196 Mr W. M. Hughes, Minister for External Affairs, to Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Letter 13 May 1938,

MOST SECRET

With reference to the copy of the C.I.D. Report dealing with (7) Malaya-Period before relief [1], which was sent to you for information on the 22nd April, 1938, I feel that this subject is of such vital importance to Australia that we should press to obtain information from the United Kingdom Government on those points which, to my mind, still require clarification.

It is axiomatic that our security in the last resort depends on- (a) The impregnability of Singapore and/or (b) The presence of a fleet of sufficient strength to defeat the fleet of the potential enemy.

It appears that the 'period before relief' referred to, contemplates the arrival of 'the Main Fleet'. In this respect, the following important questions come to mind. What is the strength and composition of this Main Fleet? Does it mean the main striking force of the British Navy, or one only sufficient to relieve Singapore, or one sufficient to defeat the main forces of the enemy. Further, what guarantees, if any, have we that this Main Fleet will be despatched in any and every contingency, especially in the event of war or imminence of war in the European theatre? It may be that the secret defence conversations at the last Imperial Conference [2] produced the necessary assurances, and resolved these doubts, but if not, then I feel that Mr Bruce [3] might be requested to press the Committee of Imperial Defence for further information along the lines indicated.

W. M. HUGHES

1 Attachment to Document 189.

2 Documents 35, 47.

3 High Commissioner in London.

[AA : A1608, C51/1/10]