310 Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister, to Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London

Cablegram unnumbered 28 October 1938,

PERSONAL AND SECRET

There have been recent confidential exchanges between Chief of Naval Staff [1] and Fourth Sea Lord [2] regarding capital ship for Royal Australian Navy, and Government will be glad if you will fully explore possibilities with Admiralty and submit a review as early as possible.

If new ship were to be obtained, it would not be available until 1943. It is considered, however, that the case for justification to Australian people depends on early presence of vessel in these waters. You might therefore ascertain position in regard to delivery of ship already constructed.

If the Admiralty are unwilling to lose control of an existing ship, discuss possibility of one being based on Singapore and spending large part of year in Australian waters. If this arrangement is possible, ascertain what quid pro quo would be expected of Australian Government. The best form this could take would be some local effort such as provision of dock and increased strength which would be a contribution to Empire and Australian naval security. [3]

LYONS

1 Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin, British naval officer; First Naval Member, Commonwealth Naval Board and Chief of (Australian) Naval Staff, 1937-41.

2 Rear Admiral G. S. Arbuthnot, Fourth Sea Lord 1937-41.

3 On the same day Lyons sent a further cablegram to Bruce saying that he 'would appreciate a reply by Monday [31 October] if possible'. On 29 October Bruce replied that he was 'in touch with the Admiralty but owing to the First Lord [Lord Stanhope] having only just assumed office will not be able to send a reply before Monday' (See AA : A1608, N51/1/6).

[AA : A1068, N51/1/6]