Volume 6 1939~1941

Doc No.

No. 224 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/1

Code telegram from Seán Murphy to the Department of External Affairs (Dublin)
(No. 73) (Personal) (Copy)

Vichy, 15 July 1940

Saw Charles Roux, Secretary General of the Foreign Office, last night Friday at his request. He wanted to explain to me, for the information of the Irish Government, that reasons given by the British Government for the attack on Fleet at Oran were completely untenable. He said the French Government and people regarded the attack as a dastardly act of aggression and cruelty. British were kept informed during the negotiations for armistice. They were aware armistice terms could in no circumstances contemplate handing over of French Fleet to Germany. The Germans did not seek this because they knew it would end negotiations which Germans were anxious to bring to a conclusion. The terms of armistice were of course dictated by Germany and it was only natural that they would require disarmament of Fleet excepting ships required for protection of French Colonial Possessions. The Fleet was to disarm under supervision of Armistice Commission but ships were to remain property of France under the control of French naval guard on board each ship. The proposals made by British Admiral could not be accepted because any one of them involved breaches of armistice terms. The result would be complete occupation of France by Germany. French vessels at Oran were in process of disarmament. They were anchored with their furnaces completely extinct. They had no reason to believe that these ships could be used against them. In the view of the French, British action which cost lives of 1,200 Frenchmen was an act of brutality. The further action of bombing and machine-gunning the ships resulting in 250 dead was unprecedented in naval history. He felt Franco-British relations will be embittered for years to come. He was anxious that Irish Government should know French point of view as until the last few days this had not been broadcast and their news agencies' messages were being held up by the British.

I made no comment upon this statement. I merely asked what he thought to be the reason for British action. He said he was sure Churchill and Admiralty were chiefly responsible. The latter were enraged at not getting the French Fleet which would have been of great assistance to them. He commented very unfavourably on the British Army's part in the war and said that even the Navy had not done as well as the French Navy. I promised to transmit the statement by telegram.

With regard to Franco-British relations in general, Press and Government here are doing everything possible to belittle part of England in the war. This with a view to ingratiating themselves with Germans though, apparently, with little success. The French attitude can only be explained by the belief that Germany will win. I understand this is the view of Pétain. One gets the impression that the resurrection of France is hoped for from new constitution, but one cannot help feeling that neither the Government nor the people fully appreciate serious situation of France. This is the view of members of diplomatic corps to whom I have spoken. The behaviour at National Assembly would not lead one to think that there are any fundamental changes of attitude on the part _________ 1 representatives. The fact that 80 members voted against Constitutional changes may be indication of further difficulties when Constitution is submitted to people for ratification, a condition demanded by representatives of ex-soldiers.

1 There is what appears to be a deliberate gap in the original text at this point; an unknown number of words have been left out.