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267 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Cablegram 160 LONDON, 20 September 1938


For Prime Minister. Dominions Office Telegram 241. [1] This embodies result of conversations which lasted whole of yesterday [2] between United Kingdom and French Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries [3] which have today been endorsed by both United Kingdom and French Cabinets. Reason substitution of direct transfer territory for idea of plebiscite apart from practical difficulties of latter was view that former would be more acceptable to Czechs and would render less difficult rejection of claims Poland and Hungary which have already been put forward with regard to their minority. [4]

United Kingdom commitments embodied paragraph 6 to join in international guarantee due to realisation by United Kingdom Government necessity [5] of such guarantee if Czechoslovakia consent is to be obtained to proposed transfer of territory, that unless new boundaries Czechoslovakia guaranteed and stable country established as bulwark against further German restitutions [6] in middle and eastern Europe progressively Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Poland would fall under her domination with little if any serious opposition and there would be nothing to impede path to Black Sea until clash came with Soviet. To leave way open for such a development would merely be postponing crisis, would keep Europe in a ferment and would be no justification for sacrifices that Czechoslovakia is being asked to agree to or for efforts that are being made in order to avoid world war at moment. In all circumstances in my view there was no possibility of United Kingdom avoiding this new and untraditional commitment and I think you should consider desirability of your informing United Kingdom of your appreciation of necessity and value of her action in cause of peace and at appropriate time of your making a public announcement to this effect.

Greatest danger at moment in my view is that Czechoslovak Government will refuse to co-operate in any way. French Government is confident that they will come into line and United Kingdom are inclined to take same view. If they do not aid [7] most difficult situation win be created particularly if some serious incident occurred in Sudeten area or general mobilisation were immediately ordered by Czechs.

Pressing United Kingdom Government as to immediate consideration of course to be followed in extra [8] event.


1 Not printed; see Document 265, note 2.

2 The copy of this cablegram retained by Bruce in London was dated 19 September 1938 (AA : AA1970/556, item 6(2)). 'Yesterday' refers to 18 September 1938.

3 U.K. Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, and Foreign Secretary, Viscount Halifax; French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier and Foreign Secretary, Georges Bonnet.

4 Bruce's copy reads 'minorities'.

5 Bruce's copy reads 'apart from necessity'.

6 Bruce's copy reads 'ambitious'.

7 Bruce's copy reads 'a'.

8 Bruce's copy reads 'such an'.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History