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The 1942 Race Issue of The Government

By early 1942 it was agreed that the United States would join Britain in an invasion of  Europe to end the tyranny of the Nazis. This meant that there would be a huge influx of American troops into Britain to carry out the invasion. There was considerable concern in Government circles when it was indicated that 10% of these troops would be black.

  12th August 1942

Sir Ronald Ian Campbell was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary (deputy head of mission) at Washington, D.C from 1941. He had obviously been asked about the planned sending of American coloured troops to Britain. He sent a telegram to the Foreign Office from Washington. He explained that Field Marshal Sir John Greer Dill, GCB, CMG, DSO, Chief of the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington had been told by the Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshal that he would look into the “the problem” and let them know how many American coloured troops  were going to come to Britain. He had people looking at the “difficult problem” from the British viewpoint.

It was in this telegram that the Foreign Office first learnt that 60% of United States Army Engineers were coloured and that they provided most of the dock labour. Campbell pointed out that for political reasons the United States Army had to accept coloured men on equality with white men. Campbell also stated that “coloured men were “quite unsuitable for combatant duties”. Quite what evidence he had for this is unclear. He also somewhat outrageously stated that “Engineers, fighting units of which have to be included in field formations are in serious danger of being overdarkened”. General George C. Marshal had received quite strong representation from Australia through General McArthur and from every country to which American troops had been sent including Liberia.

General George C. Marshal had told Campbell that he intended to send a General to Britain who had been very successful in handling American coloured troops. Coloured A.T.S. units were also being readied for despatch to Britain , largely in order to ease the situation by giving American coloured troops women of their own race with whom they could associate.

Cambell had spoken to Harry Hopkins (Roosevelt's chief emissary to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill) who had told him he would look into the matter and would see what could be done. Hopkins had told Campbell that the mentioned figure of 100,000 American coloured troops was “fantastic” but would confirm the number of American coloured troops the United States contemplated sending.

Hopkins also told Campbell that it would be a “bad thing” if the matter were to be treated formally between United States Government and His Majesty’s Government.


American coloured troops

He then indicated that it was very confidential, but John Gilbert Winant. Ambassador to the Court of St. James's had mentioned the “difficult problem” to Campbell and indicated that he thought the issue had been started by United States officers from the Southern States who had been talking to British officers. Winant knew that Churchill and the Foreign Office were genuinely concerned about the matter. Campbell had emphasised that the problem was a genuinely serious and difficult one and by no means a mere matter of sympathy with possible Southern preferemces.

  Ref FO-954-30A-151

A letter was sent to Anthony Eden on 16th December from Maurice Petherick a  Conservative Member of Parliament for Penryn & Falmouth

Aug 16 1942

Dear Eden,

I am extremely sorry to see the Americans are sending coloured troops to this country. I can see no conceivable argument in favour of doing so and vet many against. The Americans have plenty of men why can’t they send white? The arguments against are obvious.

1. They will quite obviously consort with white girls and there will be a number of half-caste babies about when they have gone- a bad thing for any country.

2. Not knowing that the girls who go with them are the lowest of the low it will give them a poor impression of English women.

3. It will frighten those men from those parts that are serving abroad as it did with Frenchmen in the last war.

Why not send them to other parts where they will be much more suitable, say the Solomon Islands or Egypt? Did you make no effort tom stop this? It has alarmed and horrified many people in this country. Does the Foreign Office accept with tears of gratitude everything the Americans choose to give or send us?

I hope you will stop any more black men being sent to these islands!

Maurice Petherick M.P.



Anthony Eden in the Foreign Office expressed concern in an “off the record” discussion with the American Ambassador, Viscount Halifax. He explained that the Government were anxious about the possibility of American black soldiers described in official papers as “negroes” coming to Britain and that he knew that the American Engineer units were often 60% black. 

On 1st September 1942 he tried to argue that in the 1914-18 war black soldiers from the West Indies had not fared well in the British winter climate, and that the American black soldiers from the Southern States would find it equally hard. The American Ambassador to his credit refuted this argument on the basis that there were as many white soldiers from the Southern States who would tolerate the British winter. Anthony Eden tried to argue that it was more the dampness of the climate than the cold that was the problem.

