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Coll 6/84 'Yemen: Attitude of Yemeni Govt. towards the Italo-Ethiopian dispute. Policy of H.M.G. in event of Italian occupation of Yemeni territory.' [‎120r] (239/699)

The record is made up of 1 file (348 folios). It was created in 22 Mar 1934-1 Nov 1939. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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EASTERN (Arabia). February 24. 1937.
[E 784/27/91] Copy No.
Mr. Eden to Sir E. Drummond (Rome).
(No. 182.)
Sir, Foreign Office, February 24, 1937.
THE counsellor of the Italian Embassy called here on the 3rd February in
order to discuss Anglo-Italian relations in the Red Sea area. He said that the
Italian Government had been rendered uneasy at the recent journeys of Captain
Seager (the British frontier officer on the Aden-Yemeni frontier) from Aden to
Sanaa, and of Mr. Philby to the Hadramaut. Signor Crolla seemed rather
confused about these journeys, and at times spoke of Mr. Philby’s journeys to
the coast of the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. , where, as was explained to him, Mr. Philby had
not been for many years. But it appeared that the reference to these journeys
was merely intended to introduce the subject, and that the real object of his visit
was to say that Italy relied entirely on, and held firmly to, the Rome under
standing of 1927. and to express the hope that His Majesty’s Government
themselves were prepared to continue equally to base themselves on that
2. Signor Crolla was told in reply that it must be self-evident that His
Majesty’s Government could have no ambitions in the Arabian peninsula, and no
wish to increase their responsibilities by adopting any kind of forward policy
beyond the areas already under their sovereignty or protection. Their policy, as
the Italian Government must know, was the maintenance of the status quo.
3. As regards the journeys to which Signor Crolla had particularly alluded,
Captain Seager was, as the Italian Government were aware, the British frontier
officer on the Aden-Yemeni frontier. His Majesty’s Government had no repre
sentatives in the Yemen, but the fact that they had a common frontier with that
country naturally led to the necessity for discussing various frontier questions of
common interest. In the circumstances, it seemed entirely natural that Captain
Seager should go to Sanaa from time to time, in the ordinary course of his work
as a frontier officer, in order to keep in contact with the Yemeni officials. As
regards Mr. Philby, it was no doubt universally believed abroad that he was a
British agent, but it must be sufficiently obvious that such activities as his recent
incursion into the Aden Protectorate were hardly those of a British agent.
Signor Crolla was then given a brief account of Mr. Philby’s career, and told
that the Italian Government should not be misled by the ridiculous reports to
which Mr. Philby’s adventures inevitably gave rise. He eventually said that the
Italian Government were under no misapprehension on this point and did not
take Mr. Philby seriously. He did not explain, however, why he had referred
to him at the outset of the conversation.
4. Signor Crolla was then told that, while it. seemed fairly clear that His
Majesty's Government could have no conceivable object in attempting to extend
their responsibilities in Arabia, the position was not so simple as regards Italy.
Italy made no secret of having embarked on a forward policy, and. whatever the
attitude of the authorities in Rome might be. it could not be denied that there
had been a great deal of loose talk in local Italian military and naval circles
about the obvious strategic advantages which Italy might obtain if she secured
a foothold in the Yemen. It was no doubt unnecessary to attach excessive
importance to such remarks, but this kind of talk had unquestionably created a
great deal of uneasiness in certain quarters.
5. Signor Crolla said that any such uneasiness was entirely unjustified.
Italy had her hands more than full in Abyssinia, and the last thing she wanted
was an Arabian adventure. In any case, her policy was to adhere firmly to the
undertakings of the Rome understanding of 1927. and he wished to give a formal
and categorical assurance to this effect. The Italian Government, for their part,
had. he repeated, certainly felt some uneasiness at Captain Seager’s journev!
There had been reports to the effect that he had discussed with the Imam the
931 aa—1]

About this item


This file relates to Italian activities in the Middle East, particularly in the Yemen. The correspondence includes discussion of the following:

  • British policy in the event of the Italians occupying Sheikh Said [Ra’s Shaykh Sa‘īd], or any other part of the Yemen.
  • The Yemen's position in the Italo-Abyssinian conflict [Italo-Ethiopian War].
  • Relations between Ethiopia and the Yemen.
  • Italian activities in the Yemen.
  • British suspicions regarding Italian activities in the Yemen.
  • Future British policy in the Yemen.
  • Internal affairs in the Yemen.
  • Anglo-Italian relations in the Middle East, and the likelihood of Italy violating the Rome Understanding of 1927.
  • Ibn Saud's [‘Abd al-‘Azīz bin ‘Abd al-Raḥmān bin Fayṣal Āl Sa‘ūd] view on Italian activity in the region.
  • The visits of Italian destroyers to Kamaran Island in March 1937 and January 1938.
  • British and French concerns that Italy, following its denunciation of the Franco-Italian Agreement of 1935, seeks possession of the Island of Doumeira [Dumēra Desēt, Red Sea, also spelled Dumeira in the file], currently under French control.

The file features the following principal correspondents: His Majesty's Minister at Jedda (Sir Andrew Ryan, succeeded by Sir Reader William Bullard); the Political Resident A senior ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul General) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Residency. , Aden (Sir Bernard Rawdon Reilly); the Governor of Aden (Reilly again); the High Commissioner, Cairo (Sir Miles Lampson); His Majesty's Ambassador in Cairo (Lampson again); His Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires, Alexandria (John Cecil Sterndale Bennett); His Majesty's Ambassador in Paris (Eric Phipps); His Majesty's Ambassador in Rome (Eric Drummond); the British Consul General, Jibuti [Djibouti] (Herbert George Jakins); the British Naval Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station (Vice-Admiral Alexander Robert Maule Ramsay); the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Anthony Eden); the Secretary of State for the Colonies (James Henry Thomas, succeeded by William George Arthur Ormsby-Gore); officials of the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, and the Air Ministry.

In addition to correspondence, the file includes the following: copies of extracts from Aden political intelligence summaries; copies of the minutes of meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence's Standing Official Sub-Committee for Questions Concerning the Middle East, dated 26 November 1935, 14 December 1936, and 8 June 1937 respectively; a copy of a translation of a treaty of friendship and commerce between the Ethiopian and Yemeni governments, which was ratified on 21 September 1935.

The file includes a divider which gives a list of correspondence references contained in the file by year. This is placed at the back of the correspondence (folios 2).

Extent and format
1 file (348 folios)

The papers are arranged in approximate chronological order from the rear to the front of the file.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: the foliation sequence (used for referencing) commences at the inside front cover with 1, and terminates at the last folio with 349; these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio. A previous foliation sequence, which is also circled, has been superseded and therefore crossed out.

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Coll 6/84 'Yemen: Attitude of Yemeni Govt. towards the Italo-Ethiopian dispute. Policy of H.M.G. in event of Italian occupation of Yemeni territory.' [‎120r] (239/699), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/12/2157, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 30 March 2020]

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