takes the line that there is now no French Government which another Government could represent in the United States, although Swiss are allowed to assume the 'Unofficial' protection of Vichy interests in United States.

4. When Swiss Government recently made communication on lines similar to those in paragraph 1 above to Canadian Government latter replied to general effect that they had no objection to representation in Canada by the Swiss Government of certain French interests there but wording used was such as to avoid undertaking to hand over to care of Swiss all French interests in Canada, and especially French state property there. Reason for this reply was that Canadian Government, who have publicly announced that they no longer recognise Vichy as the de jure Government of France, wished to remain free to recognise in the future some other body as the legitimate Government of France and to avoid causing embarrassment to the Swiss should Canadian Government then wish to hand over French state property in Canada to the representative of the new French Government.

5. It appears desirable that as far as possible the same line should be taken by all United Nations in reply to such requests from Vichy. If Commonwealth Government on grounds of convenience and with view to preventing Vichy from withdrawing consent to protection of Australian interests in Vichy France would wish to allow Swiss to take charge of Vichy interests in Australia we would suggest that in the circumstances outlined above this permission should be granted to Swiss on an informal basis only leaving the way open for an eventual resumption of the charge of all French interests by a duly constituted French Government fighting with the United Nations.

6. Should be grateful to learn what reply Commonwealth Government wish to be returned to Swiss Government's enquiry.

1 M. J. E. Jalenques was French Consul-in-Charge in London.

2 President of the Free French National Committee.

[AA:A1608, H33/1/5]