Ref: FO-954-29B-540

On 2nd October Cabinet Papers stated that the presence of a large number of coloured American troops in the United Kingdom presented the Colonial Office and  War Office with a difficult problem.  They considered the position of British coloured persons in the United Kingdom and in the Colonies, who were extremely sensitive to colour discrimination and the government wanted to ensure equality of treatment for all races

Britain had brought over to this country many technicians from the West Indies and there were considerable number of coloured persons serving in the British Armed Services brought over to Britain under special schemes and serving alongside white men.  Britain had done everything it could to try and secure good relations and Britain has had a large measure of success.

It was felt that the American attitude towards coloured persons was very largely different from the attitude adopted in this country towards their own coloured people. The Colonial Office felt that the American authorities should be made fully aware of this attitude by the British and also the fact that there were numbers of our own coloured people in the Kingdom and they should be asked to respect our attitude towards these people.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies considered that any lead given to the British people in his country asking them to adopt the attitude to the American Army towards coloured people, whether Americans or others was likely to cause serious resentment amongst our coloured people in this country and in the Colonies and also to cause confusion (If not indeed a reaction gravely prejudicial to Anglo American relations.) in the minds of the public here who have been asked repeatedly to accept British coloured Colonial persons on equal terms and to extend to them hospitality and friendliness. The Secretary was in full agreement with the proposal made by the War Office that all ranks in the services should be given a knowledge of the past history of the colour question in the United States and in the United States Army. But he considered it was going too far to attempt to ask the British Army or the A.T.S., to adopt the attitude the American army towards American coloured people. It should be impressed upon our service personnel that this is an American and not a British problem. He suggested it should be left to the Americans to decide on their own behaviour on the matter and it  should be a question of good manners and conduct on the part of our troops and the ATS to avoid giving offence to the United States Army and their attitude to American coloured persons. He could not believe that thinking Americans would wish us to adopt their ideas and prejudices any more than they would ours. If the Americans propose to treat their coloured people in certain way, we should to some extent conform by not interfering. But we should not take any positive action to imitate their administrative or other arrangements.

In summary, the Colonial Office asked for agreement by the Government that there should be no interference with American Administrator arrangements for segregation within the United States Army, but in the absence of such arrangements, the British authorities should not attempt to provide special arrangements on the lines of racial discrimination.

The historical and social reasons for the American attitude should be fully and fairly explained to the British services so as to encourage a proper understanding of the American problem.

Similarly, the reasons which differentiated the British problem from that of the Americans, and which have led to a different attitude towards the question on the part of our own people, should be explained the Americans and to the American Army. The American Army should be asked to respect our attitude toward British coloured Colonial people in this country and to avoid any interference with them that may lead to bad relations. British servicemen and women and civilians should be left to draw their own conclusions as to their behaviour towards coloured Americans, without official directions as to their conduct in this matter.

Ref: CAB-66-29-22

Brendan Bracken had written in the Sunday Express an article wherein he had expressed the attitude which the Government felt the British public to take towards our own coloured people. This was also emphasised in a Broadcast made by Mr MacMillan earlier in July 1942.

4th September 1942

Frank Aubrey Newsam was Deputy Under-Secretary of State.  He was the second most senior civil servant in the Home Office. He wrote a confidential note for Chief Constables entitled American Coloured Troops.

He explained that he had been directed by the Secretary of State to say that, as you are no doubt aware, the American troops who are now coming to this country in increasing numbers include a certain number of coloured troops.

From reports received by the Secretary of State from various parts of the country it appears there are grounds for thinking that difficulties may be caused by the presence among the civil population of coloured troops  and by their association both with other troops  and with British women.

It is not the policy of His Majesty’s Government that any discrimination as regards the treatment of coloured troops should be made by the British Authorities. T the Secretary of State, therefore, would be glad if you would be good enough to take steps to ensure that the police do not make any approach to the proprietors of public houses, restaurants, cinemas, or other places of entertainment with a view to discriminating against coloured troops.

If the American Service authorities decide  to put certain places out of bounds for their coloured troops, such prohibition can be effected only by means of an Order issued by the appropriate American Army and Naval Authorities. The police should not make themselves in any way responsible for the enforcement of such orders.


Ref CAB-66-29-36


On the 3rd of October the Secretary of State for War, Percy James Grigg, reported that there were around 12,000 troops here and that their numbers were likely to rise. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in August 1942 had with the approval of the Cabinet pressed the American government to reduce the number of coloured troops sent over but had met with little success.

The American policy on dealing with coloured troops in the United Kingdom was based on the existing American policy. This was segregation between the white and coloured troops. Coloured troops live in separate camps and have their own canteens, recreation rooms and entertainments. Separate Hostels were being provided and it was intended to send over a coloured A.T.S. units to do work normally done by white troops. This policy of segregation in the United States is generally not known by the British population and as we have little experience of a colour problem at home the population will naturally make no distinction between the treatment of white and coloured troops but may consider the imposition of such distinctions as undemocratic.

The War Office was faced with two issues and any disregarding was going to have serious consequences. The average white American soldier does not understand the normal British attitude to the colour problem and his respect for the United Kingdom may suffer of he saw British Troops and British Women’s Services drawing no distinction between white and coloured troops. Already there had been cases where American white troops have walked out of canteens and public house on seeing coloured American soldiers being served in such places, this difference of attitude had and was going to cause a degree of friction. Moreover it was expressed that the coloured troops themselves probably expected to be treated in this country as in the United States and a different treatment here might well cause political difficulties in America post-war. The Cabinet also expressed an opinion that to maintain the morale of British troops in this country and abroad that it was “undesirable” that there should be any unnecessary association between American coloured troops and British women. This suggested that the War Office attitude towards American coloured troops should be based on the view of the American Army Authorities.

However it was pointed out that there was evidence in the Press and from Members of Parliament that any difference of treatment between white and coloured troops might be regarded as racial discrimination and cause bitter resentment.

There was an attack in the Sunday Pictorial on the wife of the Vicar of Worle, Weston-Super-Mare over quite shocking advice she had given to other women in the village.

The Reverend Frederick May (b. 1st August 1888) lived at the Vicarage, Church Road, Weston- Super-Mare with his wife Annie G. May (Nee Bond) (b. 8th February 1st August 1890). In September 1942 she decided to share with other ladies in the village a set of rules that she thought all should adopt when coming into contact with coloured American soldiers. This was reported in the Sunday Mirror on Sunday 6th September 1942.

“The women of Worle, Weston-Super-Mare, are amazed by Mrs May, wife of their vicar. She called them together and attempted to lay down a six-point code which would result in the ostracism of American coloured troops if they ever go to the village. The women of the village have come to the angry conclusion that this code amounts to an insult to the troops of our Ally. These (in her own words) were the rules Mrs May laid down:

1 —lf a local woman keeps a shop and a coloured soldier enters, she must serve him, but she must do it as quickly as possible, and indicate that she does not desire him to come there again.

2—lf she is in a cinema and notices a coloured soldier next to her she moves to another seat immediately.

3 —lf she is walking on the pavement, and a coloured soldier is coming towards her, she crosses to the other pavement.

4 —lf she is in a shop and a coloured soldier enters, she leaves as soon as she has made her purchase or before that if she is in a queue.

5—White women, of course, must have no social relationship with coloured troops.

6 —On no account must coloured troops be invited into the homes of white women.

Mrs. May forbade her hearers to mention her " talk " to the newspapers. But they were so astonished that they told their husbands.  One of the husbands, a local councillor, is preparing a full statement to be sent to the Ministry of Information. He said: " If the woman is talking like this in the name of the Church, I should be interested to know what her husband's Bishop thinks of it." Mrs. May's reason for not making her code public, she said, was that " it might hurt the coloured troops if they heard of it." Feeling is so high in the district that it Is more likely to hurt Mrs. May. A local woman who attended the meeting told the Sunday Pictorial last night : " I was disgusted, and so were most of the women there. We have no intention of agreeing to her decree. Any coloured soldier who reads this may rest assured that there is no colour bar in this country and that he is as welcome as any other Allied soldier. He will find that the vast majority of people here have nothing but repugnance for the narrow-minded, uninformed prejudices expressed by the vicar's wife. There is, and will be no persecution of coloured people in Britain.”

Many in the village were up in arms over her racist rules.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies told Grigg that he was unhappy about the possible repercussions of the policy of the American Army on West Indian opinion and that of our Colonies. In September the Minister of Information had written an article in the Sunday Express entitled “The Colour Bar Must Go.”, it was felt that some readers may have connected this article with American coloured troops. The Home Office had sent a circular out to Chief Constables about the attitude of the police towards American coloured troops. It emphasised that it was not the policy of H.M. Government that there was to be any discrimination as regards the treatment of coloured troops by the British authorities.

The War Office was on a Razor’s Edge trying to find a balance between the various views on the race issue. Trying to avoid any difficulties over the administrative arrangements made by Americans for the segregation of coloured troops from the white troops it had taken no steps to discriminate coloured troops in cases where the American administrative arrangements did not cover the case. In railway canteens there was no attempt to exclude the coloured American soldier. While there was no discrimination by the British Army for coloured troops, the War Office was keen that British troops, particularly the British A.T.S. to understand the American background on the segregation issue and to modify their conduct so as not cause offence to white or coloured troops. It was undesirable to have any misunderstanding as these might affect the efficiency of the Allied forces.

It was the view of Grigg that within the limits that were necessarily imposed on Britain and subject to local Britain should follow the general lead of the American authorities.

With typical Civil Service of neutrality the War Office had decided that no written instructions should be issued.

However in August the Major-General who was in charge of administration in the Southern Command, where it was intended to station a large number of American coloured troops, decided based on difficulties that were  already occurring to issue confidential written guidance to District Commanders and local Regional Commissioners. He issued a document – “Notes on relations with Coloured Troops”, to all District Commanders and Regional Commissioners. It was sent as a personal letter stating that the notes had been prepared to provide material for officers, including A.T.S., when talking with their men and women on this subject, emphasising that the notes were not to be distributed in writing, unless sent to selected officers for the above purposes. The notes were issued after close consultation with local American Commanders, and set out the historical background to the American policy. Some welcomed the Notes as they gave guidance for a uniform policy. It was claimed that since the notes had gone out relations between British and American troops had improved but it was uncertain if the notes were in fact the main factor in this perceived change in relations. No figures were given as to the improved relations so the claim to improved relations must be taken as anecdotal.

Grigg felt that some general statement of fact should be issued to the Army. Grigg supported the view of the Bolero Combined Committee in August 1942 which recommended that an article be published by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, after consultation with the Foreign Office. This was to set out the history and facts of the Griggs supported the relations between white and coloured communities in America and between white and coloured American troops. Grigg did not want any instructions or written advice based on these facts to be issued after such an article. He felt the problem was more than an Army one and any authorised statement that took sides must not be restricted to the Armed Forces in its application. As far as the Army was concerned he did not want to make a statement. It was to be left to Army Officers to deal with incidents as they arose and they should interpret the facts orally to those in their command. This policy would result in the possibility of varying interpretation and misunderstanding but it was a risk that had to be acceptable. This was the lesser evil due to the objection to the  issue of written instructions being unacceptable.

Grigg summed up by asking the War Cabinet to endorse his proposals for the Army.

1.     To make full use of the American administrative  arrangements for the segregation of coloured troops, but where those fail to make no official discrimination against them.

2.     To give the Army through A.B.C.A. a knowledge of the facts and history of the coloured question in the U.S.A. and the U.S.A. Army.

3.     To allow Army officers without the issue of overt or written instructions to interpret those facts to the personnel of the Army including the A.T.S. and to educate them to adopt towards the U.S.A. coloured troops the attitude of the U.S.A.  Army authorities.



Ref  CAB-66-29-21

October 9th

The Lord Chancellor, John Allsebrook Simon, 1st Viscount Simon, weighed in his opinion of what was now known as the “difficult subject” question. He said that the British attitude to coloured people was widely different to that of the Americans. This was due to social and historic reasons. Anyone acquainted with the Southern States would know how the Whites treated the Blacks. The British would never accept the “Jim Crow” situation where the Blacks had to travel in specific vehicles, use specific seats, or not be allowed in White only premises. To adopt the American attitude to colour as it would be setting aside the British Tradition.

The War Office officially recognised Service Clubs run by voluntary organisations and none of these operated a colour bar. In St. Stephen’s Club both white and  coloured British soldiers in uniform were served in the club. A few coloured American troops have used it. It would be inconsistent with British principles and traditions if British Authorities tried to say that such a place was one where coloured American troops could not enter. It would be equally difficult to get the Salvation Army canteens or the Y.M.C.A. and Church Army to impose a colour bar. It is the policy of the British Service Clubs to admit coloured troops and he felt that the British Government ought not to change that policy.

He felt a publican could not as a licensee have the right to refuse to admit and serve  coloured men. His house was licensed as a “public “ house.

The British Empire was on the whole a coloured Empire and to implement a colour bar would cause repercussions from that Empire.

To attempt to ask the British Army or the A.T.S. to adopt the attitude of the American Army towards coloured American people. We should impress on our Service personnel that this is an American and not a British problem.

To issue orders that involve the British Government in the practice of segregation would be a mistake and would raise a greater storm than may be realised in some quarters. There is a British conviction that if a coloured man behaves himself he is entitled to the same treatment as a white man.

Instead of urging our own people to adopt American practices of segregation we should explain to the American Army Authorities that we, too, have traditional methods in connection with coloured people and that we can take no action which would be a departure from them.

As for the allegation that there are some white women in this country who feel that American coloured troops are particularly attractive and who run after them, that is not a difficulty that will not be cured be keeping American coloured troops out of canteens or clubs at all. The great mass of white women certainly have no such feelings and I believe that the great mass of American coloured men are perfectly well conducted. By barring American coloured troops from canteens will not only reduce the risk of association with white women in the least but will cause the opposite effect.

Ref: CAB-66-29-35

10 Oct

  The Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, a Labour M.P., wrote a Memorandum on 10th October 1942. He explained that the Home Office had sent a circular letter giving advice to Chief Constables in England and Wales on the attitude which they should adopt towards American coloured troops in Britain. A similar circular was also sent by the Secretary of State for Scotland to the Scottish police.

He continued saying that this circular was issued after consultation with the Foreign Office,  the Ministry of Information and the Chairman of the Bolero Committee. General Eisenhower had seen an advance copy of the draft circular and said he was in complete accord with the instructions in the Home Office circular.  In his letter to the Home Office he said this policy of non-discrimination is exactly the policy which has always been followed by the United States Army. Subordinate United States Army Commanders in the European Theatre of Operations are being informed of the proposals of the Home Office. With reference to the question of placing  certain places out of bounds we do not make any restrictions of that kind on the basis of colour. The policy followed by the United States Army Authorities is that places put out of bounds for United States soldiers are out of bounds to all United States Army personnel.”

So far as the attitude to be adopted by the police is concerned it will be seen that they have been advised not themselves to exercise any discrimination against United States coloured troops in this country, and not to encourage such discrimination by licensees of cinemas, public houses. Restaurants or other places of public entertainment.

Reports received by the Home Office from Chief Officers of Police show that on the whole the American coloured troops in this country have behaved well and that apart from isolated incidents there have been no difficulties created by the association of American coloured troops with the civil population.

On the other hand some of the Regional Commissioners have expressed considerable apprehension as to the difficulties likely to be created in their Regions by the presence of American coloured troops and their association with the civil population, and particularly with British women. Some Regional Commissioners have informed me that, in their experience, some British women appear to find a peculiar fascination in associating with men of colour and that this association is resented by American white soldiers and is likely to give rise to difficult social problems in their Regions. They have also urged that the morale of British troops is likely to be upset by rumours that their wives and daughters are being debauched by American coloured troops.

