No. 245 NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

Letter from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)
(Most Secret)

Dublin, 29 July 1940

I asked Sir John Maffey to come to me at 12 o'clock today for the purpose of conveying your decision to him concerning the condition which was attached to the delivery of the new military equipment. I told him that you had examined the suggestion that a certain number of men should come over with the anti-aircraft guns, and that it could not be accepted. We had always expected to be able to secure a greater number of this type of gun as he knew from the orders we had placed with his Government, and the Army had in consequence trained several crews. At the present moment, we had crews sufficient to man three times the number of guns the British were at present ready to give us. I told him that you were grateful for the efforts he had made to secure the fulfilment of this part of our order, and you were sorry that a condition was attached which made it impossible for you to take delivery. The refusal on our part should not be taken in any way as an indication that the work he had done in connection with our general orders for equipment was not fully appreciated.

Sir John Maffey said that he was very sorry that you had persisted so much in regarding the 'offer' as a condition. I reminded him that, in talking to me the other day from his home, he had said most emphatically that the acceptance of the crews was a condition sine qua non. He replied that his people were only anxious to be helpful, and they felt that, in the course of the weeks during which these crews would be with us, they could, if an emergency arose, man the guns and the Bren carriers1 for us. It was very regrettable, Sir John Maffey said, that we could not honestly co-operate in matters like this. Of course, he understood that there were political considerations, and he believed that they were a more important ground for our refusal. I acknowledged that there were serious political considerations connected with our neutrality, and he was already aware what serious misconstructions the British Press had shown itself capable of in matters relating to our neutrality.

I told Sir John Maffey that the Bren gun carriers would not present any difficulty to our Army. The competent officers concerned did not see how they would be so very different from other fighting vehicles. However, in this matter, while the same objection held in regard to a crew or crews, we were ready to accept the services of one or two men in a civilian capacity if the British technicians thought it really necessary.

Sir John Maffey said he would report immediately to his people, and he hoped that, notwithstanding our attitude which, after all, he personally understood, he would succeed in getting the War Office to fulfil the order.

In the course of this conversation, Sir John Maffey mentioned that the American Minister had remarked to him how wrong our ideas were on the American Press. Mr. Gray had said that we had some ridiculous idea that a part of their Press was British-inspired because it took an anti-Irish line. I replied that Mr. Gray was wrong in thinking that we thought the Press in question was British-inspired because anti-Irish. We knew it from the fact that the anti-Irish messages appearing in a section of the American Press came from London and we knew that all messages going out from London were censored in the Ministry of Information. Our opinion, therefore, was not formed on some pet conception of British perfidy, but on sound fact. And, as I had already said on several occasions, we were aware that the Ministry of Information contained an element in it which did not conceal very anti-Irish prejudices.

[initialled] J.P.W. 30/7/40

Sir John Maffey informed me today that the Supplies were being given unconditionally. He saw the Taoiseach and informed him in a similar sense.2

[initialled] J.P.W. 31/7/40 Wednesday

1 A fast, lightly armed vehicle used to carry infantry, specifically those armed with the Bren light machine gun.

2 Handwritten insertion by Walshe.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO