No. 184  NAI DFA 2006/39

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 7) (Secret)

LONDON, 16 February 1942

Sir Arthur Street,1 Permanent Secretary to the Air Ministry, assured me today that his Ministry was in no way, directly or indirectly, responsible for the suggestion that the Germans had been helped in getting the Scharnhorst,2 the Gneisenau,3 and the Prinz Eugen4 vessels to Heligoland5 by weather information from the German Legation in Dublin. His own view, which he did not put forward as a meteorologist, was that the Germans had abundant facilities for knowing the state of the weather both from westerly points and from the fact that the whole of the continental coast line from Brest to Heligoland was in their hands.

Lord Cranborne had a chill and was at his home in Dorset. Mr. Brendan Bracken was also not available. I then telephoned to Mr. A. V. Alexander,6 the British First Lord of the Admiralty, and read out to him the highly offensive ribbon heading in the 'Sunday Express' of 15th February and the statement in that paper that the British authorities attributed the escape of the three German ships to three causes, one of which was the possible assistance of weather reports supplied to the Germans by their Minister in Dublin. I pointed out that with only a few exceptions the Sunday press in this country, together with this morning's 'Daily Telegraph' referred to the possibility of help from the German Minister in Dublin. When one looked at so many references in so widely spread a series of newspapers one could not but feel that the references must have been inspired. The First Lord would know that these statements were without any support of fact but were cold, calculated and mischievous lies. How could the British expect us to go on assisting them in the way we were now which assistance they say they value highly if we are to have this campaign of lying against us. It seemed to me to be a fathom depth of folly to jeopardise the friendly feeling which our Government and people had towards the British by allowing statements which, if continued, might cause our neutrality to be as unhelpful as it was, and had been, helpful. Surely the British Government could do something about the matter.

Mr. Alexander assured me that no suggestion of the kind named in the newspapers had originated from him or his Department. He asked me to call and see him later in the day. When I called he told me that subsequently to my telephoning him he had made inquiries in the Admiralty in case something had been said without his knowledge. The Naval Officer who acts in a liaison capacity with the Press told me that at the Press Conference on Friday night,13th February, when the Channel escape was confidentially explained to the Press no reference of any sort was made to the Dublin Legation or to any possibility of information from Éire. Mr. Alexander inquired whether in the many questions which were asked by the journalists one was asked on the possibility of assistance from the German Minister to Éire. He was definitely assured that no such question was asked.

I referred to the spate of abuse which we encountered in the British Press in the Summer of 1940 and to numerous offensive articles since. I thought that both the Irish Government and the Irish people felt extremely sceptical of the British Government's repeated statements that they had no power to act.

Mr. Alexander made the usual rejoinder about their freedom of the press and told me that time and time again one or other member of the Cabinet was protesting in the Cabinet because of Press misrepresentation. I contended that whilst there was probably something to be said on their professed freedom of the Press for freedom of COMMENT, the FACT surely should be treated, now more than at any other time, as sacred. The ribbon headline in the Sunday Express purported to be a factual statement and he and everyone else in the Cabinet could not fail to know that it was a deliberate, frigid lie.

In these matters there is, obviously, always the danger of being super-subtle, but I couldn't help wondering whether there was any significance in his stating, as he did twice, that he could not speak for other Ministers but he knew there had been no inspiration from him or his Department.

He would no doubt dictate a note of our conversation. I therefore said I wished formally to express our indignation at the 'Sunday Express' lies, our resentment at these continued gratuitous misrepresentations, and our pro- found dissatisfaction with their attitude on the whole question of their Press in relation to Éire.


1 Sir Arthur Street (1893-1958), Permanent Secretary, Air Ministry (1939-45).

2 German battlecruiser (31,500 tonnes), launched in 1936.

3 German Scharnhorst class battlecruiser (31,500 tonnes), launched in 1936.

4 German Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser (15,000 tons), launched in 1938.

5 Operation Cerberus the Channel Dash saw Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen sail, under attack from British air and naval forces, from Brittany through the English Channel on 11-12 February 1942 to their home bases in Germany.

6 Albert V. Alexander (1885-1965), British Labour Party politician; First Lord of the Admiralty (1940-5).

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