No. 188 NAI DFA Secretary's Files S77

Memorandum by Sheila Murphy of a phone message from Seán Murphy (London)
with replies from John Hearne

Dublin, 26 May 1938

Phone message from Mr. Murphy 26.5.38 (Replies as indicated given to him by Mr. Hearne on 27.5.38)

  1. Generally speaking, the meeting yesterday was quite satisfactory. The other side are quite ready to give us all the information which we asked for. There will be another meeting on Friday for the purpose of communicating to our representatives the information they desire to have.
  2. The British Authorities are anxious to know whether when the handing over takes place we would wish for an exchange of ceremonial salutes. It was gathered that unless we wanted such a ceremony the British do not mind one way or the other. If there is to be no ceremony they will probably begin sending the maintenance parties away before the actual transfer takes place, and about one-half to three-quarters would be gone before the date of the transfer. If there is to be a ceremony, the whole garrison would remain1.
  3. They said that if the date was fixed for the end of June they felt the interval between now and then would scarcely be sufficient to enable them to get their people out. If we were keen on that particular date they would fit in with our views and arrange accordingly, but they wondered if we could agree to an extension of the time. Mr. Murphy said that he did not think our people would have any great objection to an extension of the time, for, say, one week. They said that that would help them, but that if we were still keen on the end of June it would be all right2.
  4. It became quite clear in the course of the discussions yesterday that there is a lot of stuff in the forts which our people may wish to take over - barrack equipment, armaments, etc. Our people are not sure whether they would wish to take these things over until they see what is actually there. It is suggested therefore that an administrative conference should take place at Cobh itself between the 7th and the 10th June. It is the only way of seeing whether we could take over the material referred to, and it is also the only way of making any estimate of its value at all. The proposal is that when this conference is over on Monday or Tuesday of next week some of our officers should go down informally to walk round and examine things for themselves. That could be arranged by the Department of Defence by a telephone message to Colonel Love3.
  5. Between now and the 30th June the British feel that a number of War Office people might go to and from Cobh for the purpose of making inventories, etc. They consider that train journeys would be a waste of time. Apparently Cobh is under the direction of the Western Command Headquarters, which is situated at Chester. They suggest that the War Office people should come and go by seaplane. They would like a general permission during the period referred to for their people to come and go as they thought fit without an actual permission for each individual visit. They could not say how often they would come, and frequently it might be a last-minute decision4.
  6. The Taoiseach will recall that in the note from the High Commissioner Mr. Dulanty referred to a request from the other side as to what we could do for the civilian employees5. They are mostly people from the district, ex-Army and ex-Naval men, but they perform civilian duties exclusively - e.g. attending to the electric light, operating motor launches, carpentry and plumbing. Many of them are there for a long time, and the British Government feels a certain responsibility for them. There are at Berehaven and Cobh 95 civilians, at Spike (Cobh) 70-78. They would be anxious that something could be done for them. They are experienced people, and it might be possible for us to retain them. The British attitude on the matter is: if we can retain them they will be glad, but if we cannot they will not very much mind6.
  7. Owing to the shortness of the time they feel that they will not be able to take away from the ports whatever we do not want before the actual transfer. They desire to know whether there would be any objection on our part to their leaving them to take away as and when they can7.
  8. They would like to know whether we have any views on the subject as to how the actual evacuation should take place. The most convenient thing for them would be to take the men from Cobh to Cork and embark them there for Fishguard. They would take the men away in batches. That is alternative A. Alternative B would be to get a special boat to come to Cobh Harbour and embark the men there. That would be a laborious proceeding, they think, but they would be prepared to do it if we had any objection to Alternative A. The difficulty about Alternative A might be anything in the nature of a demonstration at Cork8.


1 Reply by Hearne: 'Can and yes'. Hearne's brief replies are written in the margin of the document in Sheila Murphy's hand.

2 Reply by Hearne: '11th July'.

3 Reply by Hearne: 'Agree'.

4 Reply by Hearne: 'Agree'.

5 See document No. 186.

6 Reply by Hearne: 'No responsibility of any kind we will see how far we could utilise their services'.

7 Reply by Hearne: 'Alright acquisitive'.

8 Reply by Hearne: 'To avoid fuss or incident it would be safer to go [word indecipherable] although we recognise inconvenience'.

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