File No. 855.48/622

The British Embassy to the Department of State


Owing to the shortage of tonnage for the relief of Belgium and northern France, His Majesty’s Government have decided that special measures must be taken, so far as lies in their power, to provide the supplies and the transports necessary for the populations of the occupied territories. They have therefore issued strict instructions to the officers at British ports of examination, and also to all British consular officers concerned that no relief ship is to be delayed at her port of departure or port of examination, for any reason of general policy arising from controversies between His Majesty’s Government and Holland, or the neutral country whose flag the vessel flies.

Further, His Majesty’s Government are informing the Netherlands Government that they will raise no objection to the transfer to the Dutch flag of six German vessels in Dutch East Indian ports, provided that these vessels are placed forthwith in the Belgian Relief service, and continue in this service without lying up as long as the Allied Governments require them to do so. Two further conditions are imposed, namely, that the transfer of these vessels must be outright, no German interest being retained in them, and secondly, that they shall unload the cargoes now on board and load full cargoes of goods for the Belgian Relief.

The Netherlands Government is also being informed that His Majesty’s Government will agree on similar conditions to raise no objection to the transfer to the Dutch flag of the German steamer offered in compensation for the torpedoed Dutch steamer Blommersdyk.

In addition, a suggestion has been made to His Majesty’s Government that neutral vessels lying in United States ports actually loaded with foodstuffs for neutral European countries, might be made the subject of a bargain with the Government of those countries, by which the greater part of such cargoes should be surrendered to the Relief Commission in return for license to export the balance to their original destinations. This last suggestion clearly raises many difficulties, and His Majesty’s Government have not as yet fully [Page 1123] considered the matter, though they would be reluctant to advocate any concessions of this kind to Sweden. The decision in the matter lies, however, with the Government of the United States, within whose jurisdiction these cargoes are, and His Majesty’s Government will be glad to learn the views of the United States Government on the subject.