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avoid letting ˜irrevocable or badly compromising™ decisions occur in
foreign policy before he became prime minister. Hoare also reinforced
the chancellor™s own prejudices, noting that he, too, was ˜convinced that
the FO is so much biassed against Germany (and Italy and Japan) that
unconsciously and almost continuously they are making impossible any
European conciliation™.25
However Henderson was appointed, and whether or not Chamberlain
had given him a special mission, the new ambassador immediately began
to make statements very different from those of Phipps. At the end of
May 1937, Henderson made favourable remarks about National Social-
ism, and he suggested to the Austrian ambassador that Anschluss might
not be a bad thing.26 Henderson claimed that he was misquoted, but it
was his advocacy of Britain™s supporting German efforts to force France

23
A. R. Peters, Anthony Eden at the Foreign Office 1931“1938 (New York, 1986), 255“8.
24
Dockrill, British Establishment Perspectives, 54“7; FP(36), minutes, 7th meeting, 18 Mar
1937, Cab 27/622; Eden to N. Chamberlain, 24 Mar 1937, Leith-Ross Papers, T 188/
175; minute (5 Apr), Baxter (CD) on FP (36) 23, ˜Anglo-German Relations. Memo-
randum by the Chancellor of the Exchequer™, N. Chamberlain, 2 Apr 1937, FO 371/
202735/C2618/270/18.
25
Hoare to N. Chamberlain, 17 Mar 1937, Templewood Papers, IX, file 2; Headlam
diary entry, 19 Dec 1935, in Stuart Ball, ed., Parliament and Politics in the Age of
Churchill and Attlee. The Headlam Diaries 1935“1951 (Cambridge, 1999), 80.
26
Neville, Appeasing Hitler, 28“34; Eden to Henderson and reply, 3 and 8 Jun 1937, and
Vansittart™s minute for Eden, 18 Jun 1937, all FO 794/10; Dodd (United States
ambassador to Berlin) to Phipps, 1 Jul 1937, FO 371/20711/3/18, minutes.
Chamberlain™s interlude 217

to give up its east European alliances that drew the most fire. This, of
course, had been the substance of the entire debate about the impact of
the Franco-Soviet Pact on the proposed new Locarno, and Strang and
Sargent condemned Henderson™s initiative. To advocate such a change
would, as Sargent noted, ˜stir up trouble and friction between France
and Great Britain™ and be a step in the direction ˜of what always has been
and still is Germany™s constant aim, namely the isolation of France in
Europe™.27
Such utterances from Henderson, who had twice been posted to
Russia before the revolution and considered it an ˜unpredictable country
the mentality of which we in Britain and the West understand almost as
little as we do that of the Japanese and the Chinese™, and the transfer of
Phipps quickly caught Maisky™s attention.28 The ambassador, no doubt
extremely sensitive to changes in personnel (given how the Purges
affected such matters in Moscow), enquired of Vansittart as to whether
˜there was any truth in the wide-spread suspicion™ that British policy was
changing.29 Vansittart denied it, but Henderson™s appointment made it
evident that Chamberlain™s efforts to find a path to Berlin “ with all that
this adumbrated for Anglo-Soviet-French relations “ would not find a
roadblock in the British embassy there.
The final change was the appointment of Sir Robert Craigie as am-
bassador to Japan in March 1937.30 Craigie™s selection was, in many
ways, an even bigger surprise than that of Henderson. The incumbent in
Tokyo, Harry Clive, had made Knatchbull-Hugessen the ˜favourite™ in a
˜book™ that he was making as to his successor, and had not even con-
sidered Craigie.31 The latter had never served in the Far East. Craigie™s
main role was acting as the Foreign Office™s chief naval negotiator. He
had developed a reputation as a consummate negotiator, always able to
find a way around stumbling blocks. During this time, despite or perhaps
because of his marriage to the daughter of an American diplomat,
Craigie became an advocate of the need for firmness when dealing with


