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Historical documents

316 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 209[A] LONDON, 27 October 1943, 6.56 p.m.


Your telegram 153 of 25th October. [1]

I am afraid my telegrams 186 and 187 [2] did not give you as clear
a picture of what happened at the Aviation Conference as they
should have. While a full report of the conference and all
relevant documents was posted air mail on the 20th inst. [3], it
is desirable I should amplify my previous telegrams.

The following extracts from my notes for the opening meeting will
give you the atmosphere of the conference. Begins-

'Australian Government welcomes opportunity for exchange of views
between Empire Governments.

Understands discussions will be informal and exploratory. While
anxious to contribute towards an understanding between Empire
Governments look forward to this question being dealt with on a
wide international basis.

This meeting for purpose of clearing our minds with a view to an
international conference.

In view of the Australian Government "starting point for
international consideration of the problem of post-war civil
aviation should be affirmation that civil aviation is subject to
those principles of international collaboration which is hoped to
see applied to the related problems of a world system of security
and post-war economic reorganisation". [4]

It feels that if any major post-war issue, such as civil aviation,
is decided ad hoc along the lines merely of national interest, the
general hopes for the settlement of other issues on an
international plane will be undermined.

For these reasons, and in particular because of the close
relationship between air transport policy and any future world
system of security, the Commonwealth Government attach the
greatest importance to this meeting.

Broadly the attitude of the Commonwealth Government is in accord
with the views expressed by the Canadian Government, namely-"We
believe that no policy which might prove feasible should be
eliminated from discussions in advance to the international
meetings and we are therefore of the opinion that the forthcoming
international meetings should discuss the merits and demerits of
full internationalisation and of partial internationalisation, and
of any other policy which might prove feasible". [5]

In view of the attitude of the Canadian and Australian Governments
this conference must deal with the problem in its widest, in fact
in all its aspects, and clear our minds on the issues that may
arise at the international meetings.

This necessity raises the question of how we are going to organise
the work of this conference.

The principles put forward by the United Kingdom Government are of
the utmost importance and will require the closest consideration.

They, however, treat the problem from the economic and financial
aspect and are designed to promote the development of civil
aviation and to ensure internationally and nationally the
provision of services of the maximum efficiency.

Admirable as these objectives are, post-war security is more

May well be principles will require modification in the light of
methods adopted for post-war security.

Whatever methods may be adopted the civil air strength and
potential for the production of aircraft by individual nations
will be of supreme importance.

Suggest necessary that a sub-committee should be appointed to
examine relationship of post-war civil aviation to security before
any decisions are reached upon the principles submitted by the
United Kingdom Government. With regard to these principles my
Government, subject to what I have already said, is broadly in
sympathy with the suggestion for the establishment of an
international air transport authority to administer a convention
which would be designed to achieve maximum degree of international
co-operation in the development, operation and regulation of air
transport. With regard to the individual provisions I will
indicate the views of my Government as and when they are under
Attitude indicated in above notes was adopted by conference. The
security aspect was dealt with by sub-committee whose report you
have already received. [6] Merit of this report is in decision 1
and final paragraph, the object of which was to emphasise the
necessity for immediate consideration of security aspect. Having
made this point and ensured that no feasible policy would be
barred from consideration at the international meeting, the
conference then examined the possibility of an international
authority administering an air convention for development of civil

The line which the conference took on this question was, I
suggest, in accord with paragraphs 5 to 8 of your telegram 146 of
8th October. [7] With regard to paragraph 9 of your telegram the
security aspects I have already dealt with. In addition, during
the conference I made it clear that our acceptance of any
convention, and in particular the contemplated freedoms of the
air, would depend upon degree of co-operation which could be
reached in regard to the operation of air services and that
Australia would probably require to make reservations with regard
to islands contiguous to it where we regard ourselves as having
special responsibilities and that in any system of control of
post-war aviation Australia would insist upon adequate

Question of co-operation between British countries and provision
of air services between Empire countries was discussed on basis of
joint memorandum of Beaverbrook and Howe. The discussion, however,
was purely on basis of the desirability of maximum co-operation
between British countries and although a map was produced by
Beaverbrook on which proposed air routes connecting various parts
of Empire were indicated, including one from Sydney to Edmonton
via Manila and Vladivostok, the planning or suggesting of
particular routes was considered outside the purpose of conference
and map was not discussed.

Position as I see it is that in event of international convention
being accepted embodying rationalisation of main external air
routes Empire countries would be in position establish their right
to participation in most of main routes and objective would be
maximum of co-operation between them in providing the service, for
example, Australia to the United Kingdom via India-the service
would be a joint Anglo-Australian one, run either on pre-war basis
of individual responsibility for part of the route or some even
closer arrangement.

While we should be thinking on these problems it seems to me
decisions as to our course of action must wait upon results of the
international conference.

I would reiterate that discussions at conference were entirely
informal and exploratory and any other impression that you have
got is probably due to statements outside conference, e.g.

Beaverbrook's statement in House of Lords on 20th October 'that
the Government had complete plan for Empire civil aviation'. [8]
This statement was, no doubt, made to meet
criticisms that Government has no policy but he was certainly not
speaking for the conference nor for the Dominions.

With regard to his conversations with Americans it was made
abundantly clear during conference that these would be of an
entirely informal and exploratory character and would in no way
purport to indicate a considered and agreed Empire policy.


1 Document 313.

2 Documents 298-9.

3 The report and documents are on file AA:A989, 43/735/832/5.

4 See Document 188.

5 See copy of Canadian memorandum of 28 July attached to Canadian
High Commission's letter to Evatt of 11 August on file AA:A989,

6 See section V of the report cited in note 3.

7 Document 292.

8 See House of Lords, Parliamentary Debates, fifth series, vol.

129, cols 242-52.

[AA:A989, 43/735/832/5]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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