No. 56 NAI DFA 219/4

Confidential report from William Warnock to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Berlin, 21 October 1939

The press is full of accounts of the prowess of the German submarine commanders, and their successful campaign against the British Navy and Mercantile Marine. The news is received enthusiastically by the people, who consider with great satisfaction that the British fleet is completely powerless in the North Sea; one newspaper writes that the stage has now been reached when it is definitely dangerous for a British warship to put out into the North Sea at all.

Though you in Dublin may find it difficult to believe, I may say that the majority of the people were absolutely shocked when they heard that Mr. Chamberlain had rejected the Chancellor's peace offer. They entirely reject any British mention of obligations to Poland. If Britain had obligations to Poland and if she really intended to keep them, why, they ask, did she not give the Poles assistance in time? The only attempts Britain made to relieve pressure on Poland were (a) an unsuccessful air-raid on Wilhelmshaven, and (b) the distribution of some millions of pamphlets from aeroplanes, in other words, practically nothing.

About a fortnight ago a rumour of an armistice and the fall of the British Government spread through Berlin. It was received with great rejoicing. Several people enquired of the Legation for confirmation of the report, and seemed surprised that we knew nothing about it. The official denial, which blamed the British Secret Service for the rumour, brought bitter disappointment.

As well as the sinking of the 'Courageous' and the 'Royal Oak', the Germans claim that in addition they have sent the 'Ark Royal' and the 'Repulse' to the bottom, and have put several craft out of action.1 It is stated that the efficacy of the air attack against naval units has been amply demonstrated.

The submarine Commander who sunk the 'Royal Oak' in the harbour of Scapa Flow has been feted in Berlin for the past few days.2 His act of cool daring has raised fresh enthusiasm for the Navy, and in particular for the submarines.

Nobody seems to have any idea of the new dread means of destruction mentioned by the Chancellor in a recent speech at Danzig. I have heard it said that it may be an exceptionally powerful explosive which was tried out once in Spain with marked success. One bomb filled with this explosive is said to have destroyed an entire village. It is thought that it may have been used in the torpedoes which accounted for the 'Courageous' and the 'Royal Oak', both of which were supposed to be proof against attack by submarines.

Several members of the former German colony in Ireland have called at the Legation since their return with the special party last month. Some of those who have lived for some years in Ireland do not seem to have yet become settled down, and so far as I can see, would be glad to be back. I have heard from one source that the authorities here would on the whole have preferred that they should have remained on in Ireland. Even though some of the party were of military age, the necessity for the enlistment of all the available man-power of the State in the Army is remote, as for the present Germany has only a comparatively short front in the West to defend. The circumstances are completely different to those of 1914.

The feeling is still maintained that France has no enthusiasm for the war into which she has been forced by Great Britain. Soldiers returning from the West Front bring stories of notices posted on French positions worded something like: 'Shoot over there, where the English are'. The much publicised French offensive in the Saar region seems have been of no military importance.

The Anglo-French-Turkish Agreement3 has undoubtedly caused disappointment in German political circles, but official comment has so far been meagre and restrained, and is confined to pointing out to Turkey that Great Britain can give her practically no effectual assistance, whereas Turkish help is extremely valuable to the British. Turkey is regarded as the successor to Abyssinia, Czecho-Slovakia, and Poland.

There have been no references of importance to Ireland in the press recently, with the exception of the matter to which I alluded in my confidential minute of 17th inst.4

[signed] W. Warnock

1 HMS Courageous was sunk by U-29 (17 Sept. 1939). HMS Royal Oak was sunk by U-47 (14 Oct. 1939). The commander of U-47 misidentified HMS Pegasus (a flying-boat tender) as HMS Repulse and claimed a hit. Neither Ark Royal (sunk by U-81, 13 Nov. 1941) nor Pegasus were sunk on this occasion.

2 Kapitanleutnant Gunther Prien (1908-41), commander of U-47.

3 A fifteen-year pact of mutual assistance between the three powers, signed on 19 October 1939 at Ankara.

4 See No. 53.

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