France and the Anglo-German Naval Treaty

Courtesy Reuters

SIR SAMUEL HOARE, British Foreign Minister, and Herr Joachim von Ribbentrop, special German Ambassador, exchanged a series of letters on June 18 which constituted a broad Anglo-German naval agreement. All Europe was dum-founded by the suddenness of the event.

The origins of the agreement are to be found in the conversations which Sir John Simon and Chancellor Hitler had at Berlin on March 25 and 26. Hitler, disregarding the objections of the Wilhelmstrasse, proposed to his visitor that Germany should recognize by a bilateral agreement the naval hegemony of Great Britain, while herself remaining satisfied with a naval power equal to that of France (such was the expression used), or one-third that of Britain. It was immediately pointed out to der Führer that this proposal lacked consistency. The French fleet was half as big as the British; consequently the German navy could hardly equal that of France and still be one-third that of Great Britain. As a result, Hitler in his famous speech of May 21 expressed his claims in more exact terms: the German navy was to be 35 percent of the English or 15 percent smaller than the French. "The German Government," added Hitler, "voluntarily recognize the supreme vital importance, and thus the justification, for a dominating protection of the British world Empire at sea, just as we ourselves, on the other hand, are determined to do everything necessary for the protection of our existence and freedom on the continent. The German Government sincerely intend to do everything to bring about and maintain such relations with the British people and state as will for ever prevent a repetition of the only war which there has as yet been between the two nations."

On June 4, that is to say less than two weeks after this solemn declaration, Herr von Ribbentrop arrived at London at the head of a group of naval experts. Everyone expected long negotiations and endless bargaining. But Hitler's emissary did not weaken in his insistence that the German offer should be accepted

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