172 Sir Thomas Inskip, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Commonwealth Government

Circular Cablegram B303 LONDON, 31 August 1939, 12.38 a.m.

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET

My Circular B.300 of today. [1]

It is specially desired that extreme secrecy should be observed with regard to this telegram.

Following is text of reply to Herr Hitler's note of 29th August [2] which His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin [3] is expected to deliver tonight [4]:-

1. His Majesty's Government appreciate the friendly reference in the declaration contained in the reply of the German Government to the latter's desire for an Anglo-German understanding and to their statement of the influence which this consideration has exercised upon their policy.

2. His Majesty's Government repeat that they reciprocate the German Government's desire for the improvement of relations, but it will be recognised that they could not sacrifice the interests of other friends in order to obtain that improvement. They fully understand that the German Government cannot sacrifice her interests, but the Polish Government are in the same position, and His Majesty's Government believe that the vital interests of the two countries are not incompatible.

3. His Majesty's Government note that the German Government accept the British proposal and are prepared to enter into direct discussions with the Polish Government.

4. His Majesty's Government understand that the German Government accept in principle the condition that any settlement should be made the subject of an international guarantee. The question of who shall participate in this guarantee will have to be discussed further, and His Majesty's Government hope, to avoid loss of time, that the German Government will take immediate steps to obtain the assent of the U.S.S.R. whose participation in the guarantee His Majesty's Government have always assumed.

5. His Majesty's Government also note that the German Government accept the position of the British Government as to Poland's vital interests and independence.

6. His Majesty's Government must make an express reservation in regard to Europe particularly the demands put forward by the German Government in an earlier passage in their reply. They understand that the German Government are drawing up proposals for a solution. No doubt they will be fully examined during the discussion. It can then be determined how far they are compatible with the essential conditions which His Majesty's Government have stated and which in principle the German Government have expressed their willingness to accept.

7. His Majesty's Government are at once informing the Polish Government of the German Government's reply. The method of contact and arrangements for discussions must obviously be agreed with all urgency between the German and Polish Government[s] but in His Majesty's Government's view it would be impracticable to establish contact so early as today.

8. His Majesty's Government, fully recognising the need for speed in the initiation of discussions, share the apprehension of the Chancellor arising from the proximity of the two mobilized armies standing face to face. They would accordingly most strongly urge that both parties should give assurances that during negotiations no aggressive military movements will take place. His Majesty's Government feel confident that they could obtain such an undertaking from the Polish Government if the German Government would give similar assurances.

9. Further His Majesty's Government would suggest that a temporary modus vivendi might be arranged for Danzig which might prevent the occurrence of incidents tending to render German-Polish relations more difficult.

1 Document 169.

2 See Documents 167 and 170.

3 Sir Nevile Henderson.

4 Although circular cablegram B303 was sent on 31 August, it was drafted on 30 August. Henderson delivered the British reply to the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, at midnight on the night of 30-31 August. An account of the meeting between Henderson and Ribbentrop is given in circular cablegram B306 from the U.K. Dominions Secretary, sent 31 August 1939, 8.50 p.m., not printed (on file AA: A981, Germany 83B, iii).

[AA: A981, GERMANY 83B, iii]