He said the question for the Cabinet was to decide if the Government should give advice as to the attitude that should be adopted towards American coloured soldiers and if so, to whom such advice should be given and in what terms.

The war office proposes that service personnel should be informed of facts and the history of the colour question in the United States of America and in the United States Army and should be lectured in private by their officers to educate these men and for them to adopt towards American coloured soldiers what is supposed to be the attitude of United States Army Authorities. If however it was decided to give such advice to Service personnel, would the matter End there? If for example in any area Civil Defence workers were found to be fraternising unduly with coloured troops, would it not be the duty of the Minister of Home Security to give some advice to these persons? Would it not ultimately be necessary to gibe some advice to the police as to Government policy on this. Serviced personnel would invariably inform the police and licensees of Public Houses, for example the nature of the advice which they had received, however confidentially, and the advice given to Service personnel would soon percolate throughout the rest of the community, possibly in an exaggerated and distorted form. Any advice which goes beyond the mere imparting to Service personnel of information as to the colour problem in the United States is bound to give rise to this type of difficulty and the mere imparting of such information may itself give rise to a demand for advice as to the correct behaviour to be used toward American coloured troops having regard to the various attitudes adopted towards the colour problem in different parts of the United States.


The proposal that British Service personnel should adopt towards the United States coloured troops the attitude of the United States Army Authorities seems to assume that the Americans do in fact wish to maintain a policy of segregation similar to that followed in the United States or parts of the United States.  General Eisenhower’s letter, however, states categorically that it is not part of the policy of the United States Army to place out of bounds to coloured troops places which are not out of bounds to other members of the United States forces; and in this country where separate canteens, public houses, cinemas, or places of entertainment are not available for coloured people it is difficult to see how effect could be given to a policy of segregation. Moreover, there would be a large body of opinion in this country which would strongly resent a policy under which British citizens were advised to treat coloured persons in the same way as the United States Army Authorities are supposed to treat them.

It appears that from General Eisenhower’s letter  that there is some reason for thinking that the American Army Headquarters take a broader and more tolerant view of the question than local American Commanders. Is the explanation that the official American policy has not yet been fully understood by subordinate commanders in this country? Moreover the American troops have not yet been in this country sufficiently long enough to enable them to appreciate the British attitude towards the delicate question of colour prejudice, while the British people them selves have not had sufficient experience to appreciate the American point of view.

I am fully conscious that a difficult social problem might be created if there were a substantial number of cases of sex relations between white women and coloured troops and the procreation of half-caste children : but I am doubtful whether the policy suggested by the War Office would have any effect in checking this danger. The educative methods suggested by the War Office memorandum are unlikely to have any influence on the class of women who are attracted by coloured men. Although there is some concern about this danger, I have no information to suggest that it is serious at the present time; but I propose that a careful watch be kept om this aspect of the problem.

There is also no doubt a risk that respectable English girls may not realise that if they show to coloured men from the United States the same friendliness as they commonly show to our own Service men the coloured man from America is likely to misunderstand  their intentions and their character; and the creation of such misunderstanding is unfair to him and may be dangerous to girls. I can therefore see a case for giving some warning  to the members of the A.T.S. and the other women’s Services on this subject.

As regards however, educating the personnel of the Army “ to adopt towards the United States coloured troops the attitude of the United States Army Authorities”. I am doubtful whether any such practical advantages would ensue from such a course as to outweigh the disadvantages which are likely to arise when the men and women concerned attempt to follow in practise the instruction which have been given to them and from the controversy which will arise when as must almost invariably there is some public disclosure possibly in a distorted form, pf the nature of those instructions.

Ref CAB-66-29-36

On 12th October 1942, Brendan Bracken the Minister of Information wrote a memorandum to the Cabinet Office. He explained that as he was responsible for co-ordination the civilian hospitality to American troops in Britain, he had been involved with the problem of defining what attitude the Cabinet wanted which would be adopted by the British people to American coloured troops. In view of the varieties of opinion being expressed he felt that it might help the Cabinet if he repeated the advice he has been offering on the subject. The basis of the advice was in a letter he had sent to the Secretary of State for War, Percy J.Grigg, on 16th September 1942. He quoted the relevant passages.