27
Henderson to FO, disp 624, 5 Jul 1937, FO 371/20735/C4975/270/18, minutes,
Mallet (12 Jul), Strang (14 Jul), Sargent (21 Jul) and Vansittart (22 Jul).
28
Nevile Henderson, Water Under the Bridges (London, 1945), 24.
29
Vansittart™s conversation with Maisky, 10 Jun 1937, FO 371/20735/C4229/270/18.
30
Antony Best, Britain, Japan and Pearl Harbor. Avoiding War in East Asia, 1936“1941
(London, 1995), 30“33; Best, ˜Sir Robert Craigie as Ambassador to Japan 1937“1941™,
in Ian Nish, ed., Britain and Japan. Biographical Portraits (London, 1994), 238“51;
Peter Lowe, ˜The Dilemmas of an Ambassador: Sir Robert Craigie in Tokyo,
1937“1941™, Proceedings of the British Association for Japanese Studies, 2 (1977).
31
Clive to Knatchbull-Hugessen, 14 Apr 1937, Knatchbull-Hugessen Papers, KNAT
2/55.
218 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

the United States.32 He also became a confidant of Fisher and the
Treasury. During the arms control talks, Craigie had sided with the
Treasury against those whom he had disparagingly termed the ˜pundits™
of the Far Eastern Department, and had advocated a Japanese solution
to naval arms limitation.33
While all the arguments concerning the (im)possibility of Chamberlain™s
influence affecting the choice of Henderson apply to Craigie™s appoint-
ment as well, there is also room for speculation. This centres around
the ongoing quarrel between the Treasury and the Foreign Office, par-
ticularly the Far Eastern Department, with regard to policy towards
Japan. First, there was Craigie™s co-operation with the Treasury. Second,
there was Fisher™s adamant opposition to Cadogan and particularly
to his becoming PUS.34 Given this, and Craigie™s accommodating atti-
tude towards the Treasury™s views of Japan, it seems reasonable to
suggest that Fisher and Chamberlain may have pushed for Craigie™s
appointment to Tokyo as a counter-weight to Cadogan™s influence at
the Foreign Office. This argument is also lent weight by the fact that
Orde, head of the Far Eastern Department and another thorn in the
Treasury™s side, was put forward in June 1937 as the British minister to
Riga.35 In the event, Orde did not go to Riga until the spring of 1938,
but the direction of appointments was clear.
Whether by design or coincidence, these appointments meant that a
´
very different foreign-policy making elite was in place when Chamber-
lain took office. The Cabinet was reduced to a group that shared (or, at
least, did not yet oppose) Chamberlain™s strategic vision. The embassies
at Paris, Berlin and Tokyo had new incumbents. The effect of these
changes on the impact of Soviet Russia on British strategic foreign
policy was evident. In the Cabinet, there would be a tendency to follow
Chamberlain™s line of reducing Britain™s problems bilaterally, through
agreements with Germany, Italy and Japan, without regard to Moscow.
Among the representatives, Phipps disliked (at least the French) Com-
munists, and believed that the ˜French Govt [was] under the thumb of
Moscow, so our policy is to be dictated by Litvinov!™36 Henderson
believed that Germany should move eastward and that France should

32
B. J. C. McKercher, The Second Baldwin Government and the United States, 1924“1929.
Attitudes and Diplomacy (London, 1984), 24“5, 85.
33
Reported, Fisher to Chamberlain, 21 Jan 1935, T 172/1831.
34
Peters, Eden, 256; Cadogan diary entry, 22 Jan 1934, Cadogan Papers, ACAD 1/2.
35
Fisher to Chamberlain, 21 Jan 1935, T 172/1831; minute, Hoyer Millar (Eden™s
assistant private secretary) for Harvey (Eden™s private secretary), 25 Jun 1937, FO
794/17.
36
Phipps™s views in Cadogan™s diary entry, 16 Sept 1937, Cadogan Papers, ACAD 1/6.
Chamberlain™s interlude 219

