13 Note by Bruce

[LONDON], 30 July 1942

PROVISION OF AIRCRAFT FOR THE WAR AT SEA [1]

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. [2]

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

[3], 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

sea communications.

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

measures.'

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

Bomber Command.

This can hardly be said to be in accordance with the priorities

laid down.

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

out.

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

common effort.

I attach hereto copy of a Note which I forwarded to the Prime

Minister on the 16th June dealing with some aspects of this

problem. [4]

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]