He felt that the Americans had exported to Britain a local problem which was not one that had been made by Britain. The problem was one for which there was no conceivable prospect of it being satisfactorily solved in Britain. Therefore he deprecated general discussions of the problem which tended to give more diagnosis than cure.

He was convinced that the Amrican policy of segregation was the right one to avoid trouble and that Britain should second it in every way. Such a policy was not always achievable and was often incapable of being achieved. In such circumstances the public was was aware of a divided allegiance: their sense of sympathy and protectiveness towards the black troops conflicts with the wish to respect the feelings of the white American troops amongst us. The Cabinet should not by any process that was visible or invisble to try to lead our own people to to adopt as their ownn the American social attitude to the American Negro: nor should the Cabinet succeed. But he thought that they should do what they could to make those who will be brought into contact with both black and white Americans

1.     aware of the problem

2.     the attitude of both sides

3.     of the social background in which the Americans have grown up.

The public should be encouraged to use all their tact to avoid offending or insulting the white American in their relations wih the black. He felt the Service Departments could tackle this subject among their own personnel owing to the peculiar arrangements between oficers and men, especially in the Women’s Services. The use of written documents was to be avoided as well as use of the didactic  approach (influencing moral).

He thought that they should not approach the mass of the civilian population ought to be approached at with any propaganda on the subject. A wrong step would be disasterous, and there was not sufficient possibilty of any real success. Incidentally, he felt the essential agents of national hospitality were the Voluntary Societies, with whom the Ministry of Information were working closely. Their fundamental principles are involved in the doctrine of no racial discrimination.

Ref CAB-66-29-39

On 12th October the Cabinet Secretary, Edward Ettingdere Bridges, published a note on “United States Coloured Troops in the United Kingdom” for the War Cabinet. It was a suggested revision of the Notes on Relations with Coloured Troops by the Lord Privy Seal and embodied his main comments on the Draft prepare by the Secretary of State for War.

It omitted the recommendation that British men and women should adopt the American attitude but recommends that they should recognise the problem and take account of the attitude of the White American citizen.

It omitted the analysis of the negro character set out in paragraph 5 of the original draft. Certain changes are made in the practical suggestions at the end of the note.


The revised draft Notes, which have been shown to the Secretaries of State for War and for the Colonies  are circulated for consideration in connection with the other papers on this subject.


On 17th October the Lord Privy Seal,  Sir Richard Stafford Cripps reported to the Cabinet that he had consulted with the Secretary of State for War and the Home Secretary and they had agreed on the text for a document to be circulated which addressed the question of the American Negro Troops.

The Secretary of State for War and the Lord Privy Seal had discussed the question of its circulation in the forces and made the following recommendations. The document was to be circulated as “Private & Confidential” within the Army and the Air Force.  It was not considered necessary to circulate it in the Royal Navy or Civil Defence Services (He does not say why). It should be communicated to such senior officers in the two Services as may be liable to be asked questions on the point, since it is important that the same attitude should be adopted in all the Services. 

In the Army the document should be circulated to all General officers and Brigadiers, Colonels in Command of Troops and Lieutenant-Colonels in Command of Units, and to all A.T.S. officers of the rank of Controller and above and Group Commanders. In the R.A.F. the distribution should be to officers of equivalent rank and status.

They had passed the article, with minor alterations, for publication by the A.B.C.A. (Army Bureau of Current Affairs), as being in full accord with the policy of the document they could see in Appendix A.

He pointed out that the A.B.C.A. publication would come to the notice of the Press and almost certainly the article in Appendix A would eventually find its way into the hands of the national Press, they planned for the Minister of Information to hold a Press Conference  at which the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air and the Lord privy Seal could  put the matter before the Press with a request that they should not “feature” the A.B.C.A. publication or make any reference to the document in Appendix A. The Lord Privy Seal and the Secretary of State for War believed that, subject to the opinion of the Minister of Information, that on the whole this will be the best chance of avoiding bad publicity and indeed all publicity is what we wish.

