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272 Note of Meeting of U.K. and Dominions Representatives

Extracts LONDON, 23 September 1938, 12 noon



Malcolm MacDonald, acting for Secretary of State for Dominion
S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner for Australia
C. T. te Water, High Commissioner for South Africa
Vincent Massey, High Commissioner for Canada
F. T. Sandford, Secretary, New Zealand High Commission
J. W. Dulanty, High Commissioner for Eire
The Duke of Devonshire, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for
Dominion Affairs
Sir Edward Harding, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for
Dominion Affairs
E. G. Machtig, Assistant Under-Secretary, Dominions Office
C. W. Dixon, Assistant Secretary, Dominions Office

MR MACDONALD explained the situation as it had been left after the
conversation on the previous day between the Prime Minister [1]
and Herr Hitler. He expressed the view that the issue raised by
Herr Hitler's insistence upon the occupation of the Sudeten-land
by German troops would be regarded by public opinion in the United
Kingdom as one of critical importance on three grounds.

(1) Such an occupation constituted a most serious departure from
the Anglo-French plan which presupposed a period of peace during
which those inhabitants of the Sudeten-land who desired to leave
for some other part of Czechoslovakia would be free to do so. In
the event of an occupation, this would probably prove
impracticable and there would be no confidence of safety for such
persons remaining in the Sudeten-land having regard to what had
happened in the case of previous Getman occupations of territory,
e.g., Austria.

(2) In their proposals in regard to the cession of the Sudeten
areas, the United Kingdom Government were endeavouring to bring
about a territorial change by peaceful means. Forcible occupation
of these areas by Germany would be a challenge to the whole
principle of peaceful negotiations, which had been accepted by the
Czechoslovak Government as well as by the United Kingdom and
French Governments.

(3) Such forcible occupation would seem to be a clear indication
that Herr Hitler was not content, as he had suggested at his
previous talk with the Prime Minister that he would be content,
with the incorporation of the Sudeten Germans in the Reich, but
that he intended by forcible means to secure something more than
what he had said was his aim.

Considerable discussion of the situation took place and the views
expressed by Dominion Representatives in the course of the
discussion may be summarized as follows.

[matter omitted]

MR BRUCE expressed the view that, if there were to be any hope of
securing for action by the United Kingdom Government, whatever
that action were, the support of public opinion in this country
and in the Dominions and also the support of foreign countries, it
would be necessary that the United Kingdom Government should take
their stand on the basis of principle. In their proposals as to
the cession of the Sudeten areas, they had already done so; this
was a great and generous gesture on behalf of the principle of
self-determination. Now the situation was one involving the
principle of force as against negotiation as a method of settling
international questions. If the United Kingdom Government were to
take their stand upon this principle and were able to establish
that what was at stake was this principle, then they might expect
the support of public opinion and of foreign countries. If,
however, they failed to do so, there was a serious risk that on a
future occasion when it was desired to make a stand against German
aggression, no support from foreign countries would be

[matter omitted]

MR MACDONALD shared Mr Bruce's view, but pointed out that this, of
course, did not preclude the possibility of some compromise-which
did not infringe the principle involved-such as the establishment
of an international force, in which Germans would be included, for
the maintenance of order in the transition period. The Prime
Minister's messages clearly indicated that he was ready to
consider some compromise on method.

1 Neville Chamberlain.

[PRO : DO 114/94]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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