447 Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India, to Lord Gowrie, Governor- General

Cablegram unnumbered SIMLA, 26 June 1940


I am discussing with His Majesty's Government the possibility of obtaining further aircraft for our forces here. You and I are of course both aware of the very great difficulties of securing supply from home, particularly in the present circumstances. It occurs to me to ask whether, at any rate in emergency, if we were to find ourselves badly placed there would be any possibility of getting some planes from Australia from among those now being put together there, with of course the concurrence of His Majesty's Government but without interfering with His Majesty's Government's general programme or plans, and if so, subject to what period of notice. I should be most grateful for any private advice which you could give me on this.

2. I hope very shortly if His Majesty's Government agree, to be addressing you officially in connection with the organisation of war supply in the area bounded by Australia, New Zealand and India and South Africa and the Middle East.

What I have in mind and what I gather would fit in well with the ideas of His Majesty's Government is that India (which is of course geographically well situated) should be developed as a supplementary supply base for the whole of this area. We are intensifying production as much as we possibly can and as you know we are already dealing with very substantial orders from the Commonwealth of Australia as well as from South Africa, New Zealand, the Middle East and Malaya. The idea to be aimed at would be that we should make ourselves so far as possible self-contained within this area (there are obvious arguments for this in the event of severance of communications with home) and so far as one can judge we ought to be able to a large extent to do so and still leave some surplus production which could be passed on to His Majesty's Government. For your own information what I have suggested to Amery [1] is that if His Majesty's Government see no objection, I should be authorised to ask die Dominions Govenors- General concerned to nominate an officer of high rank to be a member of an Eastern Group Supply Board in India who would be fully familiar with the requirements and also with the resources of his Dominion and in a position to take decisions on behalf of the Dominion. The object of the Board would be to co-ordinate efforts so that needs of each area should be met according to the changing strategic position, and also that the fullest use should be made of the available resources. I hope very much that something of this nature may prove practicable.

3. You will I hope forgive this entirely informal approach which is designed really to let you know how one's mind is working. Once I am in a position to do so, I will of course put the whole matter on an official basis as between my Government and yours. But you may see some advantage in having advance information as to the direction in which we have been thinking here; and I need not say how very grateful I should be for any help that you can give personally if these ideas come to anything. [2]

1 U.K. Secretary of State for India.

2 On 29 June Linlithgow informed Gowrie in cablegram 1160S (FA:

A3195, 1-4890-91) that he had been authorised to open direct discussions with Australia and he formally invited the Commonwealth Govt to send an officer to India to discuss the establishment of permanent liaison machinery for the Eastern Group countries. He did not suggest on this occasion, however, as he had in his first message, that India should be developed as the supplementary supply base for the whole area. Gowrie forwarded both messages to Menzies with the request that he indicate the nature of the reply to be given (See file AA: A816, 11/301/288).

[FA:A3195, 1.4744-5, 1.4754]