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cessions to Japan, Germany and Italy respectively. He also found
fault both with Phipps for trying to restrain the French from opposing

1937, Cab 23/89; Eden to George V, nd (but c. 15 Nov 1937), and A. Hardinge
(George V™s equerry) to Eden, 15 Nov 1937, both Eden Papers, FO 954/6.
77
Minute, Pratt (8 Oct) on Mallet to FO, tel 332, 7 Oct 1937, FO 371/21014/F7574/
6799/10.
78
Clive (for Eden) to FO, tel 63, 9 Nov 1937, FO 371/21017/F9384/6799/10, Collier™s
minute (12 Nov).
79
Harvey diary entries, 7, 8, 9 and 15 Nov 1937, Harvey Papers, Add MSS 56394; Eden
to Henderson, tel, 6 Nov 1937, FO 371/20736/C7725/270/18; Henderson to FO, tel
674, 8 Nov 1937, FO 371/20737/C8293/270/18, and Sargent to Henderson, 15 Nov
Chamberlain™s interlude 227

Mussolini and with Miles Lampson (British high commissioner to Egypt
and Sudan) for championing ˜an understanding with Hitler, as a means
of weakening Mussolini™s position in the Mediterranean™. How, then, to
deal with the circumstances? For Collier, Britain must ˜envisage a fight™
if necessary, but what he preferred was that ˜we must envisage . . . a state
of armed truce based upon a balance of power, such as existed from
1870 to 1914™. Admitting that ˜this is not a cheerful prospect™, he argued
that the publics of Britain, France and the United States were ˜well
enough educated™ to accept such a policy.80 At least one member of
the Foreign Office had jettisoned the notion of collective security as
promulgated by the League. Eden, too, had come to believe that the
League was ˜a sham™.81
The Foreign Office used Collier™s arguments to rebut some of the
contentions that the COS had made on 12 November.82 At that time,
the COS had argued that, in a war with Germany and Italy, Britain
would be supported only by France and Belgium, with Soviet Russia and
eastern Europe remaining neutral. In such a war, the western grouping
would have the advantage only at sea, which would vanish if Soviet
Russia were to come into the conflict, causing Japan to enter the war
on the side of the Axis. The COS called for diplomacy both to reduce the
number of potential enemies and to attract allies.83 At the Admiralty, the
thinking favoured an agreement with Germany and was anti-Soviet in
the extreme. An agreement with Germany would free enough money for
Britain™s imperial defence needs (not coincidentally provided by the
Royal Navy). As to potential allies, Captain T. S. V. Phillips, the director
of plans, was brutal and direct: ˜[f]or obvious reasons we can place no
trust in Russia as an ally. We should be faced with the absurd situation . . .
of relying on an ally whose victory might well cost us more dearly than
our own defeat™.84

1937 attached; N. Chamberlain to Ida, his sister, 14 Nov 1937, Chamberlain Papers,
NC 18/1/1028.
80
Untitled memo, Collier, 10 Nov 1937, FO 371/20704/C8961/2524/62, his minute (7
Dec).
81
Minutes, Cab 43(37), 24 Nov 1937, Cab 23/90A.
82
˜Comparison of the Strength of Great Britain with that of certain other Nations as at
January 1938™, CID 1366-B, COS, 12 Nov 1937, Cab 4/26; ˜Strength of Great Britain
and of Certain Other Nations as at January 1938™, CID 1373-B, Eden, 26 Nov 1937,
Cab 4/27; linkage to Collier™s memo, his minute (7 Dec) in FO 371/20704/C8961/
2524/62, minutes in FO 371/23593/C7851/205/62.
83
Adm to FO, 4 Oct 1937, FO 371/21014/F7372/6799/10; Air Ministry to FO, 13 Oct
1937, FO 371/21015/F7835/6799/10; Hankey to Vansittart, 3 Nov 1937, and Hankey
to Horace Wilson, both Wilson Papers, T 273/410.
84
Untitled minute by Chatfield for Duff Cooper, 10 Nov 1937; ˜Notes on Defence
Expenditure Papers™, very secret, T. Phillips (director of plans), 10 Nov 1937, both
Adm 205/80.
228 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

