observations while ambassador to Japan.7
Not only were Hoareâ€™s friends anti-communist, but his ministerial
posts also inclined him in that direction. As secretary of state for air
in Baldwinâ€™s governments in the 1920s, he was involved in defence
Orest Babij, â€˜The Second Labour Government and British Maritime Security, 1929â€“
1931â€™, D&S, 6, 3 (1995), 645â€“71.
J. A. Cross, Sir Samuel Hoare, a Political Biography (London, 1977), 39â€“51, 60â€“1; Keith
Neilson, â€˜â€śJoy Rides?â€ť British Intelligence and Propaganda in Russia, 1914â€“1917â€™, HJ,
24, 4 (1981), 887â€“9; Christopher Andrew, Secret Service. The Making of the British
Intelligence Community (London, 1985), 204â€“8; and Hoareâ€™s memoirs, The Fourth Seal.
The End of a Russian Chapter (London, 1930).
Hoare to Churchill, 31 May 1919, Templewood Papers, II:3.
His letters to his wife, 20, 28 Mar, 25 May 1916, all Templewood Papers II:6.
Lindley to Curzon, disp 18, 1 Feb 1919, FO 608/179/591/1/6/3728.
146 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order
planning against communist threats throughout the empire. And, while
secretary of state for India in the first National Government, Hoare had
been vociferous about the subversive communist threat to India. It was
not surprising, then, that at his first meeting as foreign secretary with
Maisky, Hoare warned the Soviet ambassador that â€˜it would be ex-
tremely difficult to persuade the Conservatives in this country to accept
a pro-Russian policy if the Soviet Government failed to eliminate the
sources of trouble that had often poisoned our relations in the pastâ€™.8
Any improvement in Anglo-Soviet affairs would occur only grudgingly
with Hoare and Baldwin in power.
Hoareâ€™s impact was soon felt at the Foreign Office. His willingness to
advocate a particular policy made a sharp contrast with Simonâ€™s indeci-
sion.9 A first test for Hoare was the Far East. The Treasury continued its
efforts to determine British policy in that area, acting as the driving force
behind what Orde called the â€˜panicky school in this country which wants
us to ally ourselves with Japanâ€™.10 In fact, Chamberlain and Fisher had
earlier advocated sending a financial expert to China to bolster and
stabilize that countryâ€™s economy, as well as to prevent any precipitate
As a result, Sir Frederick Leith-Ross, the chief economic adviser to the
government, was sent to the Far East. By the end of July, it also was
apparent that the Treasury wished to give a loan to China. Granting
such a loan was deprecated by the Far Eastern Department. They
believed that it would have no practical result, and would be opposed
and resented by the Japanese unless they were allowed to participate in
it.12 Hoare rejected his departmentâ€™s reservations. Primed by Chamber-
lain, the foreign secretary informed the Foreign Office that â€˜I do not at all
wish us to take a negative or over-critical attitude to this proposal.â€™
â€˜There are objections to every possible course of actionâ€™, Hoare went
on, but â€˜there are equally strong â€“ perhaps in my view stronger â€“ objec-
tions to any proposals for inaction.â€™ This limited the Far Eastern De-
partment to â€˜giv[ing] every warningâ€™ to Leith-Ross about potential
Hoareâ€™s conversation with Maisky, 12 Jun 1935, FO 371/19451/N3187/17/38.
N. Chamberlain to his sister, Hilda, 22 Jun 1935, Chamberlain Papers, NC 18/1/923;
Baldwin to MacDonald, 26 Jun 1935, Templewood Papers, VIII:1.
Orde to Cadogan, 2 July 1935, Cadogan Papers, FO 800/293.
V. H. Rothwell, â€˜The Mission of Sir Frederick Leith-Ross to the Far East 1935â€“1936â€™,
HJ, 18, 1 (1975), 149â€“51; Gill Bennett, â€˜British Policy in the Far East 1933â€“1936:
Treasury and Foreign Officeâ€™, MAS, 26, 3 (1992), 561â€“4.
The remainder of this paragraph, except where indicated, is based on Wellesleyâ€™s minute
(9 Aug) on Leith-Ross to Vansittart, 21 Jul 1935, FO 371/19243/F5081/6/10, Hoareâ€™s
minute (10 Aug).
