182 Sturdee to Chifley
Letter CANBERRA, 10 April 1946
SECRET AND PERSONAL
THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH OCCUPATION FORCE AND JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF IN AUSTRALIA
In your personal letter to me of 4th April , 1946, you asked me for my personal views on the British Commonwealth Occupation Force and Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia as a method of organizing and controlling a Joint Empire Force, and my opinion as to how I would go about the matter again in the light of my experience to date.
Joint Empire Force 2. The British Commonwealth Occupation Force, as you are aware, comprises basically a Brigade Group from each of the United Kingdom, India, Australia and New Zealand plus an Air Force component, elements of which are supplied from each of the above countries. The Naval component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force is small and almost entirely Royal Navy. The whole is run by an integrated Headquarters and maintained by an integrated Base comprising integrated units from each country.
I regard this size of force as being one of the most difficult to run from an Army aspect for the reason that a Division is the smallest formation possessing units for all Army functions.
Had each country provided a whole Division the problem would have been somewhat simplified.
3. However, taking the size of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force as it is, there is little alteration to the organization that I would recommend, except with regard to the Base. I feel that integrated Headquarters and Units should be avoided wherever possible, and this should be a basic principle.
As Australia is responsible for the maintenance of the whole of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, I consider that the Base Headquarters and Base Units should all have been Australian, with a few technical advisers from the other countries attached thereto, as may be found necessary to deal with special items of maintenance peculiar only to the nationals of one country.
However, this variation is minor and the present organization of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force will no doubt be found to work satisfactorily in practice.
Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia 4. For the control of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force comprising basically 4 Infantry Brigade Groups, an Air component and a tiny Naval component, the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia as at present constituted is totally unnecessary. Its representatives are too numerous and too senior, and the organization is too heavy and ponderous for the size of the force controlled. One might style it 'a sledge hammer to crack a small nut'.
5. Each main component part of the British Empire must learn to treat other components as part of one family and not as foreign countries. The world could be cut up into zones in each of which one Dominion, United Kingdom or India should be recognised as the dominant partner. In the case of the Western Pacific that dominant partner should be Australia, and in my opinion the troops comprising the British Commonwealth Occupation Force should have been placed under the Australian Government and at the disposal of the Australian Chiefs of Staff for the operation of the occupation of Japan (under the general direction of General MacArthur).
6. When we sent the A.I.F. to the Middle East or 8th Australian Division to Malaya, we did not have any equivalent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia. In my opinion the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia if organized to its logical conclusion with up to three representatives (Army, Navy and Air Force) from each country or Dominion contributing forces to a theatre, could not possibly function for operations in war. It would be too clumsy, cumbersome and slow in function.
7. I have seen reference in some documents to a similarity between the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia and the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington. This is entirely erroneous, in my opinion;
the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington comprised representatives of the United States of America and Great Britain and no one else had a seat on the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
British Dominions and representatives of other countries, e.g.
Dutch, Poles, Chinese were occasionally called to the Combined Chiefs of Staff meetings to advise on particular aspects, but they had no vote in the decisions reached. Again the detailed strategy and operations in the Pacific were the entire responsibility of the American Chiefs of Staff based on a world wide strategy decided upon at meetings between Roosevelt and Churchill. From my own knowledge the British Chiefs of Staff in Washington knew little or nothing of the details of what the United States Chiefs of Staff proposed to do in the Pacific, and in fact, I was their main informant of what was about to take place. This information I acquired by personal contacts with the United States Chiefs of Staff or their Directors of Operations.
8. The present difficulties of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia are largely organizational and partly individual. The senior representatives are far too senior for the small amount of work involved and the status of that work. They consequently make heavy weather out of what work they have. In my opinion, Generals (or their equivalent) should initiate ideas, not words to describe those ideas. However, as there is little scope for ideas in the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia, the words come in for far too much attention by the overseas representatives. The latter are well provided with good and co-operative staffs but owing to the small amount of work the seniors are disinclined to leave detail to their staffs. At least two overseas representatives are somewhat disgruntled at leaving active jobs in their own countries to come out to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia, especially when they discovered on arrival the limited scope of their work.
This certainly has not made for harmony at meetings. They are capable officers but do not have scope for their energy or capabilities.
9. In the light of experience, if I had to advise on the raising and control of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force again, I would recommend that- (a) The control and maintenance of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force be placed entirely under the Australian Chiefs of Staff assisted by staff representatives from each contributing country integrated into the staffs of the Australian Services or Joint Service Machinery.
(b) Australia should ask each country to provide a national contingent which should be as self-contained as far as possible, Australia to provide the whole maintenance set up. The force Headquarters would need to be integrated on a scale to be decided by Australia.
(c) On a Governmental level each contributing country or Dominion to provide a representative to deal with broad policy affecting their forces. High Commissioners or their nominees would appear suitable for the purpose as it would be far from a full-time job.
10. Failing agreement to my proposals in paragraph 9, I consider scaling down of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia is essential. I feel that one senior representative from each country is the maximum that should sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia for the running of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. He should represent the Army, Navy and Air components supplied from his country or Dominion. The work connected with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force does not really justify the status of overseas representatives being more than that of Brigadier (or equivalent). They should have on their personal staffs representatives of the other Services but these latter representatives should not have a seat on or appear at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia meetings. My object is to reduce the number of voices at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia meetings in order to expedite business.
11. Owing to lack of pure Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia work, many of the overseas staffs have been co-opted into the Australian Army Staffs to give a hand with the detailed work of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force maintenance. This is paying handsome dividends in every direction, it lightens our load and enables the overseas staffs to get to know our system, appreciate our problems, whilst at the same time ensuring that proper measures are being taken for the maintenance of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force as a whole as well as the particular portions thereof in which they are primarily interested.
12. I feel that to continue with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Australia on its present set up is placing a heavy strain on Empire Co-operation. We must learn to trust each other (as we did in the Middle East and Singapore) and not treat each other as foreign countries. When placing troops under United States operational control during the war, the component parts of the Empire seemed to have more faith in the ability of the United States of America to run the organization fairly and efficiently.
It is probable that we still have to convince the United Kingdom and India that Dominions Governments and their Fighting Services are capable of controlling and maintaining Empire forces in theatres where a particular Dominion has the predominant Empire interest.
V.A.H. STURDEE Lieut.-General Chief of the General Staff