Torrey Canyon oil spill

A minute from Foreign Secretary George Brown to Prime Minister Harold Wilson, March 1967 (FCO 14/320)




You have I know already given preliminary consideration to the U.S. offer of aid which the U.S. Minister conveyed to Thomson today.

2. I think that in the interest of our good relations with the Americans it would be extremely difficult to reject their offer and that if it became known publicly that we had done so the reaction in this country might also be distinctly unfavourable. The amount of U.S. aid offered appears in fact to be fairly limited and it should be possible to avoid any unwarranted impression that the U.S. are coming to our rescue because of any defects in our own manner of dealing with the emergency.

3. I accordingly recommend therefore that you should reply to the message from the President thanking him for the offer of help and that I should send a similar message to Mr. Rusk explaining at the same time that we will be arranging to establish a system of liaison between the U.S Embassy and the Emergencies Committee to work out details.

4. As regards the question of publicity it clearly seems necessary that we should say something fairly promptly. The best solution may be for me to issue a brief statement to the press which would place the offer clearly in an international context as an act of goodwill and if it lists the assistance offered would show that it is on a comparatively moderate scale. I would propose to say “The U.S. Minister has called at the Foreign Office to offer assistance in support of the Torrey Canyon relief activities of which the principal items will be 10-15 fire trucks, 10 F-6 tanker trailers, and 10-15 dump trucks. The equipment would be operated by U.S. Air Force personnel within the framework of our overall programme. We welcome this addition to our relief effort which is typical of the generous spirit which the U.S. Government has so often shown at times of disaster”.

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