183 Evetts to Shedden
Letter CANBERRA, 10 April 1946
As I understand you are leaving for England with the Prime Minister on the 14th instant, I think it advisable to set out in writing my recollection of our conversation this morning. I do this as I am anxious to obtain authority to proceed in the achievement of the object of my mission during your absence.
As stated to the Prime Minister, Mr. Forde and yourself, this object is to reach an understanding with your Government so that we-the members of the British Commonwealth-secure the best possible range to enable full scale firing trials to be carried out of all types of Guided Missiles, and to make a general survey of the associated technical and industrial facilities.
For the range, an area of some 1,000 miles long by 200 miles wide will be required, and we in England believe that, having taken into consideration all the factors of which we have knowledge, Australia alone contains a suitable site. I realise, of course, that such a large area covering certainly more than one of the Australian States may involve political problems with which I, of course, am not acquainted.
If, however, your Government welcomes the idea of setting up such a range in Australia, my Mission would welcome your permission to start work as soon as possible, in conjunction with the Australian authorities to:-
(a) Select the actual site of the range; and (b) Make a general survey of the technical and industrial facilities which exist to enable full scale firing trials to be carried out.
As the main research work on Guided Missiles will be undertaken in the United Kingdom, we think it is essential to control the actual programme of range work from the United Kingdom, but, of course, Australia's participation in the formulation of policy is highly desirable and, indeed, will be heartily welcomed. I feel, therefore, that what my Mission wants to do is to launch a co- operative venture between the United Kingdom and Australia, so that, between us, we will really contribute towards obtaining the technical initiative in armament development-which is of paramount importance if we are to prevent another war. Co-operation with the United Kingdom would, for example, comprise:-
(a) Australian representation on any Board or Committee set up in the United Kingdom to supervise the work of the range; and (b) The permanent attachment of Australian Service and technical officers to the Ministry of Supply establishment at Westcott in Buckinghamshire, the Royal Air Force establishment at Farnboro, and any other establishments which may be concerned with the development of Guided Missiles.
To our way of thinking, the range would be mainly concerned with trials and experiments. It is not intended that research proper would be undertaken at the range, and development would be confined to that which must be, or is best, undertaken close to trials and experiments.
My Mission would like, in addition, to make enquiries as to the ability and willingness of Australia to arrange for research and development work to be conducted in your own Government establishments, or by Australian Universities and commercial firms, and I would welcome your agreement that the programmes of any such work should be co-ordinated with those of the main research and development work in the United Kingdom.
While the programme of work will necessarily be controlled by the United Kingdom machinery in England, including Australian representation, the detailed administration of the range will most suitably be undertaken by the Australian authorities, and I hope you will agree to this procedure.
If possible, we would like Australia to make provision for the manufacture and modification of components and production of fuels on a scale necessary to meet the needs of the experimental programme as they arise. You will remember that the Prime Minister asked if, under the threat of another war in which Australia might be cut off from the United Kingdom, as she was in World War II, there would be any objection to her undertaking the large scale manufacture of the latest types of Guided Missiles for her own defence. My reply was that I felt sure there could be no possible objection to this, providing that Australia felt she was able to undertake the work. I inferred also from the Prime Minister's remarks that he was anxious to know whether the United Kingdom wishes the Australian Government to consider the possibility of future production of Guided Missiles in Australia other than for experimental purposes, and my reply to this was that it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would invite the Australian Government in the near future to take any immediate steps towards the establishment of capacity for large scale production.
I now come to the question of financing the venture. We realise fully in the United Kingdom that a range such as is envisaged will provide facilities which are essential for the United Kingdom research and development programme. We also realise, but for the impossibility of finding the necessary space in the United Kingdom, there would be no question at all of securing contributions from other parts of the Empire towards the cost of such facilities. The position as regards the range we hope to set up in Australia is not similar to that of the Chemical Defence Research Establishments of Suffield in Canada or Proserpine in Australia. In the case of chemical defence there are fairly comprehensive facilities for trials and experiments at Porton in the United Kingdom. Suffield is a Canadian venture-the 50% contribution which the United Kingdom Government has made during the war has been discontinued. The Australian Chemical Defence Establishment is a joint Australian - United Kingdom venture set up on the initiative of Australia, the cost of which is equally shared between the two Governments. As you will remember, I advanced as an argument for the Australian Government sharing the capital cost and/or upkeep of the Guided Missile Range as apart from the general question of Dominion contributions to Empire defence-of which this might be taken as an outstanding example-the specially close association of Australia with the project. This will undoubtedly result in Australia having better opportunities than the other Dominions of acquiring effective knowledge of the research and development work and the manufacturing processes.
There is, however, no easy basis on which to assess the division of capital or maintenance costs between the United Kingdom and Australia; nor can this be settled until fairly firm estimates of capital and maintenance costs have been worked out.
At this stage, therefore, I hesitate to do more than invite the Australian Government to agree in principle to bear some part of both the capital and maintenance costs of the range.
In addition I would suggest that the Australian Government bears the cost of any research and development work conducted in their Government establishments, the Australian Universities or commercial firms, as this work would form your counterpart of the main research and development programme in England, the cost of which is borne entirely by the United Kingdom.
My mission would also like to find out what personnel, including service and scientific staff, the Australian Government may be prepared to train and allocate to this important work.
Finally, if satisfactory understandings are reached between your Government and my mission on the above matters, I would ask you to agree that a fully representative technical mission should be sent from the United Kingdom to Australia later in the year to draw up detailed proposals which would, of course, include an estimate as to capital and maintenance costs.
I shall be most grateful if you will confirm this letter as a record of our conversation this morning in the Prime Minister's study and if you will let me know to what extent I can now proceed with my mission during your absence from this country.
J. F. EVETTS