Complications and choices 147
difficulties, while hoping that the Leith-Ross mission would at least bring
an end to the calls for a â€˜â€śstrongâ€ť policyâ€™ by commercial lobby groups.13
In any case, the Foreign Officeâ€™s careful balancing of Soviet, Japanese,
Chinese and American sensibilities in the Far East was temporarily
Thus, in the summer and early autumn of 1935, Anglo-Soviet rela-
tions involved the British keeping a weather eye both on Sovietâ€“Japanese
affairs in the Far East and on the course of Sovietâ€“German relations.
Continued incidents on the Sovietâ€“Manchukuo border led to specula-
tion that, despite the final sale of the CER to Japan, a Russo-Japanese
war might break out.14 Both the Foreign and War Offices concluded that
continued tension was more likely, a contention reinforced by a conver-
sation with Maisky wherein the Soviet ambassador pronounced that
Japan would not dare to attack Soviet Russia unless the former were
supported by Germany.15 This remark was tied to the ongoing Soviet
concern about the security implications of the Anglo-German Naval
Agreement.16 Maisky reiterated that Hitler needed to be confronted by
a â€˜firm peace pactâ€™ based on the League Covenant. This was greeted
sceptically at the Foreign Office. Vansittart believed that Moscowâ€™s
support for the League was only a cloak for its desire for an alliance with
France. â€˜I doubtâ€™, the PUS noted, â€˜that Russia will prove sturdy for the
League if France is wobbly.â€™17
Interestingly, and underlining the fear created in Moscow by any
possible improvement in Anglo-Japanese relations, Maisky also re-
quested that Leith-Ross make his return from the Far East via Moscow,
asserting that â€˜the Far Eastern problem was a political, rather than an
economic or financial oneâ€™.18 Despite this evidence of Soviet concern
about British policy in the Far East, Collier believed that Anglo-Soviet
relations would remain cordial. He argued this on the basis that Soviet
foreign policy was shaped by â€˜their desire to enlist the sympathy and
support of any Power interested in and capable of contributing to the
maintenance of the territorial status quoâ€™. Collier contended that Moscow
Ordeâ€™s minute (20 Aug 1935) on Leith-Ross to Orde, 9 Aug 1935, FO 371/19243/
F5195/6/10; Orde to Cadogan (ambassador, China), 21 Aug 1935, FO 371/19287/
F4447/84/10. Leith-Rossâ€™s memoirs are reticent about the political aspects: Money
Talks. Fifty Years of International Finance (London, 1968), 195â€“226.
Chilston to FO, tel 94, 2 Jul 1935, FO 371/19347/F4242/13/23, Gascoigneâ€™s minute (4
Jul); Clive to FO, tel 166, 6 Jul 1935, FO 371/19347/F4366/13/23.
Conversation with Maisky, F. Ashton-Gwatkin (counsellor, League of Nations and
Western Department, FO), 3 Jul 1935, FO 371/19460/N3423/135/38.
Also Chilston to FO, tel 96, 2 Jul 1935, FO 371/19460/N3338/76/38.
Vansittartâ€™s minute (11 Jul) on the conversation cited in n. 15.
This part of Ashton-Gwatkinâ€™s memo is found in FO 371/19242/F4202/6/10.
148 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order
still put Britain in this category, regardless of both the Anglo-German
Naval Agreement and the Leith-Ross mission. Collier concluded that
the Soviets wanted â€˜to keep us in that campâ€™.19
The German attitude to the Eastern and Franco-Soviet Pacts
remained a problem. In July, it became clear that the Germans were
going to use the latter both to avoid adhering to the former and to renege
on their earlier commitment to conclude a multi-lateral non-aggression
pact.20 While Hoare attempted to dissuade them, the Germans
remained obdurate.21 By the end of July, and despite an apparent French
willingness to abandon the Franco-Soviet Treaty if Germany would
accede to the Eastern Pact, it was evident that Berlin was not going to
budge. The â€˜only leverâ€™ that Vansittart could see that was available to the
British was â€˜publicityâ€™.22 This would have a dual value: it would put
pressure on Berlin and serve to reassure Moscow that the British were
keeping them informed (as Eden had promised at Moscow) of any
Anglo-German negotiations.23 To ensure the latter, the Foreign Office
provided Chilston with ammunition to rebut the Soviet contention that
the Anglo-German Naval Agreement had been sprung on Moscow.24
By the end of August, however, a possible new Soviet policy emerged.
