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315 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr J. A. Lyons, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 1 November 1938, 9.03 p.m.


Had a long conference today with the First Lord of the Admiralty
[1] and the First Sea Lord. [2] I put to them your anxieties with
regard to the position in the event of the Empire being engaged at
the same time in a war in Europe and the Far East, and asked for
assurance that the undertaking given to the Dominion that part of
the grand fleet would be sent to Singapore to deal with the
position in the Pacific and Indian Oceans still represented the
intentions and policy of the British Government and the Admiralty.

The First Lord of the Admiralty assured me that that was the case,
and in the course of conversation I gathered that two Nelsons and
five Royal Sovereigns were the actual ships they had in mind for
despatch to the East. The intention would be the immediate
despatch of these ships on the outbreak of war in the Far East.

Their departure might be delayed in the event of ships of the
Deutschland type being [at that date] [3] in the Atlantic until
they were cleaned up as such ships can only be dealt with by a
battle cruiser or two eight inch cruisers. Even if the departure
of the capital ships delayed for this reason, the First Sea Lord
suggested that sufficient cruiser force would be available to
maintain the trade routes, and the First Sea Lord does not
consider that blockade of Singapore could be successfully
undertaken or any serious operation against Australia pending the
arrival of the capital ships. With regard to the basing of a
capital ship on Singapore immediately, the position is as follows-
Total capital ships, 2 Nelsons, 5 Queen Elizabeths, 5 Revenge, 1
Hood, 2 Renowns-total l5.

Of these, 2 Queen Elizabeths, 1 Renown, 1 Revenge undergoing large

Total available 11.

The Admiralty appreciate the desirability of a capital ship in the
Far East and, apart from our suggestion, would like to have one
there. At the moment they do not consider practicable,
particularly in view of the fact that the Royal Sovereign class
only effectively operate as part of a Squadron. When capital ships
position is strengthened, say in July 1940, when the first of the
King George class is due for delivery, they would be prepared to
reopen the question.

Suggest that you telephone me Wednesday morning [4] London time,
when I can amplify the above.


1 Earl Stanhope.

2 Lord Chatfield.

3 Mutilated group.

4 2 November 1938.

[AA : A1608, N51/1/6]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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