354 Curtin to Bruce

Cablegram 182 CANBERRA, 20 December 1943

MOST SECRET

Your 220 [1] and 221 [2] of 17th and 18th November.

PART I

After full consideration of the views put forward by the Air Ministry concerning the proposed transfer to Australia of R.A.A.F.

squadrons and R.A.A.F. personnel with R.A.F. squadrons [3], the following views are furnished:-

A. Further training of aircrew should be limited to the number required for the R.A.A.F. development for service in the South- West Pacific Area and for the maintenance of R.A.A.F. squadrons including Article XV [4] squadrons serving overseas. It is estimated that this will require an output of 350 per month for R.A.A.F. in South-West Pacific Area and 360 per month for R.A.A.F.

units serving overseas. Continuance at this rate will be dependent on the availability of recruits which is uncertain.

The requirements of the R.A.A.F. in South-West Pacific Area to have priority over the supply of aircrew for R.A.A.F. squadrons overseas. To meet this commitment, the aircrew to be called up in Australia must be of the order of 1,000 per month, which is 400 per month below the original commitment under the existing Agreement.

Recent intakes of aircrew, however, have been considerably below the required 1,000 per month, and in order to achieve the numbers, it would be necessary to obtain approximately 450 per month from Army sources, subject to replacement by new recruits from R.A.A.F.

allocation of new enlistments. The question of releases from the Army is now under review. It is hoped to reach finality shortly when it will be possible to indicate the extent to which we will be able to continue the outflow of personnel under the Empire Air Training Scheme.

B. Regarding the transfer of further R.A.A.F. squadrons from overseas, the view of the Government as set out in Cable No. 267 of 8th October [5] has not been varied.

It is agreed that Lancaster squadrons would be of the most value.

It is appreciated that the return of R.A.A.F. units overseas, including Article XV squadrons, would present difficulties to R.A.F. and that of any squadrons returned, it will be necessary to select those whose role and equipment are suitable for employment in this theatre. Moreover, Australia would be required to make up deficiencies in ground staff in these squadrons.

In order that this could be arranged, it would be necessary for the squadrons to be made available in a manner and at a rate that fitted in-with planned developments of the striking force in this theatre; otherwise we would be embarrassed on account of the limited numbers of ground staff available to the R.A.A.F. and the necessary training of these personnel before they could be employed in operational units.

C. If the United Kingdom Government cannot see its way clear to provide aircraft for R.A.A.F. units to return to Australia, they would no doubt agree for the British Chiefs of Staff, acting through the Combined Chiefs of Staff, to strongly support our bids for aircraft from U.S.A.

PART II

The following statement of R.A.A.F. personnel providing services for United States Forces is forwarded for your information:-

A. Direct services, in aircraft erection and maintenance, signals and communications, fighter sectors, M/T [6] drivers -Total 920.

B. Joint and reciprocal services, signals and communications, air transport control, works units-Total 7,325.

C. Joint services in which division between R.A.A.F. and United States Forces is not possible, meteorological services, radar organisation, intelligence, air transport, operational base staffs and convoy organisation.

It will be seen that only a comparatively small number of R.A.A.F.

staffs would be relieved by provision of U.S.A. personnel. The possibility of reducing certain of these services is now being taken up with General MacArthur.

PART III

The Government has now agreed to the development of the R.A.A.F.

in Australia to 53 squadrons by December, 1944. [7] This is exclusive of three R.A.F. Spitfire squadrons, and two Netherlands East Indies squadrons, for which we will be required to provide ground staffs.

In the meantime, an expanded return of aircrew with operational experience as a nucleus of new squadrons to form in this area should be sought. Approximately 50 per cent of aircrew required for units to form in 1944 might be provided in this way. Return of ground staff should be of the order of 100 per month, according to length of service and without replacement.

In view of our inability to replace any ground staff personnel now overseas, no prospect can be seen of providing any relief for them unless they can be withdrawn progressively without replacement from here.

Subject to further consideration regarding the Torpedo/Bomber and Fleet Co-operation Squadrons [8], the proposed composition of the force is as follows:-

General Reconnaissance/Bomber 9 Torpedo/Bomber 1 General Reconnaissance/Flying Boat 5 Heavy Bomber 7 Intercepter/Fighter 12 Attack 7 Photographic Reconnaissance 1 Army Co-operation 2 Fleet Co-operation 1 Transport Land 6 Transport Sea 2

Total 53

Details of the aircraft for which bids are to be made at the allocation conference at Washington in December have already been forwarded to Williams. This is to be for endorsement by General MacArthur.

CURTIN

1 Document 329.

2 Dispatched 18 November. On file AA:A816, 31/301/301.

3 See files AA:A816, 31/301/301 and AA:A2671, 457/1943.

4 See Document 329, note 3.

5 Document 293.

6 i.e. motor transport.

7 See War Cabinet minute 3180 of 24 November in AA:A2673, vol. 14.

8 MacArthur had queried the necessity of these squadrons. See his letter to Curtin of 28 November on the file cited in note 2.

[AA:A816, 31/301/301]