No. 303 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P4

Handwritten letter from John J. Hearne to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Ottawa, 26 September 1940

My dear Joe,

I send you a copy of Skelton's letter to me enclosing a copy of MacKenzie King's telegram of the 16th June.1

I need hardly tell you that when I read the text of the telegram I was dumbfounded. If you were to regard the whole business as an indication of the failure of our work here so far, I could not complain. But I am hoping you will prefer to regard it as an indication of the gravity of our task.

It is, of course, possible to explain the telegram on one or more of many grounds. The explanation given by Skelton may be the right one, that the Prime Minister did it off his own bat. I know that he is flushed with victory since the general election and that both the election and his conversations with Roosevelt have given him a 'leadership' complex. He may have been put up to it by the British Government. (I do not believe that they know nothing in London about a message sent in D.O. cipher.) Or he may have wanted to place himself on record in Canada in the sense of the telegram at the particular time.

Your delay in sending an official reply was, I submit, the best possible initial answer to the preposterous document itself. The fact, moreover, that Ireland has not been invaded in the interval falsifies the view that 'ruthless fury' would immediately be 'concentrated' upon us.

In my recent report2 I said that there was no reason why Skelton should have explained his not having told me about the telegram. But, nevertheless, as our personal relations are excellent, I confess I am at a loss to know why he didn't mention the telegram to me – not even on the 9th July – until I asked him to show it to me when conveying your apology for the delay in replying. I have, of course, shown no annoyance or disappointment. But I feel pretty cheap. He did, however, assume that I knew about it on the 9th July. Well, that's that.

We are all well. I hope the strain of events has not been too severe on you. Things are getting a bit difficult here between the French Minister and 'Ottawa society'. In addition French Canadians are getting restive about all the English children coming out, they don't want a new English colonization. The Dakar affair3 and the bombings of Gibraltar have made the position of the French legation more difficult still.

What next? Hambro made a speech at Winnipeg last week to the effect that the next German objective is Iceland.

As ever,

1 Not printed.

2 It is unclear exactly what report Hearne is referring to.

3 On 23 September 1940 British forces attempted to capture the port of Dakar in French West Africa. The intention was to install de Gaulle's Free French forces in place of those of Vichy France. The operation was unsuccessful.

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