178 Attlee to Chifley

Letter LONDON, 6 August 1947


For some time now we have been considering the question of applying a certain degree of standardisation in military matters between this country, the United States and Canada. You will, no doubt, have seen references to this from time to time in the Press.

2. It seems clear to us that it would be foolish to lose now in peace-time the advantage we gained in war-time from our close collaboration with the United States. As the war proceeded this collaboration became continuously closer and we found it made both for greater strength and for greater economy to agree on a common doctrine on such matters as operational practices, training, and co-operation in research and development. There are already, as you are aware, special arrangements on defence matters between Canada and the United States which are bound to influence Canadian practice strongly in the direction of standardisation. For the sake of these arrangements, and from the point of view of co- operation in defence between Canada and the United Kingdom, it is particularly important that so far as practicable there should be such standardisation as will facilitate co-operation between all three countries.

3. There is no question of any sort of military alliance with the United States nor, indeed, of a formal inter-Governmental agreement on standardisation. As I made clear in my statement in the House of Commons here on 18th November last, we would in fact welcome arrangements for co-operation with other great powers similar to those proposed between the United States and Commonwealth countries in order that any force at the disposal of the United Nations could become real and effective in upholding the peace of the world.

4. The Chief of Imperial General Staff, with Ministerial approval, raised the question during his visit to Canada and the United States last year when he found the United States Chief [s] of Staff anxious that discussions on standardisation should begin.

Both Mr. Mackenzie King and President Truman approved the scheme in principle.

5. The view of our Defence Committee was that we should accept the principle of standardisation between the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In practice this would mean continuing to use the present machinery, that is to say our Embassy and Joint Staff Mission, in Washington and our High Commissioner and Military Liaison Staff in Ottawa, on the present informal basis. It would not be necessary to create special machinery and no public announcement should be made. It is important not to draw unnecessary attention to the matter or incite undesirable questions from political quarters which are anxious to misrepresent this very natural development in methods of collaboration between friendly countries.

6. The Service Ministers have now, in accordance with this decision, approved directives to the officers concerned. Plans for the development of collaboration will be worked out by officers attached to our Joint Staff Mission in Washington in consultation with United States and Canadian Officers. The main points on which we wish to reach agreement are:-

Common operational procedures;

Similarity of tactical doctrine as a basis for training;

Collaboration in research and development;

Standardisation or interchangeability of equipment where possible.

7. All this will take a long time to show practical results; but it follows that any progress which we make with the United States and any collaboration we develop with them may affect the future training and equipment of your forces in that they have been closely modelled on, and to a greater or lesser extent integrated with ours in the past. There is nothing in our plans which will change or harm this; in fact we believe these arrangements will enhance the strength of the Commonwealth.

8. Though the directives have been issued to officers concerned in this country, no action is yet being taken to implement these, pending receipt of the views of Service authorities in the United States and Canada. These are being obtained through our Joint Staff Mission and if it is confirmed that the United States and Canadian Chiefs of Staff are willing to issue similar directives, then the work of joint consideration will begin.

9. We attach great importance, as I am sure you will recognise from what I have said, to maintaining strict secrecy about the extent and scope of our discussions with the United States and Canadian authorities and I ask you to confine this information solely to those who deal with the subject. I hope that you will approve of the general principle since, in the long run, it must result in an additional strengthening of all the Commonwealth countries. I should value your views on this matter, and I shall, through your Service authorities, keep you informed of the practical application of the principle as it develops.

10. I am writing similarly to the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and South Africa.

[AA : A5954/1, 1801/9]