File No. 855.48/623

The British Embassy to the Department of State 1


The present memorandum on the subject of Belgian relief is in continuation of that addressed by His Majesty’s Ambassador to the State Department on the 11th instant.

His Majesty’s Government have expressed to the Dutch Government their readiness to allow the passage of the Dutch ships which are in American harbours and which are already loaded, on the condition that only one-third of the cargoes goes to Holland, whilst two-thirds shall be destined for Belgian relief. The total of the cargoes on the 42 Dutch ships now in the United States amounts to 194,600 tons, but the representative of the Belgian Relief Committee in London states that at the present moment they can only take a total of about 80,000 tons, so that approximately 115,000 tons of the cargoes of the above-mentioned Dutch ships would go to Holland.

The total amount required for relief is 230,000 tons. The 80,000 tons provided by the above proposal leave 150,000 tons. Of this 67,000 tons might be provided by despatching with suitable cargoes the 14 Dutch ships now lying in American ports. The balance might be provided by sending to America Dutch ships now in Holland to fetch relief supplies, and if necessary some of these ships might make a second journey.

It is to be remembered that all shipping arrangements have in the past been negotiated with the Netherlands Oversea Trust, who are held responsible for all American shipments. Consequently, a release of the ships’ cargoes now in American waters property comes within the province of the trust. It is also to be remembered that the arrangements which His Majesty’s Government is endeavouring to complete were originally in the way of a bargain in return for facilities accorded at Halifax. Further developments which have grown up are due to influences hostile to our interests and against [Page 1124] the wishes of the Netherlands Oversea Trust, which body offers the soundest guarantees for a scrupulous fulfilment of their engagements, and His Majesty’s Government consider it most desirable to maintain the prestige and credit of the trust.

The advantages to Holland of the above proposals are obvious. She will get a large number of ships released and a considerable portion of their cargoes will be assured her for her own consumption.

  1. Transmitted as an enclosure to a note from the Second Counselor of the British Embassy, same date (File No. 855.48/624), which is printed in Foreign Relations, 1918, Supplement 2.