No. 204  NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

Memorandum from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)
'The Diplomatic Bag Incident'

DUBLIN, 26 May 1942

On Friday, the 22nd May, the British authorities at Swansea seized from the Irish boat 'City of Antwerp' our diplomatic bag addressed to the Legation at Lisbon and bearing the Department's address inscribed on a brass plate. I instructed the High Commissioner to protest immediately and to insist on the return of the bag before the boat sailed. He was to see Mr. Attlee and impress upon him how grave a view you took of this violation of one of our most elementary international rights. Mr. Attlee was apparently quite genuinely shocked, but it required considerable pressure to get the D.O. officials to take definite action. Finally, they admitted that the bag, notwithstanding its unmistakable character, had been sent on to Liverpool. (Liverpool is the chief censorship centre). After repeated demands, the High Commissioner succeeded in having the bag returned to Swansea by special car from Liverpool in time to catch the 'City of Antwerp' before its departure.

Prior to this incident, the British had on seven occasions seized our diplomatic bags. But, on each occasion, the bags were enclosed in Post Office mail-bags addressed to the Lisbon Post Office, a fact which might give rise to the suspicion that there were ordinary mails enclosed, as well as the diplomatic bags (notwithstanding the protests of the ship's captain to the contrary). Our boats normally remain from two to four days in British ports on their way to Lisbon. With the exception of a consignment of six bags seized in mail bags on the 7th May, all were returned before the boat's departure. None of the six bags of the 7th May has arrived at its destination, and the presumption is that they are still at Liverpool.

The new system of sending our diplomatic bags as freight in special charge of the captain and without being enclosed in Post Office mailbags, will probably enable us to secure an uncensored and speedy passage.

[initialled] J. P. W.

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