Mr A.T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London, to Mr J.D.L. Hood, Department of External Affairs

Letter P & C 9 LONDON, 23 May 1939


In your P. & C. No. 3 of 22nd March [2], you mentioned the letter of 17th February addressed to the late Mr Lyons by the former Japanese Consul-General in Sydney, Mr Wakamatsu. [3]

Ronald [4], of the Far Eastern Department, mentioned the matter to me recently, and I imagine that he had heard of it from the Dominions Office. I think he had the impression that the Commonwealth reply was rather too conciliatory in tone. He did not, however, say very much about it, adding that it was a matter which was being looked at by Denin [5], who, as you will remember, returned not long ago to take Davies’ [6] place in the Far Eastern Department. He has held several consular posts in Japan and Manchuria, and was acting Consul-General at Harbin for a long while. He was I think born in Melbourne and fought with the A.I.F. in the War.

Dening pointed out to me that in his opinion Wakamatsu’s communication was part of the present Japanese plan ‘to make people’s flesh creep’. He said that they were trying this game on in various parts of the world; it was a technique which they had learned from the Germans. It was by no means confined to Australia. They had recently been trying it on in Siam, and the Siamese had been very perturbed as to Japanese intentions there. At the moment the Department was drafting a note which it was hoped would hearten the Siamese.

He showed me also a reply to the Japanese over recent incidents at Singapore, in which a stiff tone had been adopted.

He also drew my attention to two passages in the account given by the American Ambassador at Tokyo [7] of his farewell interview with the Japanese Vice Foreign Minister [8] before going on leave. It appears that the Japanese Vice Foreign Minister used expressions such as ‘the position taken by Russia might conceivably decide whether peace could be maintained between the United States and Japan’, and ‘if the United States … should base her future policies on such misunderstanding it would bring about a deplorable situation … respecting the relations between the United States and Japan’.

Dening said that in his view the Japanese had committed a major error in diplomacy in taking this tone with the United States, and it served to show that they were adopting a technique of ‘threats’ all round.

I did not make any comment, but it was clear that the Far Eastern Department wanted me to pass on what had been said. I imagine that at one stage they thought of doing it through the Dominions Office and Whiskard [9], but decided that it should be done in the most informal way possible. As you had been good enough to let me know about this matter previously, I mention it to you now and should be glad if you would pass it on to Hodgson. [10]


1 See Document 101.

2 Not printed (on file FA: A2937, Mr J.D.L. Hood).

3 Document 27.

4 N.B. Ronald, First Secretary, Far Eastern Department, U.K. Foreign Office.

5 M.E. (later Sir Esler) Dening, Consul, Far Eastern Department, U.K. Foreign Office, from November 1938.

6 W. J. Davies, Consul, Far Eastern Department, U.K. Foreign Office, until November 1938.

7 Joseph C. Grew.

8 Renzo Sawada.

9 U.K. High Commissioner in Australia.

10 Lt Col W.R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs.


[FA: A2937, MR J.D.L. HOOD]