Ashton-Gwatkin â€˜gained the impressionâ€™ that Moscow was willing to
give up its advocacy of â€˜pacts of non-aggressionâ€™ â€“ including the Eastern
Pact â€“ in exchange for a â€˜substantial loanâ€™ from Britain.25 For Sargent,
this meant that the British could follow the Soviet lead and cease
pressing the Germans over the Eastern Pact. Hoare agreed, although
Ashton-Gwatkinâ€™s conversation had actually suggested only that the
Collier to Colonel Ismay (WO), 14 Jul 1935, FO 371/19460/N3489/135/38.
Newton (charge dâ€™affaires, Berlin) to FO, tel 241, 6 Jul 1935, FO 371/18848/C5238/55/
18; Newton to FO, disp 678, 9 Jul 1935, FO 371/18848/C5333/55/18; Newton to FO,
tel 268, 15 Jul 1935, FO 371/18848/C5422/55/18.
Hoareâ€™s conversation with the German ambassador, 23 Jul 1935, FO 371/18849/C5592/
Newton to FO, tel 246, 30 Jul 1935, FO 371/18849/C5720/55/18; Wigramâ€™s untitled
memo, 30 Jul 1935, FO 371/18849/C5795/55/18, minutes, Vansittart (30 Jul) and
Dodds (15 Aug).
This was effective; see Chilston to FO, tel 115, 19 Aug 1935, FO 371/18850/C6091/
Dodds to Chilston, 16 Aug 1935, FO 371/19451/N3888/17/38; Holmanâ€™s (American
Department) conversation with Cahan (Soviet embassy), 16 Aug 1935, FO 371/18738/
A7345/22/45. For earlier soothing of both the French and the Americans, see Hoare to
Clerk, disp 1356, 19 Jul 1935, FO 371/18737/A6441/22/45; Clerk to Vansittart, 25 Jul
1935, FO 371/18737/A6742/22/45; Hoare to Lindsay, 29 Jul 1935, FO 371/18737/
Doddsâ€™s minute (21 Aug) on Chilston to FO, tel 115, 19 Aug 1935, FO 371/18850/
C6091/55/18; the remainder of this paragraph is based on minutes, Sargent (26 Aug),
Hoare (28 Aug) and Dodds (3 Sept).
Complications and choices 149
Soviets felt that the damage done to Anglo-Soviet relations by the Anglo-
German Naval Convention might be repaired by a loan, not that the
Eastern Pact had lost its value.26 It did not matter which view was
correct. By the autumn, everything was complicated by Abyssinia.27
The direct impact of Soviet Russia in the crisis was slight.28 While Soviet
Russia might need to be involved for oil sanctions against Italy to be
successful, for the most part Litvinov remained merely a â€˜vicarious
warriorâ€™ and Moscow a critical spectator in the affair.29 However, despite
the minimal direct Soviet involvement, the Abyssinian crisis changed the
environment in which Anglo-Soviet relations operated and, perhaps,
moved Vansittart, in particular, towards the idea of coming to terms
with Soviet Russia as a means of checking Germany now that Italy had
dropped out of the Stresa front.30
With respect to Abyssinia, Hoare wished to take a firm stand in co-
operation with the French.31 However, he soon discovered that, despite
his garnering cross-bench support at home and plaudits in Geneva for
advocating such a policy, it caused strategic difficulties.32 If the RN were
strong enough in the Mediterranean to deal with Italy, its deterrent value
in the Far East would be lessened. Vansittart was willing to accept this
outcome â€“ â€˜We have reduced our Navy too far and must take the
consequencesâ€™, he noted blackly on 20 September â€“ such an option
was deemed to be relatively safe only because Britainâ€™s relations with
Japan were â€˜on the whole satisfactoryâ€™.33 But this situation might not
last. The Foreign Office believed that the longer the British remained
Chilston to FO, disp 352, 13 Aug 1935, FO 371/19451/N4113/17/38. The Anglo-
German Naval Agreement continued as a burr: Charles to FO, disp 414, 17 Sept
1935, FO 371/19438/N4969/231/63.
