329 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 220[A] LONDON, 17 November 1943, 9.18 p.m.

MOST SECRET

Your 164 of [6]th November. [1]

The staff conversations have now taken place and in my immediately following telegram [2] I send you text of a report which I have received from Williams and Wrigley.

The position as I understand it is that while the Air Ministry appreciates your desire that 'the R.A.A.F. in South-West Pacific Area should be expanded and maintained at a strength appropriate to Australia's equitable share of operations in this theatre' they do not feel that this will best be achieved by withdrawing Australian squadrons or personnel in large numbers from control of the R.A.F.

While it might be expected that they would adopt this attitude, in view of the tremendous efforts that are being made to increase the weight of the attack in Europe at the present critical stage of the war, I think there is something in the arguments which they advance. These, as I understand them, are:

1. That the transfer to Australia of our own Nos. 3 and 10 Squadrons would mean the withdrawal from active operations of two highly trained and efficient squadrons for a period of from three to six months.

2. That the withdrawal of Australian personnel from Article XV squadrons [3] would disorganise these squadrons and put them out of action for varying periods.

3. That the value of personnel withdrawn under (2) to Australia, owing to necessity of retraining under different conditions and with different machines, would not be commensurate with the disadvantages resulting here.

4. That the disorganisation of 13 squadrons resulting from the transference of 2,000 ground personnel to Australia would be a most serious loss to the effective strength of the R.A.F.

5. That the desire of the Australian Government for the expansion of the R.A.A.F. would be better accomplished by- (a) The retention by Australia of whatever personnel is required for the development programme even if this involved a diminution in the flow of Australian personnel under the E.A.T.S.

(b) Ensuring the flow of aircraft from America to enable the R.A.A.F. expansion programme to proceed smoothly.

(c) Pressing the Americans to supply the necessary maintenance units for their own squadrons thereby releasing Australian manpower at present engaged in providing these maintenance services.

(d) Continuing and expanding the present arrangements under which men who have completed their tours of duty and other selected personnel are returned to Australia, than by providing for the necessary expansion of the R.A.A.F. by withdrawals from the control of the R.A.F. of Australian squadrons and personnel, with the consequent repercussions upon the European air effort.

Owing to the anxiety which the Air Ministry feels at the prospect of having to release substantial numbers of Australians from the control of the R.A.F., I am convinced that we can obtain the maximum support of the Chiefs of Staff here with the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington for the implementation of whatever programme you may decide upon if it is based upon looking to the United States of America to provide the required aircraft and to release Australian manpower by the United States of America providing its own maintenance requirements.

Further staff conversations are now suspended pending your instructions in the light of Williams' and Wrigley's report.

BRUCE

1 Bruce had advised on 27 October (cablegram 208A on file AA:M100, October 1943) that the sections of Curtin's cablegram 267 (Document 293) dealing with the R.A.A.F. had been referred to the Air Ministry for examination. As there had been 'little sign of progress' Bruce had suggested the initiation of Anglo-Australian staff talks, utilising the services of Air Vice Marshal H. N.

Wrigley (Air Officer Commanding R.A.A.F. Overseas Headquarters) and Air Marshal Richard Williams (R.A.A.F. representative in the U.S., who was then visiting the U.K. and who could arrange for the results of the London talks to be referred to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington for approval).

Curtin's cablegram 164, which Bruce incorrectly cited as '1646 of 4th November' approved the holding of staff talks. The correct number and date have been inserted from Bruce's copy of no. 164 on file AA:M100, November 1943.

2 See cablegram 221[A] of 18 November on file AA:A816, 31/301/301.

3 Article XV of the Empire Air Training Agreement provided that Canadian, Australian and N.Z. air crews would serve in their own national squadrons within the R.A.F.

[AA:A816, 31/301/301]