No. 240 NAI DFA 2006/39

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 48) (Secret) (Copy)

London, 24 July 1940

After leaving Lord Caldecote yesterday I spoke to Sir Eric Machtig and expressed surprise that the action of the British Government in mining the Irish Sea could have been taken without prior consultation with the Irish Government. He said the first intimation the Dominions Office received from the Admiralty was yesterday afternoon when the order to lay the mines had already been given.

He spoke to me on much the same lines as did Lord Caldecote about my conversation on Saturday last with Lord Woolton. He urged that the delay in reaching a Trade Agreement had nothing sinister about it and enlarged on the difficulty of paying us a higher price for butter than they could pay Australia or New Zealand.

I pointed out that the discussion on that phase of the question had been concluded weeks ago as was shown by their own alternative proposal in respect of help over our fertiliser imports. That proposal, he knew, we had found unacceptable and I had understood some time ago that they were investigating the question of an arrangement on cattle. Surely he could see that, making full allowance for any Departmental discussions, the delay in reaching a decision was altogether unjustifiable. He admitted the delay but did not agree that it was unjustifiable. The collapse of the French had altered the position considerably and if we had made the agreement on the lines originally intended it would look unreal in the light of the present War situation. Then there were the MacDonald conversations – if we had seen our way to accept their proposals obviously the British position on our trade matters would have been importantly different which confirmed my personal suspicions mentioned some time back.1

On the question of the supply of arms, Sir Eric Machtig emphasised that we did not appreciate the immense difficulties with which they were faced. The losses of munitions in France were staggering. As a matter to be treated with the greatest secrecy he could assure me that until quite recently only one Division of their troops in England had been equipped. Lord Caldecote had visited the New Zealand troops the previous day – a contingent of between 6,000 and 7,000 men – and the Commanding Office was complaining bitterly that not 25 per cent of them were anything like properly armed. The War Office view which the Dominions Office were resisting was that if a German attack on Ireland began it would be something really portentous and on such a scale that our own Irish forces, or even much bigger forces would be overcome in no time. When they, the War Office, were so short of rifles, anti-aircraft guns etc. couldn't we see what a battle it was to get anything out of them. Notwithstanding that, however, Lord Caldecote was continuously trying to get some further ammunitions for us.

1 The portion of the sentence in italics was inserted by Dulanty by hand.

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