end its commitments in that direction (at whatever cost to Anglo-Soviet
relations). Craigie not only believed in making deals with Japan, but had
also experienced several Soviet annoyances over naval arms control. It
was unlikely, therefore, that he would let considerations of Moscow™s
usefulness in defending Britain™s position in the Far East stand between
him and a deal with Tokyo. Finally, at the Foreign Office, those
favouring an alignment with Soviet Russia found their numbers and
influence reduced. With Wellesley gone (he was forcibly retired in the
autumn of 1936) and Orde going, Ralph Wigram dead and replaced by
Strang (who hated Soviet Russia as a result of his time there during the
Metro-Vickers crisis),37 only Collier and Vansittart remained who
favoured, if necessary, closer Anglo-Soviet relations. And Vansittart™s
influence was lessened by the fact that his own minister (along with
Fisher) was attempting to remove him from office.
For the rest of 1937, as the conflict in the Far East deepened, Anglo-
Soviet relations reduced themselves to speculations in the Foreign Office
about the viability of the Franco-Soviet Pact, the significance of Italy™s
adherence to the Anti-Comintern Pact and the impact on Anglo-Japan-
ese relations of both the war in China and the Purges. Chilston believed
that the Purges had eliminated even the reluctant French willingness to
hold military staff talks with the Soviets.38 He suggested that the Soviets,
in retaliation, might now use the intransigent attitude of the Poles to
renege on their treaty obligations to France.39 But it was the Far East
that drew the most attention. Partly, this was due to the COS, who noted
that Britain could do little to protect its interests in the Far East should
Tokyo attack. When this was discussed in mid-July at the Defence Plans
(Policy) Committee, little was decided. Vansittart despaired that ˜appar-
ently no nettle is to be grasped™.40 The defence of British interests in the
Far East was now in the hands of others: notably, the Americans and the
Soviets. The former, like the British, had neither ˜the will [n]or the
military power™ to challenge Japan directly.41 Washington preferred both

37
Lord Strang, Home and Abroad (London, 1956), 78“120.
38
Chilston to Collier, 6 Aug 1937, FO 371/21095/N4147/45/38; Peter Jackson, France
and the Nazi Menace. Intelligence and Policy Making 1933“1939 (Oxford, 2000), 236“7;
Robert Young, In Command of France. French Foreign Policy and Military Planning,
1933“1940 (Cambridge, MA, 1978), 146“9.
39
See also ˜Poland and the Western Pact™, I. Mallet (CD), FO 371/20709/C5185/1/18.
40
The remainder of this paragraph, except where indicated, is from ˜Appreciation of the
Situation in the Far East™, COS 596, COS, 16 Jun 1937, Cab 53/32; DP(P), minutes,
3rd meeting, 13 Jul 1937, Cab 16/181; Vansittart™s comments, FO 371/20952/F4773/
9/10.
41
Greg Kennedy, Anglo-American Strategic Relations, 229“33, quotation from 232; min-
utes, Cab 32(37), 28 Jul 1937, Cab 23/89; Victor Mallet (Washington) to Orde, 31 Aug
220 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

to pursue the creation of an Anglo-American economic agreement to
check the Japanese and to keep in close touch with Britain about the Far
East (but only informally, so as not to be seen as being used by London
to ˜pull our [British] chestnuts out of the fire™).
The British had no such easy option. The Soviets were the alternative
to the Americans, and co-operation with Moscow was full of pitfalls. At
´
the end of July, the Soviet charge d™affaires in Tokyo told his British
counterpart that ˜active co-operation™ between Britain and Soviet
Russia was the only way to curb Japanese aggression.42 This revealed
the tangle of considerations involved. To follow this advice would place
the British firmly, in Japanese eyes, on the side of the Soviets. Nigel
Ronald presumed that the Soviets were attempting to create the ap-
pearance of Anglo-Franco-Soviet solidarity to lend weight to any
rebuke to Japan. For complex reasons, he was loath to see Britain
associated with Soviet Russia. There were reports that the Soviets
would provide supplies to China in the fashion of their support for
the Spanish Republicans.43 If that were to happen, the Germans and
Italians hinted that they would ˜go to Japan™s assistance™, raising con-
cerns that the Anti-Comintern Pact went, as Orde put it, ˜further than
anything we have reason to think™. For these reasons, and as long as it
was still possible that Japan would respond to something other than
force, Ronald wanted ˜to stave off as long as possible the evil day when
we have to allow ourselves to be associated with the USSR™. Orde went
further. He wished to avoid joining the Soviets in any ˜representations
to Japan even if Japan is not willing to listen to reason™. Fearing an-
other Spain, with the Soviets ranged on one side with China and Italy
and Germany supporting Japan on the other, he wished to maintain
Britain™s neutrality.44
Vansittart attempted to get to the bottom of this dangerous situation,
dispatching querying telegrams to Soviet Russia and China. The replies
were reassuring. Hugessen reported that the Soviets had offered nothing
´
as yet to the Chinese, while the British charge d™affaires in Moscow stated
that ˜the principal aim of Soviet policy in [the] Far East at [the] present


