6th August, 1925


(Due to arrive Melbourne-5.9.25)

My dear P.M.,

The inner history of the final stages of the Coal dispute [1] was as follows. The men and the owners both stood firm up to the last.

A special Cabinet was held 24 hours prior to the date of the owners' lockout notices maturing and the whole position was reviewed. They decided that both the press and public opinion generally throughout the country was against a strike. There was a feeling in the Conservative ranks that there was something in the miners' case and it was not thought to be politically wise for H.M.G. to take no action in the matter, which would be tantamount to putting themselves on the side of the owners.

The Railway and Transport Workers had agreed to throw in their lot with the miners with funds as well as by means of what amounted to a sympathetic strike, so that the civil dislocation would have been very severe.

Figures had been prepared by H.M. Departments that indicated that the loss in revenue and on the part of the business community would have been of the order of 70 millions for a three months' stoppage, and that this approximate rate of loss would have been an increasing one.

I learnt from the records of the various discussions on the subject of the existence of a 'Strike Book', on the same lines as the 'War Book'. Arrangements are all made and pigeon-holed for the carrying on by emergency assistance of the vital services of the country in such a strike period. The country is divided up into 11 districts, and the feeding of the people, distribution of mails, transport of goods and personnel are all provided for. The existence of these arrangements is, of course, kept very secret. I had hoped to get a copy of this 'Strike Book' for you from Hankey [2], in order to show you the sort of arrangements that they have worked out, but I find that the numbers are strictly limited to those few people who have to be in possession of the full scheme.

Reverting to the 'Strike' Cabinet meeting on 30.7.25. It was decided to offer to the owners and to the men a full enquiry which it is estimated would take about nine months, and that H.M.G.

would 'assist' (not 'subsidise', an unpopular word) the industry to the extent of paying the difference in the men's wages between what they are now getting and what the owners say they can afford to pay without loss. I understand that this is calculated to be about 10 millions.

I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer [3], and others of the Cabinet in touch with the business community, have reason to think that a revival of trade conditions in this country's favour is beginning, and it is hoped that, if this crystallises, the coal trade may revive in sympathy and possibly the present wages be maintained. However, this is really undiluted optimism.

So ends, temporarily at least, what might have been a bad setback for this country.

The suggestion that Beatty [4] should go to Canada as the new Governor-General is thought by Sir Campbell Stuart [5] to be impossible, in view of the fact that Lady Beatty was an American, added to the circumstances of her divorce and re-marriage to Beatty, which he thinks were such as would shock the conventionally-minded Canadians.

I have read a certain amount of what has been written by people whom the Fighting Services delight to call 'irresponsible publicists' on the Pacific questions, and I am attempting to arrange with Admiral Field [6] to be given opportunity in the next few weeks of taking up some of the time of one of their experts on the subject, in order to get my ideas into line with the official Admiralty views.

As another silly season subject, I hope to waste some of the time of some of the Air Ministry people on finding out how they would propose, if they had the run of their teeth, to defend Australia from the air. I have already had a talk to Sir Hugh Trenchard [7], who, of course, is all for it! I will, of course, be propaganded at for all they are worth, but as long as one realises it, it can't do any harm, and I may learn something from it.

In conversation with Trenchard, he seemed a little grieved at the fact that none of the Dominions had ever yet invited a Senior Air Force Officer to visit them and discuss their Air Force or Air Defence generally in the same way as Kitchener, Jellicoe and others had done in the past from the Army and Navy point of view.


His ideal is that eventually there will be an Imperial Air Force run on much the same lines as the Navy, with Far Eastern, Indian, Near Eastern and Mediterranean Air Fleets. Units would be mobile and would be moved about in the same way as fleet units are now moved. He deprecates the permanent telling off of a certain air unit or formation to the specialised defence of a certain area.

He was good enough to offer all facilities for me to pick the brains of himself and his staff. I am going to take advantage of this and will probably write you pretty fully in the course of the next month or six weeks. I will not tread on the toes of our Liaison Air Officer at the Air Ministry. I know him and have discussed the subject with him.

Chamberlain [9] goes to Geneva in September but only, I hear, for about a fortnight. I understand that his presence there at all Assembly and Council meetings is having a very good effect. It practically ensures that everyone else send their foreign minister and so must raise the tone and authority of the meetings and help League prestige along. I hear that it is very possible that Stresemann [10] will be asked to come to Geneva in order to talk to Chamberlain, Briand [11], and the Belgians about the Pact.

I expect you know that there is an undercurrent going on all the time here aiming at the reform of the House of Lords. In the House of Lords, Lord Selborne [12] is the moving spirit whose point of view is that if they don't reform themselves and get public opinion more on their side, they may find themselves shorn of some of their few remaining powers by some future ultra-democratic Government. However, I don't think there is much force in the movement and there is so much else to occupy people's thoughts that they look rather bored when Lords reform is mentioned.

The article 'Arbitration Laws in Australia' in the 'Times' of 6th August was, I understand, from Lazarus [13] of Melbourne University. He seems a brightminded individual and has, I know, ideas of doing something more with his life than spend it in a University. He may go towards journalism. Possibly politics might interest him if his thoughts were shaped in that direction.

The last Cabinet for some time takes place next week. After that, Hankey goes to South Wales for three weeks and then to Italy for a month. The majority of Ministers disperse next week. The dog days are about to begin.

With best wishes, I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Casey's reference to the 'final stages' of the coal industry dispute turned out to be premature. In 1924 the Miners' Federation obtained substantial pay rises but, with the end of the occupation of the Ruhr, the coal industry slumped badly, the owners served notice of wage reductions and in July 1925 the intervention of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress threatened a general strike. Late on 31 July, hours before the miners were due to strike and a T.U.C. embargo on the movement of coal was due to go into effect, the Government agreed to a wide-ranging inquiry into the coal industry. However, the promised inquiry, chaired by Sir Herbert Samuel, and subsequent negotiations only delayed a resolution until May 1926 when finally there was an attempt at a general strike in support of the miners. The general strike failed and miners were forced to accept increasingly harsh conditions in the period to the Great Depression. See C. L. Mowat, Britain Between the Wars 1918-1940, Methuen, London, 1968, P. 291ff.

2 Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet.

3 Winston Churchill.

4 Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty, First Sea Lord. Lady Beatty, whom he married in 1901, was the only daughter of Marshall Field of Chicago.

5 A Canadian, Sir Campbell Stuart was a director of the Times Publishing Company, and had been its managing director in 1919-24.

6 Vice Admiral Sir Frederick Field, Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff.

7 Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, Chief of the Air Staff.

8 Air Marshal Sir John Salmond was invited to report on the condition of the R.A.A.F. in 1928.

9 Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary.

10 Dr Gustav Stresemann, German Chancellor briefly in 1923, and thereafter Foreign Minister until his death in 1929. Early in 1925 he opened the way to German participation in what became the Locarno treaties ('the Pact', as Casey describes the aim of negotiations during 1925).

11 Aristide Briand, French Foreign Minister.

12 A Liberal, Lord Selborne had served as Under-Secrecary for the Colonies 1895-1900, First Lord of the Admiralty 1900-05, Governor of the Transvaal and High Commissioner for South Africa 1905-10 and President of the Board of Agriculture 1915-16.

13 Dr Samuel Lazarus, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy.