13 Note by Bruce
PROVISION OF AIRCRAFT FOR THE WAR AT SEA 
The Report by the Chiefs of Staff Committee W.P. (42) 302 appears
to me to be a most unsatisfactory and illogical document. It has
all the appearance of a compromise between sharply divergent
points of view. 
It is difficult to understand how the Chiefs of Staff accepted the
compromise in face of the sombre picture they themselves draw in
paragraph 4 of their report.
The Report was based on the strategy contained in Memorandum W.W.1
, which is interpreted as requiring our commitments to be met
in the following order of priority-
(a) Minimum necessary fighter defence for the United Kingdom.
(b) Minimum necessary allocation for securing our vital
communications and interrupting those of the enemy.
(c) Maximum possible provision for the offensive both direct and
in support of land operations.
With this order of priority provision for the offensive, both
direct and indirect, insofar as it is not for the purpose of
ensuring our vital communications and interrupting those of the
enemy, must be subordinated to this primary objective. This means
that the requirements of Bomber Command for the offensive on
Germany must be regarded as subsidiary to the protection of our
With this background, which is set out in their paper, the Chiefs
of Staff make their report and submit their recommendations. A
careful study of the report and recommendations, however, shows
that the Chiefs of Staff have not followed the priorities laid
down but make additional action for the defence of sea
communications subsidiary to the requirements of Bomber Command.
There are many examples in respect to all the areas dealt with in
the Chiefs of Staff report. The following are a few of them which
I give to illustrate my point-
In the Home area the report states-
'The primary and immediate need is for an increased number of long
range aircraft for anti-submarine patrols in the home area
particularly the Bay of Biscay as well as for reconnaissance
aircraft for work with the Home Fleet and to impose our blockade
As this need is for the purpose of 'securing our vital
communications and interrupting those of the enemy' it is a first
priority. The method proposed for meeting it, however, does not
accord such priority. It contemplates providing a certain number
of Lancasters. This, however, in the words of the report 'would be
done in general at the expense of the mining effort'. The mining
effort is similar in purpose to that for which the Lancasters
would be made available to Coastal Command. This really means the
robbing of Peter to pay Paul. Further-'the number of aircraft
available each week for anti-submarine patrols from these two
sources (i.e. Operational Training Units and Bomber Command) will
fluctuate according to the inciden[ce] of Operational Unit
Training Courses and the necessity for concentrating all available
aircraft when very large scale raids are to be made on Germany'.
This means that the availability of aircraft for 'securing our
vital communications and interrupting those of the enemy' is
dependent upon the requirements of Operational Training Units and
This can hardly be said to be in accordance with the priorities
As a result of the proposals contained in the Chiefs of Staff
report the hope is expressed that it may be possible 'to work up
to a maximum of 50 sorties a week'. Can this possibly be regarded
as a serious attempt to grapple with what is probably the most
serious menace with which we have ever been faced?
In dealing with the Indian Ocean area the Chiefs of Staff
'recognise the importance of meeting the requirements for
reconnaissance and striking force in the Indian Ocean as soon as
possible as on this will depend our ability to transfer the
Eastern Fleet to the Pacific or elsewhere'. Nothing could be more
important 'for securing our vital communications and interrupting
those of the enemy' in these waters than such transfer.
Nevertheless the Chiefs of Staff do not propose to start sending
long range reconnaissance aircraft to Ceylon until October.
The reason for this delay appears to be a reluctance to permit
even a temporary weakening of Bomber Command. It seems that the
requirements of Coastal Command for long range general
reconnaissance aircraft will not be fully supplied until October,
and that its immediate needs will be met from time to time by
drawing on Bomber Command. When Coastal Command's own aircraft
eventually become available those borrowed from Bomber Command
will have been returned-the latter Command thus remaining
undepleted. At this stage the needs of the Indian Ocean area
commence to be met but, I suggest, this is a complete reversal of
the priorities upon which the Chiefs of Staff say they were
working in preparing their report.
While others could be given the above examples are sufficient to
illustrate my contention that the Chiefs of Staff in their
conclusions and recommendations are in conflict with priorities
they set out at the beginning of their paper as those under which
they are working.
The inconsistencies I have referred to are probably due either to
one or the other of two causes. These are that the Chiefs of Staff
Committee being composed of men representative of different
Services only found it possible to overcome their different points
of view by compromise, or that the Government policy was not in
accordance with the priorities which they had laid down in
interpretation of Memorandum W.W.I.
Whatever the cause, I suggest that the proper approach to a
solution would be for Cabinet formally to adopt those priorities
and to direct that a further report be submitted in accordance
with them. Such report should set out the whole problem and give
all the necessary information and facts which the War Cabinet will
require in order to arrive at its decision; it should also show,
without regard to the effect upon our air offensive in other
directions, what would be necessary to safeguard our sea
communications and how rapidly those measures could be carried
Having that picture before us we can then consider the effect the
taking of such action would have upon our offensive power, e.g.
bombing Germany. For example, if our present plans contemplate
bombing sorties on Germany on the scale of 1500 a week rising to
2500 a week over the next few months, with an increasing number of
full scale attacks of 1000 planes and over, to what extent would
these estimates be diminished if priority were given to the
ascertained air requirements for securing our sea communications?
My own impression is that while the scale of our offensive may
possibly be reduced over the next few months and the point when we
would reach our maximum effort be delayed to a certain extent, the
reduction and delay would not be such as seriously to imperil the
effectiveness of our efforts.
Until we have all the facts before us, however, it is impossible
to determine what our policy should be. With the facts before us
we can decide between the relative claims of the security of our
sea routes and the offensive against Germany, and determine our
policy so as to achieve the best results.
I also suggest that the question of the security of sea
communications is of such importance to all the United Nations
that having cleared our own minds and adjusted our own
dispositions we should then approach the United States of America
with a view to laying down a common policy to be implemented by a
I attach hereto copy of a Note which I forwarded to the Prime
Minister on the 16th June dealing with some aspects of this
1 Bruce forwarded a copy of this paper to Bridges on 30 July with
a request that it be distributed to members of War Cabinet (see
letter on file AA:M100, July 1942). Under the number W.P. (42) 326
it was discussed by War Cabinet on 12 August (see Document 21).
2 The document was indeed a compromise, reached after Portal had
rejected an earlier report prepared by Brind and Slessor. See
Document 5, note 1.
3 This document defined the 'beat Hitler first' strategy agreed to
by Churchill and Roosevelt in December 1941. The text had been
transmitted to the Commonwealth Govt in cablegram ET31 of 28 May
(on file AA: A4764, 2).
4 See Document 5, note 1.
[AA:M100, JULY 1942]