Appendix A

Ref CAB-66-30-3


On 17th July 1943 A letter was sent to Anthony Eden on 4th December from Maurice Petherick a  Conservative Member of Parliament for Penryn & Falmouth.

It read:- Dear Eden,

When I first heard of the threatened arrival of black American troops in this country I wrote and gave a number of reasons why this should not be allowed.

They have now been here for some time ( and I believe have behaved pretty well).

I have recently had some complaints from up near the middle East coast

Surely there is no conceivable reason any longer why they should be kept in this country?

Cannot you now arrange with the American Government to send them to North Africa or to fertilise the Italians who are used to it anyhow?

Yours sincerely

Maurice Petherick  M.P.

4th December 1943

A letter was sent to Anthony Eden on 4th December from Maurice Petherick a  Conservative Member of Parliament for Penryn & Falmouth.

It read:-

Dear Eden,

I have written to you before about the inadvisability of allowing coloured American troops to be billeted in this country, I hope it was not deliberate but a considerable number have been sent to the Duchy of Cornwall! There have been several unpleasant rows between white and black Americans and there will probably be more. In addition to this as in other parts of England women of the lowest order are consorting with the black Americans.

There is a very strong feeling about this here, as in other counties. Now I always thought that the original excuse given me by you, which the American Government handed out was devilish thin, namely that they could not complete a division for service in Europe. If it was thin then it was arrogant nonsense now.

Surely we are in a strong enough position to stand up to the U.S.A. (they respect us when we do) and tell them we will not have any more black troops here and to send those we have to North Africa where, poor devils, they would be much more happy and warm. I know that there are many more people who feel strongly about this and it is the soundest and most loyal element not the people who screech blue murder about Second Fronts and Mosley’s, but those that are anxious to be and remain friends with America & who will put up with such for their country’s sake.”

Maurice Petherick

Ref FO 954/30A/204

It is clear that he was a racist and saw the problem was with black soldiers, not whites and in his view removing the black ones would solve the problem. Fortunately, Eden ignored the letter.


John James Lawson, Secretary of State for War


Ref CAB-129-11-21

The Americans came and without them it is unlikely that Europe would have been freed from Nazi Tyranny.

In January 1942 it was announced that the Americans were coming" to Britain.

“American Land, Air and Sea forces will take stations in the British Isles, which constitute an essential fortress in this world struggle," declared President Roosevelt in his historic message to the U.S. Congress on the 'State of the Union yesterday. Even before announcing this, the first public statement in “World War No. 2“ that " the Yankees are coming," the President outlined a staggering arms programme.

The plan for 1943 called for 125,000 planes, 75,000 tanks, 35,000 anti-aircraft guns, and 10,000,000 tons of shipping. In 1942, he said, " we shall produce 60,000 planes—l0,000 more than the goal set a year and half ago.” The United States would also produce in the present year 45,000 tanks, 20,000 anti-aircraft guns, and 8,000,000 deadweight tons of merchant vessels. Speaking of the employment of American forces overseas in addition to his reference to the Land, Air and Sea forces 'which would be stationed in Britain, the President said: "The American armed forces must be used anywhere in the world where it seems advisable to engage the enemy forces. "In some cases, these operations will be defensive, in order to protect key positions. In other cases, the operations will be offensive, in order to strike at the common enemy with a view to his complete encirclement and eventual total defeat." The militarists of Berlin and Tokio started this war, but the massed, angered forces of common humanity will finish it, the President declared.

  "No compromise can end this war. There has never been and never can be a successful compromise between good and evil. Only total victory can reward the champions of tolerance, freedom end faith," was the President's conclusion.

The President said that he and Mr Churchill understood one another fully, and had been working on concerted economic and military plans for more than a year. Conferences would continue, and the United Nations act not as twenty-six separate units but in true unity to secure victory and peace with security. 

Berlin Radio was quick to scaremonger the future American involvement claiming that Roosevelt sending American troops to Britain was really the first step in America's plans to planning to annexe Britain and the Dominions. The British found it amusing and agreed they would rather be annexed by America than by the Axis.



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