1937, FO 371/20955/F6303/9/10, minutes; Mallet to Orde, 7 Sept 1937, FO 371/
29055/F6497/9/10.
42
Dodds to FO, tel 257, 28 Jul 1937, FO 371/20951/F4603/9/10, minutes, Ronald (29
Jul), Orde and Oliphant (29 Jul) and Vansittart (30 Jul).
43
Knatchbull-Hugessen to FO, tel 260, 28 Jul 1937, FO 371/20951/F4613/9/10; Dodds
to FO, tel 258, 29 Jul 1937, FO 371/20951/F4631/9/10.
44
Drummond to FO, tel 150, 26 Jul 1937, FO 371/20951/F4596/9/10, minutes, Ronald
(29 Jul), Vansittart (29 Jul); Phipps to FO, tel 447, 28 July 1937, FO 371/20951/
F4610/9/10, minutes, Orde (29 Jul) and Vansittart (29 Jul).
Chamberlain™s interlude 221

moment is to avoid war with Japan at almost any cost™.45 Even a Japan-
ese attack on the Soviet consulate at Tientsin did not seem sufficient to
provoke Moscow into taking a stand. Vansittart was certain as to why
this was so. In a remark that spoke to the effect of the Purges, he noted
that the Soviets ˜are in a very cautious mood “ & for good reason™.46
Whatever the case, Ronald contended that such Soviet passivity was a
blessing, since it would prevent similar interventions in China by other
countries, an opinion unchanged by the signing of a Sino-Soviet non-
aggression pact on 21 August.47 Nor were other possible combinations
likely to coalesce. The British believed that the Italians, when they found
˜that the Rome“Berlin axis involves duties as well as rights . . . will
probably shirk them™, and doubted that the Anti-Comintern Pact was
likely to come into play.48
When Knatchbull-Hugessen was shot and wounded by a strafing
Japanese aircraft on 26 August, Anglo-Japanese relations were largely
suspended.49 However, there were other venues where Soviet actions
impinged on British strategic foreign policy. One was the Nyon Confer-
ence. This meeting, held from 10 to 14 September, was called ostensibly
to deal with the piratical acts of Italian submarines in Spanish waters.50
However, there was a hidden side to the talks that requires consideration
before the significance of Soviet Russia to them can be understood.
The British knew beforehand that the Italians had decided to end the
submarine campaign, and Chamberlain planned to use Nyon as a means
to further an Anglo-Italian rapprochement.51 The latter was intended to
secure the British lines of communications to the Far East. The preliminary
steps for improved relations with Rome had been taken by Chamberlain
in July and August through backstairs negotiations initiated by the Italian

45
Knatchbull-Hugessen to FO, tels 275 and 297, 30 Jul 1937, FO 371/20951/F4724 and
F4955/9/10; MacKillop to FO, tel 124, 30 Jul 1937, FO 371/20951/F4735/9/10.
46
Cowan (Peking) to FO, tel 391, 3 Aug 1937, FO 371/20952/F4808/9/10, Vansittart™s
minute (5 Aug); Chilston to FO, tel 129, 7 Aug 1937, FO 371/20952/F4977/9/10,

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