Reynolds M. Salerno, â€˜Multilateral Strategy and Diplomacy: The Anglo-German Naval
Agreement and the Mediterranean Crisis, 1935â€“1936â€™, JSS, 17, 2 (1994), 39â€“78; M. L.
Roi, â€˜From the Stresa Front to the Triple Entente: Sir Robert Vansittart, the Abyssinian
Crisis and the Containment of Germanyâ€™, D&S, 6, 1 (1995), 82â€“5; Richard Davis,
â€˜Mesentente Cordiale: The Failure of the Anglo-French Alliance. Anglo-French Relations
During the Ethiopian and Rhineland Crises, 1934â€“1936â€™, EHQ, 23 (1993), 513â€“28.
Drummond to Hoare, 27 Aug 1935, Templewood Papers VIII:3.
Hoare to Eden, 24 Sept 1935, Hoare Papers, FO 800/295.
Roi, â€˜From the Stresa Frontâ€™, 82â€“90.
Cross, Hoare, 205â€“24; Hoare to Eden, 15 Sept 1935, Avon Papers, AP 14/1/450A;
Hoare to Chamberlain, 18 Aug 1935, Hoare Papers, FO 800/295.
Arthur Marder, â€˜The Royal Navy and the Ethiopian Crisis of 1935â€“1936â€™, AHR, 75, 5
(1970), 1327â€“56; Lawrence R. Pratt, East of Malta West of Suez. Britainâ€™s Mediterranean
Crisis 1936â€“1939 (Cambridge, 1975), 20â€“33; R. A. C. Parker, â€˜Great Britain, France and
the Ethiopian Crisis, 1935â€“1936â€™, EHR, 89 (1974), 293â€“332; minutes, 150th meeting
COS, 13 Sept 1935, Cab 53/5; Hoare to Eden, 17 Sept and 24 Sept 1935, both Hoare
Papers, FO 800/295.
Vansittartâ€™s minute (20 Sept) on Randallâ€™s (FED) conversation with the Adm (20 Sept
1935), Randallâ€™s memo, both FO 371/19305/F6059/309/10.
150 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order
engaged in the Mediterranean and the weaker they became in the Far
East, the more likely Japan would be to take advantage.
This returned attention to the Leith-Ross mission. The Foreign Office
had been horrified to discover, early in September, that the governmentâ€™s
economic adviser was not merely on an economic mission. Instead, the
Treasury had tasked him to improve Anglo-Japanese relations â€˜in all
spheresâ€™. One means of achieving this was to suggest to Tokyo that Japan
might reduce its exports, a proposal that Orde felt would â€˜give violent
offenceâ€™ to the Japanese. Vansittart had managed to tone down the
Treasuryâ€™s instructions, but the possibility that the Treasury and the
Foreign Office might pursue two mutually contradictory policies to
the detriment of British interests still existed.34 However, this danger
was eased because Hoareâ€™s support for the Treasury had waned by the
end of September. With the Admiraltyâ€™s warning on strategic grounds
that Japan must be kept sweet, Hoareâ€™s earlier support for the Treasury
collapsed.35 On 27 September, Cadogan warned from China that Leith-
Rossâ€™s efforts might convince Peking that Britain was â€˜in league with
Japanâ€™ and lead to adverse results. Hoare enquired contritely: â€˜Had we
better say a word of caution to the Treasury and have a wire sent to Sir F.
Leith-Ross asking him to keep in mind the immediate reaction to such a
proposal?â€™ Vansittartâ€™s reply, â€˜Yes, this will certainly be wiseâ€™, was larded
with irony.36 Hoare was beginning to see the problems inherent in the
Treasuryâ€™s meddling. As the Abyssinian crisis deepened, and the need
not to offend Japan grew, so, too, did Hoareâ€™s concerns about Leith-
Ross. At the end of October, the foreign secretary noted plaintively that
he did not â€˜understand the working of Sir Warren Fisherâ€™s mindâ€™ in
advocating a loan to China against Japanese objections, especially when
Fisher also continually advocated the need to be friendly to Japan for the
sake of limiting naval expenditure.37
Soviet Russia was important with respect to these complexities. The
Foreign Office, echoing Vansittart at the DRC, contended that, unless