HC Deb 21 October 1915 vol 74 cc1974-5

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state who was the British official responsible for the information given to M. de Margerie, set out in the letter from the Belgian Minister at Paris, and dated 16th August, 1914; whether, in view of the publication of this letter in Germany, steps will be taken to inform neutrals of the view expressed in this House by the Secretary of State regarding the inaccuracy of the letter; will he say where is the place described as Bonar, mentioned in the Count de Lalaing's letter of 17th August, 1914; what were the acts of hostility committed by Germany mentioned in the Belgian verbal note, transmitted by Spain to Germany on 8th November, 1914; and will the Foreign Office publish an official reply to the German memorandum regarding suspension of warfare in Central Africa?


I have already said that M. Margerie's statement appears to have been the expression of his personal opinion. That is clear from the French original of the dispatch referred to, and I have no reason to think that any British official was responsible for the statement. I am not aware what claims are meant or that we had put forward any claims. As regards the second part of the question, I do not think it necessary to give further information to neutrals beyond the public statement in this House. Bonar is a new fortified post in the strip of Cameroons territory abutting on the Congo River. So far as I am aware, the first acts of hostility committed by Germany were the concentration at Ekododo and Bonar, first reported to the French Government about 11th August; a concentration at Karonga, first reported on 11th August, followed by an invasion of Nyasaland on 20th August; the attack on the port of Albertville, in Lake Tanganyika, on 22nd August; and a raid on Tsavo, in British East Africa, on 6th September.

As regards the last part of the question, I have no objection to informing the House of my reply to the German proposal. That proposal was received through the United States Ambassador, acting merely as a medium of communication, on 24th September and on 20th November. I informed the United States Ambassador that "such a proposal would not be practicable in view of the hostilities which have already taken place on both sides, which include attacks made by German forces on British East Africa, British Central Africa and Albertville."