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292 Note of Meeting of U.K. and Dominions Representatives

LONDON, 29 September 1938, 6.50 p.m.



Malcolm MacDonald, acting for Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner for Australia C. T. te Water, High Commissioner for South Africa Vincent Massey, High Commissioner for Canada W. J. Jordan, High Commissioner for New Zealand J. W. Dulanty, High Commissioner for Eire The Duke of Devonshire, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Sir Edward Harding, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Sir Harry Batterbee, Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Dominions Office E. G. Machtig, Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Dominions Office N. E. Archer, Dominions Office

MR MACDONALD said that, pending the results of the Munich Conference, the Government in London were helping to prepare the British Legion to go out to look after the plebiscite areas in case this was agreed to by the Conference. The Netherlands and Belgian Governments had also offered to contribute troops. The information from Munich which had been communicated to Dominion Governments was that there had been a two hour meeting at Munich which had been adjourned till 4.30 p.m., and that the atmosphere had been very good. He then read the telegram received from His Majesty's Minister in Prague (No. 788) [1] setting out the Czech Government's objections to the United Kingdom Plan, together with the warning which had been sent to President Benes [2] as to the undesirability of attempting to tie Mr Chamberlain's [3] hands.

MR BRUCE said that he thought that the latter telegram was too encouraging to the Czechs and that the time had now come to take a firm line with Dr Benes. He felt that any reluctance to bring pressure to bear on the Czech Government would be a mistake, particularly in view of the attitude of the Dominion Governments.

MR MASSEY and MR TE WATER strongly supported Mr Bruce's view, the latter observing that it was clear that the Munich Conference would probably have to whittle down the British plan somewhat, and that the Czechoslovak Government was nevertheless talking of expanding the British plan in their favour.

MR MASSEY said that the latest expression of the Czech Government's objections confirmed the suspicion that the Czech Government had, in fact, been adopting a deliberately dilatory policy.

MR BRUCE expressed the view that a very stiff personal telegram should be sent to His Majesty's Minister at Prague [4] instructing him to make it abundantly clear in his day-to-day talks with the Czech Ministers and officials that the obstructive tactics of the Czech Government were unwelcome to the United Kingdom and Dominion Governments.

MR MASSEY and MR TE WATER supported this proposal and said that the request contained in the instructions to His Majesty's Minister at Prague that Dr Benes should not tie Mr Chamberlain's hands appeared to suggest that Dr Benes had the right to do so.

This was, in their view, quite incorrect.

MR MACDONALD said that whilst he agreed in principle with the Dominion representatives as to the desirability of bringing pressure to bear upon the Czech Government to accept a reasonable compromise, he felt that it would be premature to send the instructions suggested by Mr Bruce until it was known what the Prime Minister had been able to accomplish to-day.

MR BRUCE said that the meeting might be interested to know that he had received a cable containing a speech made by Mr Lyons [5] indicating that the Commonwealth Government were completely aware of all the facts of the situation. He thought it most satisfactory that Mr Lyons had been kept so fully informed.

MR JORDAN said that his Prime Minister [6] had sent a telegram expressing his thanks for the full information which he had received.

1 Not printed.

2 Dr Eduard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia.

3 Neville Chamberlain, U.K. Prime Minister.

4 Sir Basil Newton.

5 J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister. The cable is not printed.

6 M. J. Savage, N.Z. Prime Minister.

[PRO : DO 114/94]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History