CO-OPERATION IN BRITISH COMMONWEALTH DEFENCE DISCUSSION WITH FIELD MARSHAL MONTGOMERY
I am recording, for your information, an outline of the discussions which I had with Field Marshal Montgomery at your request.
2. In Canberra on 2nd July, the Field Marshal commenced by proposing that Australia should assume the responsibility for strategical planning for the same area as that covered by the joint Intelligence Bureau on Intelligence. This is shown on Map 'A'.  He suggested that, in war, Australia should also accept responsibility for the operational control of this area. I have also had marked on the map the boundaries of the Southwest Pacific Area and the Southwest Pacific Zone under the special Defence Act of 1943.
3. I pointed out the important distinction to be drawn between the expressions used in the United Kingdom and Australian documents submitted to the Prime Ministers' Conference:-
P.M.M. (46) 4 and 20:
'While each member of the Commonwealth would, of course, organise its own defence policy, it would also assume the main responsibility for joint planning within its own regional area.'
'Each member of the Commonwealth therefore should agree to take all steps, political and military, in those areas in which they are directly concerned, so as to maintain conditions favourable to the Commonwealth in peace and to accept joint responsibility for their defence in war.'
P.M.M. (46) 7 and Prime Minister's Observations at Fourth Meeting
'Responsibility for the development of the defence aspect of matters relating to regional security in the Pacific should be assigned to the Australian Government machinery.' 4. I emphasised the significance that was to be attached to the form of words used by the Australian Prime Minister. They were designedly used in order to conserve to the Australian Government the absolute right of interpreting the extent to which it was prepared to go and the commitments which it was prepared to accept. I also added that the Australian expression was considered preferable to cover aspects which extended beyond planning, such as practical steps for the development of Australian resources as a potential source of supply for British Empire requirements East of Suez.
5. We had a preliminary discussion of the following memoranda recently forwarded by you to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:-
Co-operation in British Commonwealth Defence.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in Australia.
Field Marshal Montgomery stated that the Chief of the Naval Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff in the United Kingdom were opposed to the Australian idea of a single United Kingdom Service representative in Australia with a Joint Service Staff. They wished to maintain separate Naval, Army and Air representatives as at present exists on J.C.O.S.A. I said that, as outlined in the Defence Committee Memorandum on J.C.O.S.A. and supported by the experience of the Defence Department, the J.C.O.S.A. set up was top heavy, cumbersome and extravagant. The Australian Chiefs of Staff and myself were unanimous about the need for a change to a single representative with a Joint Service Staff. If the United Kingdom Services wanted representation to the corresponding Services in Australia, this could be provided separately in the same manner as Australia had done in the United Kingdom.
Alternatively, the Defence Department and members of his staff could also be accredited to the Australian Services as representatives of the corresponding United Kingdom Services.
However, in so far as representation on the Defence Machinery was concerned, the essential consideration was one Joint Service Representative with an integrated joint Service Staff. It was understood that this principle had been followed with United Kingdom representation on the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Washington. I pointed out that it was difficult to justify having an R.N. Admiral and staff for participation in J.C.O.S.A. for the control of B.C.O.F., the Naval element of which consists of a naval port party at Kure of a strength of 334, which is in process of reduction to 95. The naval vessels of the Occupation Force are, of course, under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, British Pacific Fleet, Hong Kong. Field Marshal Montgomery said that he, personally, was in agreement with the views of the Australian Government. It was agreed to continue the discussion in Melbourne on 4th July.
6. At the next talk, Field Marshal Montgomery asked me to comment on a draft of the reply which the United Kingdom Government proposed to make to your letter of 28th May on Co-operation in British Commonwealth Defence. I pointed out that the United Kingdom draft reply opened by referring to the agreement of Australia to undertake the planning of the strategic zone surrounding it, and the co-ordination of defence measures in this region. As mentioned in paragraph 2 above, Field Marshal Montgomery had suggested more precisely that this region should be the largest one shown on Map 'A'. I observed that the expression which had been used in your letter and the enclosure were identical with those used by you at the Conference of Prime Ministers and as quoted in paragraph 3 above. I felt sure that the Australian Government would insist on the use of its own expression and the interpretation of its meaning. As a sovereign Government, it must retain the right of deciding its own Policy and the commitments which it was prepared to accept. Furthermore, the constitutional history of the British Commonwealth had shown that the correct process in all these matters was an evolution.
The machinery should be established as proposed by the Australian Government, and allowed to develop in an evolutionary manner as problems were tackled. This process could be retarded or even frustrated by an anxiety to hasten too quickly or by a desire to push too much on to the Australian Government. The approach had to be gradual and realistic. Field Marshal Montgomery expressed complete agreement with these views.