The Foreign Office rejected this thinking. Collier argued that ˜[i]f a
war breaks out in Europe in the next few years, its most likely cause is
surely a German attack on Czechoslovakia or some other complication
in Eastern Europe™. This would mean that the COS™s assumption of
neutral states “ including Soviet Russia “ in that region was wrong.
Thus, Collier believed that ˜our chief diplomatic task™ was bringing the
eastern European states on to the side of Britain and France, rather than
letting them ˜drift over to the other™ side. As to the Far East, he submit-
ted that the COS™s argument that Soviet Russia™s adherence to the
British side would bring in Japan was a case of ˜“putting the cart before
the horse” . . . the truth being that Japan would intervene against us, if
she saw a likelihood of our being beaten, whether or not we had Russia
on our side™.85 This argument became Eden™s rebuttal of the COS™s
paper. Not surprisingly, when the issue was discussed in Cabinet on 8
December, the gist of Collier™s arguments (which pointed towards the
need for better relations with Soviet Russia) was ignored by Chamber-
lain, who simply emphasized the Foreign Office™s attempt to avoid
having Britain face three enemies simultaneously.86
This reflected Chamberlain™s continuing discontent with the Foreign
Office and his increasing tendency to see Eden as sharing its views.
This was manifest. On 6 November, in a mixture of jealousy and exas-
peration, Chamberlain noted that ˜Anthony™s speech in the H[ouse] of
C[ommons] was a great personal triumph for him but it contained some
unfortunate passages from my point of view and shows again a charac-
teristic of the FO mind which I have frequently noticed before. They
never can keep the major objects of foreign policy in mind.™87 A week
later, he was unhappy over the Foreign Office™s objections to Halifax™s
visit: ˜In fact I have had to fight [the FO] every inch of the way . . . as I
never know how Van interprets my messages or what comments he
adds.™ By the end of the Brussels Conference, Chamberlain was confi-
dent that the mild prescription agreed to there ˜looks just like an answer
to the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis™, but added that he had been forced to
curb ˜our bellicose FO which was anxious to finish up the Brussels
Conference with more fist shaking at Japan™.88
´
There were other fissures within the policy making elite. Hankey also
spoke to the growing gap between the prime minister and the duo
of Eden and Vansittart. ˜Van professes to share my views about the

85
Collier minute (17 Nov 1937) on CID 1366-B, FO 371/23593/C7851/205/62; see also,
˜The USSR Air Forces™, Air Staff Intelligence, December 1937, Air 9/58.
86
Minutes, Cab 46(37), 8 Dec 1937, Cab 23/90A.
87
N. Chamberlain to Hilda, his sister, 6 Nov 1937, Chamberlain Papers, NC 18/1/1027.
88
N. Chamberlain to Hilda, his sister, 21 Nov 1937, Chamberlain Papers, NC 18/1/1029.
Chamberlain™s interlude 229

