30 Note by Bruce

[LONDON], 28 August 1942

WAR CABINET-PAPER BY AIR MARSHAL SIR ARTHUR HARRIS

There was to-day included in the War Cabinet distribution a Note by Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, Commander in Chief, Bomber Command, which he had prepared at the request of the Prime Minister.

The Note is a dreadful production and my views on it are summarised in the comments attached. [1]

I sent for Bridges after I had dictated my comments and gave them to him to read. He quite obviously thought there was a good deal to be said for my point of view, but it was equally clear that he did not want me to send my comments to him for distribution to the Members of the War Cabinet. His argument was that the report by Harris had been prepared after there had been something of a hectic discussion at Chequers and the Prime Minister had asked Harris to put his views down on paper.

Bridges said that in the ordinary course the document would not have been one which would have been circulated to the War Cabinet, and he urged that Harris' ebullition should not be taken too seriously.

I told Bridges that that might be perfectly all right, but really the document was an insult to the intelligence of the Cabinet and I had some hesitancy in letting it pass unnoticed. I said, however, I would think over whether I would ask for the distribution of my comments.

I then spoke to Bridges about the question of the delay in distributing any Notes that I might send to him. I told him that with regard to my comments [2] on the Chiefs of Staff paper it took an incredible time to see the light. I said that that I would not tolerate. I told him I had no objection to his coming and putting forward any grounds he might have upon which he suggested some document of mine should not be distributed. I told him I would be prefectly prepared to weigh any views he expressed, and I also pointed out that I was capable of insisting upon the document being distributed if I thought it should be. I said, however, what I would not tolerate was my documents being held up. If, for any reason, they could not immediately be distributed as War Cabinet papers then I wanted to be told, and I would make my own arrangements for communicating them to Members of the War Cabinet.

Bridges was completely apologetic and said that he would see that there was no delay in future.

Bridges then said he would stir up the Air Ministry with regard to the statement that was being prepared for the Cabinet. [3]

I told him I could not understand why all the delay was due. More than a fortnight had gone since the Cabinet gave instructions for the statement to be prepared and nothing had been produced.

Bridges protested that these statements took a long time to prepare.

My reply was that I would not accept that for a moment. There was no reason why the statement could not be ready in 24 hours. At this Bridges protested. I told him the position was either that the Chiefs of Staff had not had proper information before them when they agreed to their report to the Cabinet, or they had such information and were deliberately stalling in producing it.

Bridges made the somewhat feeble reply that the Chiefs of Staff were so familiar with all the figures that they had them in their heads. That I said was quite ridiculous.

After I had seen Bridges I was proposing to have a word with Cripps about Harris' Note, but found that Cripps was going down to Bomber Command in the afternoon so I sent him a copy of my Note.

I also spoke to Attlee about Harris' report after the High Commissioners Meeting. I found that Attlee had read it and there were some comments upon a piece of paper attached to it in his own handwriting, which he read to me. They were down the lines that this is the worst possible way to present a case, and a case must be weak which requires such extravagant statement to support it.

Attlee's comment was that we generally saw down similar lines with regard to these questions, but I am afraid, notwithstanding the strong views Attlee holds about the document, he will do nothing at all.

S.M.B.

1 Dated 28 August. On file AA:M100, August 1942. Harris had been requested to prepare a note on the role and work of Bomber Command but instead he had produced a strongly worded defence of Bomber Command against the views of 'persons unspecified'.

2 Document 13.

3 See Document 21.

[AA:M100, AUGUST 1942]