7. I showed Field Marshal Montgomery a map of the boundaries of the Southwest Pacific Area and the Southwest Pacific Zone as defined in the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act of 1943. The approach to the definition of a zone for which Australia would accept the responsibility for the development of the defence aspect had to be considered carefully. In regard to the area suggested by the Field Marshal, I pointed out that this commitment involved the question of resources to defend it, which Australia certainly did not possess. He replied that the United Kingdom would make contributions to it, but I mentioned that, prior to the war, the United Kingdom had given assurances of providing for the impregnability of Singapore and sending a fleet there which would safeguard Australia against invasion. Australian Defence Policy had been based on these assurances, but, owing to commitments elsewhere, the United Kingdom had not been able to fulfil its promises. Any plans would therefore have to be subject to an agreement on the political level as to the forces to be provided, and the approach of Governments to prior commitments was always very cautious. Also, the provisions of Australian legislation relating to service outside Australia, and national sentiment as expressed at referenda and elections, should not be overlooked.
Finally, there would need to be a close examination, in relation to any such commitments, of Australia's manpower resources to ascertain what forces we could raise and maintain in war, the manpower requirements for sustaining the economy on a war footing, and those needed for supply commitments which might be undertaken.
In the last war, we had become over-committed, and created for ourselves a manpower problem from which we had not extricated ourselves in 1945, though we had commenced to seek a solution as early as June 1943.
8. I also pointed out that the United Kingdom draft reply rejected the Australian idea of a single United Kingdom Service representative in Australia as mentioned in paragraph 5 above, and put forward plausible arguments for separate Navy, Army and Air Force representatives which had been proved fallacious by the experience of J.C.O.S.A. I said that the Australian Government would be adamant on the question of United Kingdom representation in Australia, and, if its view were not accepted, I was quite certain that the Prime Minister would throw the whole matter back into the lap of the United Kingdom Government, who would then have to accept the responsibility for the inability to establish machinery for Co-operation in Empire Defence. I referred to the following occasions on which Australian proposals relating to Empire Co-operation had proved fruitless-for those of Mr. Lyons in 1937, those of Mr. Menzies in 1941, and Mr. Curtin's in 1944. If Mr. Chifley's proposals of 1946 and 1947 were rejected, the United Kingdom Government would be in an awkward position. I also said that Australia was well ahead of the other Dominions in its practical measures for Empire Co-operation, and any rebuff to the Government would be unfortunate. While the United Kingdom Government could lay down the conditions under which the Australian liaison would be established with its own machinery in the United Kingdom, it was for the Australian Government to say on what conditions United Kingdom liaison would be established with the Australian Machinery, though the soundness of the latter, as mentioned in paragraph 5, had equal validity to their application in both countries. The Field Marshal expressed general agreement with these views.
9. Field Marshal Montgomery asked if we were agreeable to accepting United Kingdom officers to work with our Joint Planning Committee. I said that the Memorandum on Co-operation in Empire Defence proposed that the staff of the United Kingdom Joint Service Representative would be invited to attend meetings of the Joint Service Machinery subordinate to the Defence Committee and Chiefs of Staff Committee. They would not be members of the subordinate committees, but consultants on the aspects in which the United Kingdom was interested. This principle had been followed in the past with the Australian Defence Representative in London, and it was proposed to observe it in future. On the other hand, the Australian Memorandum relating to J.C.O.S.A. proposed that overseas officers should be attached to the Australian Services and given definite appointments therein, being responsible solely to the Australian Government. I suggested that the desirability of these principles should be affirmed, but the decision should be left to the country concerned. He agreed with this view.
10. I enclose a letter from Field Marshal Montgomery covering a copy of a cablegram to the Chiefs of Staff Committee in London expressing the views agreed upon. Having established agreement with the Field Marshal, it is important to take a firm stand on the matter and support him in London.
11. Finally, Field Marshal Montgomery said that he understood that New Zealand would desire responsibility for a separate strategical area and that United Kingdom and Australian liaison staffs should be established in New Zealand reciprocally with New Zealand staffs in the United Kingdom and Australia. He asked for my views on this. I said that New Zealand is in the same strategic zone as Australia, and her defence plans were inseparably linked with those for which the Australian Machinery would assume the responsibility. Nevertheless, I would not advise him to attempt to coax New Zealand away from its desire to have a separate area under their own control. The arrangement would not be as satisfactory as if they joined in the wider concept of a strategic zone in which the planning and operational control was done by the Australian machinery with their participation. There would certainly be a subtraction of the total forces that would otherwise be available to the Australian zone, and a demand for logistic support from the Australian zone because of the limited resources of New Zealand. Field Marshal Montgomery agreed with this view and said he would try 'to jolly' them along, but I pointed out that, as a Self-Governing Dominion, they were equally entitled as Australia to lay down the basis on which they were prepared to co-operate. They had been 'sticky' about the basis of their participation in a simple thing like the Joint Intelligence Organisation, and it would not be wise to try to force them into a conclusion which they did not reach entirely voluntarily.