406 Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister (in London)

Cablegram 231 17 April 194i,

Further to my cables on Eastern Group programmes, with special reference to India [1], I give hereunder the full message from Mr.

Essington Lewis [2], which you will observe makes special reference to the United Kingdom Government's delay in authorising the Indian programme. My first message was in error in alluding to the failure of India and it needs to be made clear that the delay lies in London.

We are also perturbed that the schemes recommended by the Mission for India, which arose largely out of Eastern Group conferences, have not been started. We regard the allocation of production to the various Eastern Group countries by the conference as a partnership obligation, the Australian part of which has been loyally pushed forward without delay. We regard the delay in authorising the Indian programme very seriously.

Following is text of Mr. Lewis's message:-

'Mr. Essington Lewis has had talks with Sir Alexander Roger [3], who is deeply concerned regarding the non-implementation of the programme for India of armament and explosives production, which his Mission have recommended for authorisation to His Majesty's Government, London, arising out of the programme which was settled in principle at the Eastern Group Conference and which, so far as Australia was concerned, and we believe the other dominions and colonies concerned, agreed.

The Mission submitted preliminary reports at the end of December last and final reports in the early part of March. In the final reports the Mission were able to suggest heavy reductions in requirements for skilled men and superintendents and also heavy reductions in machine tools because they had found a potential supply in Australia and elsewhere of substantial character.

Sir Alexander, since his arrival in Australia, has also had assurance from us that Australia would be willing to receive men from India for training in Australia, and he tells us that the schemes recommended in India require experience in construction and erection which Australia has already acquired and which would be available for India.

Sir Alexander emphasised the extraordinarily favourable position of India in respect of its unlimited pool of manpower available both for Defence purposes and for munition making and unless it is fully employed and the schemes are promptly authorised and efficiently carried out India will be the weak link in the chain of Eastern Group countries to the detriment and danger of all concerned.

He urges that Australia should render all help possible in impressing the United Kingdom Government that the schemes should be agreed to and proceeded with on business-like lines and that Australia will give all possible advisory help out of their [sic] experience in administration and direction.

He urgently suggests that Mr. Menzies should see Mr. Churchill on what he regards, and we agree, to be a supremely important matter affecting the whole of the Eastern Group of countries, especially in view of the present developments of the war in the Balkans and Mediterranean.

Sir Alexander is also deeply perturbed at the non-implementation of the Bren Gun Factory scheme for India but this will form the subject of another message. [4]

As it is to the interest of Australia as well as of India that the proposals of the Eastern Group Conference should be pushed on to completion at the earliest possible moment, the Director-General of Munitions supports Sir Alexander Roger in the matter, and asks that a message in these terms should be transmitted to Mr.

Menzies. [5]

Sir Alexander further stated that even though the schemes be authorised, the Mission is doubtful whether the Department of Supply in India as at present organised is as strongly equipped as might be for carrying them out within dates the Mission regards as practicable and they have made recommendations that the Organisation should incorporate first class business men in highest positions. He has even suggested that the United Kingdom Government should stipulate this as a condition precedent to authorisation and feels that if the proviso is fulfilled the schemes can be carried out successfully. As the course he recommends has been successfully instituted in Australia, he asks that the Prime Minister might be asked to express his views upon this aspect of the matter when discussing it with Mr. Churchill.'

1 See cablegrams 216 of 10 April and 224 of 14 April on file AA:

CP290/9, 9.

2 Director-General of Munitions.

3 Chairman of the U.K. Ministry of Supply mission to India.

4 Dispatched 17 April. See AA: A3196, 1941, 0.4773.

5 Menzies raised the matter with the U.K. Ministry of Supply and on 2 May informed Fadden in cablegram M103 that the reports of the Roger mission were in fact being dealt with very rapidly. See AA:

A3195, 1941, 1.6900.

[AA: A3196, 1941, 0.4746]