No. 341 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/1

Code telegram from Seán Murphy to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 336) (Personal) (Copy)

Vichy, 18 November 1940

Your telegram 349.1 Regret was unable to give you some advance information as to recent meetings and conversations between France and Germany. These meetings and conversations came as a complete surprise to all here, including members of Government who were unaware of first meeting until after it had taken place and of second until it was in progress. I knew from wireless that you were aware of these meetings, and I considered it was needless expense to telegraph when I was unable to add anything to what you already knew.

The greatest secrecy was observed regarding these meetings, and matters discussed were only given in broadest outlines. Secrecy is supposed to be one of Laval's characteristics. The policy of collaboration was received here by public with mixed feelings, and even more so in occupied territories. Laval is universally unpopular and distrusted, and public are afraid he may lead Marshal into an impasse from which he cannot retreat. Laval is avowedly anti-British and pro-German. It is known here that several prominent Frenchmen not associated with politics have represented to Marshal that Laval's presence in Government is very badly looked upon and that it is injurious to Marshal's prestige and influence. It is generally said there is a considerable difference of opinion between Marshal and Laval on policy of collaboration. The Marshal is not prepared to ____________2 in a policy directed against England, whereas Laval wants to go 100 per cent in collaboration with Germany. It is true that any ___________3 collaboration between two countries must be indirectly against England, but difference of opinion is appreciable.

It is commonly believed that conversations have had a setback owing to capture of Gabon by de Gaulle and British. The German reaction is that, if France cannot defend her colonies, Germany and Italy must take steps to do so.

Public opinion in both zones is uneasy because conversations are not giving some tangible result. Students' demonstration in Paris recently resulted in University being closed by Germans, and Rector and Secretary-General removed from office by French Government. The food situation in both zones, but particularly in occupied territory, becoming more difficult.

There is, of course, strong Press campaign here controlled by Laval in favour of policy of collaboration as only solution for France, but as it is known to be made by him, it has suspects. There is great activity on part of Laval, who is constantly going to and fro to Paris, but it is generally believed no great advance is being made. It is known that French made certain proposal tenor of which is said to be only known to Pétain and Laval, to which Germans have replied. The conversations are continuing on basis of German reply.

Apart from this event, there has been nothing important since my last telegraphed report. There are hosts of rumours which everyone hears sooner or later and which have to be sifted carefully to ascertain whether they have any basis of truth. Vichy is a town of rumours of all kinds.

I would have sent telegraphic reports of my impressions of the situation here were it not for fact that I understood from your telegram 984 that you only wanted reports which could be supported by some authoritative source and that you were generally better informed on situation here from elsewhere than I could inform you, which is5 correct. If, however, you desire me to give you my impression of the situation here, I shall do so as often as there is anything of importance to report. I am, of course, keeping record of important internal and external questions as they arise.

1 See No. 332.

2 Text missing in original.

3 Text missing in original.

4 See No. 236.

5 An insertion mark has been placed here in the text in pen, but no word has been inserted.

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