444 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Dr H. V. Evatt, Minister for External Affairs (in Washington)

Cablegram E4 LONDON, 26 March 1942

IMMEDIATE PERSONAL FOR MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

Your telegram No.44. [1] I entirely agree with your views as set out in paragraph 3 and I feel that too much emphasis cannot be laid upon the vital importance of immediate as against future deliveries. The problem however is how to achieve this. The shipping available is the vital consideration.

At the end of my telegram of to-day's date [2] I have asked for your views as to the provision of shipping in relation to supplies from the United States. In the light of your reply we can determine what further releases we should press the United Kingdom to make from their allocation in the United States.

With regard to shipping from here total space available in vessels sailing up to early May already allocated in respect to aircraft and while limited amount of space still not taken up for other types of munitions, amount available beyond that necessary for deliveries of vital war requirements already in sight will be, if any, only fractional.

In view of this position additional ships would have to be placed on the berth if flow is to be augmented. Even this would not meet the aircraft situation to any material extent as the only operational type we are drawing from the United Kingdom is the Beaufighter.

Unfortunately the Beaufighter can only be carried on the larger type of vessel and the maximum number that can be taken is four even by the largest type and the average would probably be only three. This fact is the explanation of the apparent slow shipment referred to in paragraph (1) of your telegram. it also suggests the necessity for some reconsideration of Australia's concentration on the Beaufighter, and of the order recently sent for 432, which even if they were available could only be shipped over an extremely long period. Incidentally the deliveries of our original order are not behind schedule as the whole 54 will be shipped within the stipulated period. Possibly something substantial could be done in other directions e.g. Spitfires or Hurricanes but the present Government policy under which we are operating is to draw these types from America and not create complicated organisation and maintenance problems by introducing different types.

With regard to your paragraph (2) we have to be guided here by the instructions received from the Air Board in Australia. Up to date the Air Ministry has co-operated satisfactorily and we have been able to give effect without difficulty to these instructions.

While I am doing everything I can to get for Australia the maximum of assistance at the earliest possible moment I am in difficulty in seeing any big scale proposition that I can put forward and press Churchill to accept. I am continuing however to explore every possibility.

Best regards and I hope you will come on here as soon as you feel you can be spared from Washington.

BRUCE

1 Document 443.

2 Document 441.

[AA:M100, MARCH 1942]