desirability of coming to terms with Italy, but I don™t feel sure of him™,
the Cabinet secretary wrote to his son, and Eden ˜hates Dictators so
much that he seems to me unwilling to make a real effort™. Hankey
ascribed Eden™s position to jealousy of Chamberlain™s policies: ˜[Eden]
is personally vain and doesn™t like anyone else to get any credit in
Foreign Affairs . . . [H]e plays to the gallery of the extreme left, and is
much too subservient to France and the minor nations.™ Hankey con-
tended that the position of Eden and Vansittart was an isolated one in
the Foreign Office ˜(except Rex Leeper, I suspect, who is important)™.89
He was mistaken. In addition to Leeper, Sargent and, essentially,
Cadogan (not to mention Collier and Orde) were in the same corner.
Leeper prepared a publicity campaign designed to rebut those critics
(including Chamberlain), who claimed that the Foreign Office ˜have
antagonised Germany, Italy and Japan; that we cannot defend the North
Sea, the Mediterranean and the Far East simultaneously and that we
must therefore buy off one of the three enemies™. Leeper needed to show
that ˜the legend that England and France are purely static in their
outlook and negative in their policy™ was incorrect. And, in a remark
that spoke directly to issues of ideology involving Soviet Russia, Leeper
suggested that the Foreign Office should temper its criticism of fascism
and recognize that it had, ˜in spite of the price which has been paid for it
by the destruction of freedom . . . let loose an energy and an enthusiasm
which has accomplished a great deal of constructive work™ in Italy and
Germany. Criticism should focus, instead, on the British being ˜opposed
to ideological blocs™, in the fashion of the Anti-Comintern Pact. Both
Vansittart and Sargent agreed, but the PUS noted that an even-handed
policy towards fascism would be difficult, as ˜[w]e shall be asked if we
have nothing to say about Communism, for example. Don™t let us get on
to dangerous & controversial ground unnecessarily.™90
However, Vansittart™s days as PUS were numbered. Not even his and
Eden™s close collaboration when dealing with the French ministers, who
had come to London in the aftermath of the Halifax visit, could save
the PUS.91 On 7 December, Chamberlain™s ˜mines™ were exploded, and
the prime minister told Eden that Vansittart should be removed as
PUS and made chief diplomatic adviser to the government.92 Vansittart

89
Hankey to Robin, his son, 21 Nov 1937, Hankey Papers, HNKY 3/42.
90
Untitled memo by Leeper, 6 Dec 1937, FO 371/21626/C95/95/62, minutes and
marginalia by Sargent, Vansittart and Cadogan (7 Dec).
91
Harvey diary entry, 5 Dec 1937, Harvey Papers, Add MSS 56394; N. Chamberlain to
Hilda, his sister, 5 Dec 1937, Chamberlain Papers, NC 18/1/1030A.
92
N. Chamberlain to Hilda, his sister, 5 Dec 1937, Chamberlain Papers, NC 18/1/
1030A; Harvey diary entry, 7 Dec 1937, Harvey Papers, Add MSS 53694.
230 Britain, Soviet Russia and the Versailles Order

immediately defended himself; however, to Chamberlain™s smug satis-
faction, Vansittart™s dismissal occurred without complications, and he
was ˜relegated to a sort of newly discovered Siberia known as the post of
Chief Diplomatic Adviser™ on 1 January 1938.93 This was only part of
Chamberlain™s wider policy to avoid the continental commitment that
Vansittart™s policy required. Just a fortnight earlier, on 23 November,
Chamberlain and Hore-Belisha had agreed to replace the incumbent
CIGS, Sir Cyril Deverell, who strongly favoured sending an expedition-
ary force to the continent, with someone more pliable.94 Chamberlain
had cleared a path for the unobstructed implementation of his own
policies, a move that meant any co-operation between Britain and Soviet
Russia would be less likely.
While this complicated manoeuvring was going on, there was careful
consideration of the Soviet position in the Sino-Japanese War. On 22
November, R. G. Howe, the British counsellor at Nanking, contended
that supporting China to resist Japan risked three things: ˜that China
may be driven into the arms of Russia™; that China might return to the
˜the old provincial war lord system™; and that China might lapse into
˜communism™. Vansittart felt that ˜this brandishing of the Russian bogey™
was unrealistic: ˜Russia is in such a state of weakness and complete
disorganization just now that I am not disposed to be greatly alarmed
by it.™ Orde went further. If China were ˜driven into the arms of Russia,™
it did not matter, since ˜[s]o far as Russia commits herself she will be
involved with Japan, which in Asia is to our advantage and in Europe not
so greatly to our disadvantage, since Russia™s military potentiality in the
Far East is very largely thought to be independent of her potentiality in
the West™. Chinese war-lordism would simply bog the Japanese down,
and communism ˜is not . . . a real bogy; it will, if it comes about, be a
Chinese brand and an internal affair with which it will not be impossible
to come to terms™. Given this, Orde contended that supporting Chinese
resistance against Japan should be continued ˜to such a small extent as is
possible for us™.95

