No. 18 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/14/1
LONDON, 1 March 1941
3. MR. MALCOLM MACDONALD1 referred to a conversation I had with him a few weeks ago when I said I did not see how anyone could resist the conclusion that the British Government were trying by subtle means to force us into participation in the war. He said that he knew this to be a complete mistake and a lack of appreciation on my part of the unheard of difficulties with which the British Government were daily and hourly faced, but as he was no longer Secretary of State for the Dominions he thought he ought not to say anything. Meeting Lord Cranborne subsequently he retailed this conversation to him when the former said he was sorry that he, Mr. MacDonald, had not instantly repudiated my suggestion. This he did now and asked me to convey his personal assurances to Mr. de Valera that the British had no intention of putting difficulties in our way. He recounted with some emphasis his own inability at the Ministry of Health to get shipping space for American surgical and other appliances which they desperately needed for casualties arising from aerial bombardment, particularly the devastations in Coventry, Manchester, Southampton, Bristol and South Wales.
I talked to him about the future of the war saying that it was quite likely that the British would withstand the daily increasing menace of the submarine as well as the expected intensive aerial bombardment and the invasion by German troops. The German shipyards were working three shifts daily. They had numerically a superiority in the air which they would employ immediately the better weather came. There was no crack thus far in the German morale. The withstanding of the German attacks was after all only defensive and what was difficult for a layman to see was how the British, assuming they succeeded in their defence, could carry the war into Germany. The military experts reckoned that Hitler had two hundred fully equipped divisions at his disposal – the biggest army in history. Mr. MacDonald admitted all this but he thought they would beat the Germans on the Continent by two ways. One was the bombardment even as late as the middle of 1942 by an overwhelming air strength representing their own maximum production and immense help from America, and secondly by revolt in the countries which Hitler had occupied but which time would shew he could not govern.
He told me that Winston Churchill's enemies had to admit that he was a great war leader. Churchill's nightly prayer he said jocularly was 'I thank you God for making me Prime Minister of this country in the greatest war the world has ever known. I hope God that you will arrange for this war to go on, if not for ever, for the rest of my life'.
It was the fact that when things were going extremely bad for the Allies last year and even after the fall of France Mr. Churchill, acting entirely on his own, and Sir John Dill went forward with all energy and despatch to send troops and materials to the Middle East and this at a time when the Cabinet knew how inadequate was the defence of Great Britain against invasion.
Another man with whom I had some conversation was J. H. Thomas.2 Apparently a member of the Privy Council is supplied with important Government papers. Mr. Thomas gets these and has in addition no doubt personal contacts with members of the Government. He told me that in the last but one re-arrangement of the Cabinet the Labour members accepted it on condition that at an early date the Prime Minister would move out of important office any members of the National Labour party and that this explained why Mr. MacDonald was being sent to Canada.
He said that from what he had heard the intensive aerial bombardment was imminent – next Monday being suggested. On the question of invasion the military experts were uneasy at the still ill-equipped condition of a large number of the Forces in Britain.
He said that the Prime Minister was drinking heavily and that in his second broadcast speech he had to be sobered up before going to the microphone. Even so those who knew the Prime Minister could tell that he had been drinking. I take leave to doubt the accuracy of these statements – where Mr. Churchill is concerned Mr. Thomas is not an unbiased witness.
[signed] J. W. DULANTY
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