20 Summary of Papers and Questions on Defence submitted by Delegation to Imperial Conference
Extracts LONDON, 28 April 1937
A total of 20 defence papers was prepared for the Australian Delegation to the Imperial Conference. Extracts from Paper No. 1 and Paper No. 17 have been printed earlier in this volume (Documents 13 and 14). The paper of which the following Document is an extract was a summary of all 20 defence papers, stating the details of the items submitted and the questions on which the Australian Government desired advice. This summary was sent by the Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, to the Secretary of the Committee of imperial Defence, Sir Maurice Hankey, on 28 April 1937. The summary was then circulated to the Chiefs of Staff Sub- committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence and used as the basis for the discussions between the Chiefs of Staff and Parkhill (see Documents 35 and 47). The items printed here are those of wider political and strategic importance: the portions omitted referred to technical and logistic defence matters.
PAPER NO. 1-THE POLITICAL AND STRATEGICAL CONSIDERATIONS RELATING TO IMPERIAL AND LOCAL DEFENCE
1. The Commonwealth Government desires a review of the political and strategical position relating to Imperial and Local Defence in the light of the present international situation and the Foreign and Defence Policies of the United Kingdom Government. The review would lead to a definition of the political aim in peace, in the Pacific Region, and hence the strategical object of Empire Forces in the event of- (i) War against Japan and another first-class Power simultaneously;
(ii) War against Japan only.
THE POLITICAL Aim IN PEACE IN THE PACIFIC REGION
2. A definition is sought by the Commonwealth Government of the political aim in peace in the Pacific Region. It is a necessary preface to the consideration of the strategical situation in the Pacific to have a clear understanding of the aims of British Policy. The following questions therefore arise- (i) What are the guiding considerations in British Policy for the realisation of the aim of permanent friendship with Japan? (ii) What is their relation to the maintenance of British interests in China in view of Japan's penetration in Asia and her claim to a special position in the Far East, which amounts to the dictation of the conditions under which she will co-operate in Chinese or Pacific questions? (iii) (a) Is the present policy of accommodation to Japan a temporary one pending the strengthening of British defences, and does the United Kingdom Government propose to stiffen its attitude when its rearmament is complete? (b) Is the United Kingdom Government prepared to go to war in defence of its interests in China and Hong Kong? (iv) In the opinion of the United Kingdom Government, is the maintenance of the integrity of the Netherlands East Indies vital to the security of Singapore and the scheme of defence of Empire interests that hinges on this base? (v) (a) To what degree is British Policy in harmony with that of the United States on matters relating to Asia and the Pacific Region generally? (b) If a firm stand is taken, to what extent can the United States be relied on for co-operation in view of- The general American attitude of isolation from the League, even where they may have special interest, as in the Sino-Japanese dispute in 1932/33;
The desire to maintain neutrality, as indicated by the recent legislation by Congress;
The independent attitude revealed by their unwillingness to renew Article 19 of the Washington Treaty?
THE STRATEGICAL OBJECT IN THE PACIFIC REGION IN WAR
3. The Commonwealth Government considers that Australian Defence is inseparably bound up with Empire Defence, and the plans for its own security are inseparable from the plans for the security of the Empire as a whole. The plans of the Services are made in relation to the strategical considerations of a particular war, and the strategical objects of the Empire Forces in a war with Japan, or Japan and another first-class Power, need clear definition.
The Commonwealth Government therefore seeks the definition of the strategical object of Empire Forces in- (a) A war against Japan only;
(b) A war against Japan and another first-class Power simultaneously;
In order that these may be related to the plans of the Australian Forces in particular and those of other Empire Forces and resources likely to be available for the defence of the interests of the members of the British Commonwealth.
PAPER NO. 3-PROBLEMS RELATING TO THE BASIS OF AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE POLICY-NO. 1 -PRIORITY OF PROVISION FOR DEFENCE AND THE TIME FACTOR
(iii) THE TIME FACTOR
It has been noted that the United Kingdom Government is working on plans for the completion by 1939 of its defences against any risk from Germany, and that the British position in the Far East vis-a- vis Japan is unsatisfactory until 1942, owing to the time required for new naval construction. The Commonwealth Government would therefore be glad of advice as to the period of time, in the light of the political and strategical position relating to Imperial and Local Defence (Paper No. 1), within which it is desirable that any particular stage of progress for any Service or Services should be completed.
APER NO. 4-PROBLEMS RELATING TO THE BASIS OF AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE POLICY-NO. 3 -DEFENCE AGAINST INVASION
QUESTIONS SUBMITTED FOR ADVICE
10. (i) Strategical appreciation of defence against invasion The Commonwealth Government would be glad to be furnished with a strategical appreciation of the danger to Australia of invasion and the defence against same, in the light of the Naval situation and the security of the Singapore Naval Base and the line of communications thereto- (a) For the period up to 1942;
(b) After 1942.
It is desired to know whether, in certain circumstances (the reasonable probability of which might be indicated), it would be possible for Japan to undertake major military operations with an object and on a scale amounting to invasion, against Australia, The probable form and scale of such an attack might be stated. It is also desired to know the probable period of warning that might be available for completing preparations for defence after the first obvious indication of a threat of war.
(iii) Strategic assumptions The Government, in the light of the strategical appreciation of the defence of Australia against invasion, which is sought in Paper NO. 4, would like advice on the validity of Assumption (c)- 'The arrival of the British Main Fleet at Singapore with a minimum of delay after the outbreak of war in the Far East.' (Note: The phrase 'minimum of delay' connotes some period comparable with the terms used in C.I.D. Paper 249-C, Part 1, paragraph 8 (c), viz, 'The arrival of the British Main Fleet at Singapore within 42 days of the outbreak of war.')