93
Vansittart to Eden, 9 Dec 1937, Avon Papers, AP 20/5/32; N. Chamberlain to Ida, his
sister, 12 Dec 1937, Chamberlain Papers, NC 18/1/1031; Eden to N. Chamberlain, 12
Dec 1937, Avon Papers, AP 20/5/14; Cadogan diary entries, 13, 15 Dec 1937, Cado-
gan Papers, ACAD 1/6; Harvey diary entry, 18 Dec 1937, Harvey Papers, Add MSS
56394; Valentine Lawford, Bound for Diplomacy (London, 1963), 271.
94
Hore-Belisha diary entry, 23 Nov 1937, in R. J. Minney, ed., The Private Papers of Hore-
Belisha (London, 1960), 68“9; Brian Bond, British Military Policy Between the Two World
Wars (Oxford, 1980), 253“65. I would like to thank Professor David French for calling
my attention to this point.
95
Howe to Vansittart, tel 674, 22 Nov 1937, FO 371/20959/F9888/9/10, minutes,
Vansittart (22 and 23 Nov), Orde (22 Nov).
Chamberlain™s interlude 231

While the British had decided to support the Chinese, they were
unwilling to accept any criticism for the amplitude of this support. In
the middle of December, the British were told that Soviet Russia could
give China no more support because Britain was refusing to do its
share.96 This generated sarcasm at the Foreign Office: ˜Now where are
all the fine phrases about the embattled defenders of the Soviet Para-
dise?™ There was a certain irony in the situation: ˜Poor Russia is unable to
help China because Gt. Britain has not promised to protect her.™97 There
was also a realization that a closer relationship between Moscow and
London in the Far East would have ramifications elsewhere: ˜I can think
of little so calculated as [sic] to bring Germany and Italy into the struggle
as overt Anglo Russian cooperation nor can I conceive that an Anglo-
German rapprochement would survive any attempt on our part to act
with Russia in the Far East.™98 Finally, there was both annoyance about
the Soviet attempt to shift the blame on to Britain and a suspicion of
Soviet motives: ˜Russia will always try to fish in troubled waters and will
be a bad and faithless ally.™99 Finally, Eden suspected that the Soviets
were ˜saddling us with their own desire to do nothing, or very little™.100
There was also speculation about the possibility of a Russo-Japanese
war. The War Office felt it ˜illogical™ that Japan should begin a con-
flict.101 This was particularly so because the military balance in the Far
East between the two countries was so even. But a conflict could not be
ruled out. This analysis was largely accepted at the Foreign Office,
although there were thoughts there that Soviet Russia was in a ˜concili-
atory™ mood, which might encourage the Japanese to attack.102
By the end of 1937, with Britain unable to send forces to the Far East
due to the European situation, with the United States seemingly unwill-
ing to do more than protest against the Japanese sinking of the American

96
Chilston to FO, disp 593, 10 Dec 1937, FO 371/20691/F11157/9/10; Gage (Hankow)
to FO, tel 29, 16 Dec 1937, FO 371/20961/F11229/9/10; Gage (Hankow) to FO, tel
33, 19 Dec 1937, FO 371/20961/F11343/9/10; untitled minute, Pratt, 20 Dec 1937,
FO 371/20961/F11289/9/10, minutes on the above.
97
Minute, Thyne Henderson (20 Dec) on Gage (Hankow) to FO, tel 29, 16 Dec 1937,
FO 371/20961/F11229/9/10.
98
Minute, Ronald (13 Dec) on Gage (Hankow) to FO, tel 31, 11 Dec 1937, FO 371/
20960/F10852/9/10.
99
Minute, Thyne Henderson (23 Dec) on Pratt™s untitled minute, 20 Dec 1937, FO 371/
20961/F11289/9/10.
100
Minutes, Eden (23 Dec), Cadogan (24 Dec) on Gage (Hankow) to FO, tel 33, 19 Dec
1937, FO 371/20961/F11343/9/10.
101
˜Russo-Japanese Relations™, secret, Maj. C. R. Major, MI2(c), 21 Dec 1937, WO 106/
5636.
102
Minutes generally; esp. Cadogan™s (29 Dec) on a copy of the paper in n.101, FO 371/
20961/F11429/9/10.

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