297 Noel-Baker to Chifley

Cablegram 216, LONDON, 13 August 1948, 10.04 p.m.

SECRET

Your telegram 3rd August No. 198.[1]

We are most grateful for the generous offer by the Australian Government of 10 Dakotas to help in the air lift to Berlin and we have been considering with our service authorities how best we can take advantage of your offer.

While at one time shortage of aircraft was an important factor the limits to the air lift are now airfield capacity and air crews. By the time Dakotas from Australia could arrive here we may very well have to be considering a reduction rather than an increase in our Dakota effort in order to make some of our limited airfield capacity in Germany available for the U.S. C54 transport aircraft which we hope will be available very soon and each of which will carry about three times as much as a Dakota. But we are very short of trained air crews. Our men are working intensively and are getting very tired and our service authorities are seriously perturbed at the effect on them if as seems likely the air lift must go on for some time yet.

The most valuable assistance from Australia would therefore be the provision of trained R.A.A.F. Dakota crews who would fly the Dakotas already engaged in the air lift. I need hardly say that if the Australian Government were able to make any air crews available they would be kept together and their Australian identity retained.

If the Australian Government were able to help us in this way we should welcome the crews as soon as they could get here.

[1] Document 292.

[AA : A461, D350/1/4]