307 Note by Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, of Conversation with Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen, Netherlands Minister to the United Kingdom

Extract [LONDON], 18 February 1941

The Dutch Minister came to see me [1] and told me that he had recently drafted a note to the Foreign Office on behalf of his Government. He pointed out that as Australia had been mentioned in the note he felt he should come and show it to me. He then read to me the memorandum attached which he left with me. In reading the memorandum he amplified some of the points slightly. The amplifications were down the lines that a Declaration without the United States of America being associated with it would be a mistake and would probably do more harm than good. The Dutch Minister also emphasised the danger, even if the United States were associated, of its being made public for the reasons stressed in the third paragraph of the Memorandum that such publicity would possibly give an opportunity to the wilder spirits in Japan.

After expressing my appreciation of his having shown me the Memorandum I agreed that any action without the co-operation of the United States of America would be a mistake. I also told him that I thought there was much to be said for his point that a public declaration might give an opportunity to the extremists to inflame the passions in Japan. I said, however, that I thought it was essential if we could induce America to come in that the warning should be conveyed through diplomatic channels to Japan.

I put it to the Minister, however, that it seemed to me we should not wait, as appeared to be suggested in the second last paragraph, for further aggressive action by Japan, but that the warning should be conveyed before Japan had committed herself to any further aggression. In any event I indicated that in my view the Memorandum was all to the good as it would tend to clarify the situation and make it necessary for the United Kingdom Government to determine upon the line they proposed to pursue.



1 On 17 February.


Jonkheer E. Michiels van Verduynen, Netherlands Minister to the United Kingdom, to U.K. Foreign Office


LONDON, 14 February 1941

At a recent meeting of the Governor General of the Netherlands East Indies [1] and Air Chief Marshal Brooke-Popham [2] a proposal from British naval sources in Singapore was discussed, suggesting that the British and Netherlands Governments should issue a joint declaration to the effect that their countries would stand and act together, if and when the Netherlands East Indies or Malacca [3] were attacked.

The Governor General and Air Chief Marshal Brooke-Popham were of opinion that such a public declaration without the United States joining in might have an effect opposite to our intentions. At the same time, both agreed that a declaration by the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands (and Australia?), would be opportune and highly desirable if and when Japan should try to occupy or occupies South Indo-China and/or points in the Gulf of Thailand.

The Netherland Government, while not without hope with regard to the beneficial effect which such a public declaration in which the United States would join might have on the attitude of Japan, feel, at the same time, that its public character might give food to unruly elements there for the claim that the encirclement of Japan has become a fact and for the demand, possibly with the support of ambitious naval circles and backed by German encouragement, for prompt action.

The Netherland Government are asking themselves whether the desired deterrent effect could not be achieved by a more prudent policy of the same tendency e.g. by corresponding instructions to be sent to the Netherland, British (and Australian) diplomatic representatives in Washington to request Mr. Cordell Hull [4] if the United States, in view of the Japanese attitude, would be prepared to make it clear to Japan through diplomatic channels that the United States cannot tolerate the continued Japanese southward aggressive action; this step would not be made public, at any rate for the time being, and in no case without previous consultation.

In addition the representatives might be instructed to ask whether a violation of South Indo-China and the occupation of bases there or in the Gulf of Thailand should not be taken as the criterion of continued aggressive action by Japan.

The Netherland Government likewise submit to His Majesty's Government whether it would not be opportune that the representatives be instructed to add that the Netherlands and Great Britain are quite prepared, if the United States so desire, to make with them through diplomatic channels a corresponding and simultaneous declaration, either jointly or individually to this effect.

The Netherland Government are of opinion that further aggressive action against South Indo-China or Thailand would be the proper time for such a declaration, in order not to minimise the salutary effect, which they expect.

The Netherland Government would be much obliged if His Majesty's Government could give their immediate consideration to the above proposals; they would appreciate an early reply.


1 Jonkheer Dr A. W. L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer.

2 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Far East.

3 ?Malaya.

4 U.S. Secretary of State.