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

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 1 November 1938, 9.03 p.m.

PERSONAL HIMSELF MOST SECRET

Had a long conference today with the First Lord of the Admiralty [1] and the First Sea Lord. [2] I put to them your anxieties with regard to the position in the event of the Empire being engaged at the same time in a war in Europe and the Far East, and asked for assurance that the undertaking given to the Dominion that part of the grand fleet would be sent to Singapore to deal with the position in the Pacific and Indian Oceans still represented the intentions and policy of the British Government and the Admiralty.

The First Lord of the Admiralty assured me that that was the case, and in the course of conversation I gathered that two Nelsons and five Royal Sovereigns were the actual ships they had in mind for despatch to the East. The intention would be the immediate despatch of these ships on the outbreak of war in the Far East.

Their departure might be delayed in the event of ships of the Deutschland type being [at that date] [3] in the Atlantic until they were cleaned up as such ships can only be dealt with by a battle cruiser or two eight inch cruisers. Even if the departure of the capital ships delayed for this reason, the First Sea Lord suggested that sufficient cruiser force would be available to maintain the trade routes, and the First Sea Lord does not consider that blockade of Singapore could be successfully undertaken or any serious operation against Australia pending the arrival of the capital ships. With regard to the basing of a capital ship on Singapore immediately, the position is as follows- Total capital ships, 2 Nelsons, 5 Queen Elizabeths, 5 Revenge, 1 Hood, 2 Renowns-total l5.

Of these, 2 Queen Elizabeths, 1 Renown, 1 Revenge undergoing large repairs.

Total available 11.

The Admiralty appreciate the desirability of a capital ship in the Far East and, apart from our suggestion, would like to have one there. At the moment they do not consider practicable, particularly in view of the fact that the Royal Sovereign class only effectively operate as part of a Squadron. When capital ships position is strengthened, say in July 1940, when the first of the King George class is due for delivery, they would be prepared to reopen the question.

Suggest that you telephone me Wednesday morning [4] London time, when I can amplify the above.

BRUCE

1 Earl Stanhope.

2 Lord Chatfield.

3 Mutilated group.

4 2 November 1938.

[AA : A1608, N51/1/6]