573 Shedden to Burton

Teleprinter Message 8 May 1947

IMMEDIATE TOP SECRET

PROPOSED ANNEXATION OF HEARD ISLAND

Reference is made to your memo A46/26/1 dated 18th April 1947 and previous correspondence concerning the proposal that Australia should annex Heard Island. 2. The report of the Defence Committee [1] in this matter has now been received and is as follows:-

'The Defence Committee after consideration recorded the following observations:

(a) Heard Island is situated some 2,200 miles from the nearest part of Australia and it possesses no suitable naval or flying boat anchorages or harbours.

Difficulties could therefore be anticipated in occupation and in subsequent maintenance of an occupation party.

(b) The practicability of airstrip construction [2] is open to doubt since in the Admiralty Sailing Directions, a description of the Island includes the following details-

"Heard Island is approximately 25 miles long and 9 miles wide. On it is a volcano 7,000 feet in height, known to have been active in 1910. The Island, covered by glaciers, has no secure anchorages.

The weather is generally foggy and boisterous. The climate is far inferior to that of Kerguelen. Landing from the sea can be effected on an average, only one day in three."

(c) The topographical details given in the Admiralty Chart of the Island are so lacking in particulars that they do not provide any guide as to the practicability of airstrip construction.

The Defence Committee concluded that from the defence viewpoint, the possession of Heard Island is of no value either in the prevention of long range attack on Australia or in the protection of our Indian Ocean communications, and, therefore, agreed with the view expressed by the Admiralty that Heard Island appears to have no strategic value whatever.'

3. The Minister has approved the above conclusion of the Defence Committee as representing the defence view of the proposal for the annexation of Heard Island. Political and External Affairs aspects of the matter have not of course been considered by this Department.

1 Defence Committee Minute 154/1947, 2 May.

2 Burton's memorandum of 18 April had mentioned a UK Foreign Office report of 1945 suggesting that Heard Island might have strategic importance, since there were several areas where landing strips could be built.

[AA : A1068, A47/26/11]