333 Ismay to Shedden

Letter LONDON, 1 November 1944

TOP SECRET AND PERSONAL

Thank you very much for your letter of 21st September and the very interesting Memorandum which accompanied it. [1] I take it that the latter is now under consideration by your Defence Committee, and that you will let us know the decisions in due course.

I was particularly interested in your analysis of the differences between the Australian and British Defence set-ups. After five years' war experience, I myself would be very disinclined to revert to our pre-war system: but whether there should be a full blown Ministry of Defence or merely a Minister of Defence with a handful of officers of the three Services to assist him (such as we have had this time) is a question which requires very careful consideration and study. I admit that my present bias is towards a full blown Ministry, since this system would, I think, be less dependent on personalities.

I feel sure, if I may say so, that you are right in bringing full- time Service officers into your department to form a secretariat:

but I confess that I am doubtful about your suggestion that these officers might double the parts of secretariat and joint staff.

This would not work under our present set-up here.

You will have heard that the Chiefs of Staff here have welcomed the proposals in Mr. Curtin's telegram of 20th September to Mr.

Bruce. [2] We are ready to work out our arrangements with the new staff officers of the Accredited Representative when they have been appointed and given their instructions.

We got back from Moscow less than ten days ago. The Conference [3] was, I think, a great success. Although most of the time was devoted to political questions, we had two extraordinarily interesting talks on military matters.

One of the most significant features of the Conference was the way in which Stalin gave public expression to his admiration for the British Commonwealth of Nations and their Leader. First, he attended a dinner at the British Embassy, having never previously been inside the walls of any foreign Embassy. Secondly, he came to the Command Performance given in our honour at the Bolshoi Theatre and stood by our Prime Minister in the Royal Box. They received a wonderful ovation.

Thirdly, he came down to the airfield at an early hour of the morning, and in pouring rain, to see us off.

As you will, no doubt, have heard from your Minister in Moscow, Stalin made some particularly flattering references to Australia in the course of the almost innumerable toasts which were drunk at each of our festive gatherings. [4]

I hope to go to France and Belgium next week. It is a grand way of getting away momentarily from the war as waged in Whitehall! I am tempted to go on retailing our news but neither you nor I have, alas, the time to indulge in lengthy correspondence.

HASTINGS ISMAY

1 On file AA:A5954, box 462.

2 See cablegram 140 on file AA:M100, September 1944. See also Document 266.

3 Churchill and Eden arrived in Moscow for meetings with Stalin, the Soviet Prime Minister, and other Soviet leaders on 9 October and departed 19 October.

4 Maloney's dispatches MU87/44 and MU88/44 of 17 and 31 October (in AA:A4231, MOSCOW 1944), dealt with Churchill's visit to Moscow. They contain no reference to any such remarks by Stalin.

See, however, Document 317.

[AA:A5954, BOX 462]