170 Shedden to Hollis

Letter 14 April 1947,


Thank you very much for your letter of 10th March 1947, about the new Defence Liaison arrangements. May I say that your co-operative attitude towards Rourke [1] and Buchanan [2] has been very much appreciated here, and we feel that it has laid an excellent foundation for the future machinery for consultation which we hope to install.

2. Of course, I appreciate, as you do, the difficulties which may arise from indiscreet treatment of staff level information. As far as we are concerned, we have had already some experience in handling information of this kind which you have been kind enough to pass to us on a staff level through our Defence Representatives in London.

3. You are doubtless aware of the official and staff level channels of communication which were introduced for joint Service matters in 1944 following discussions in London when we were there for the Prime Ministers' Conference held that year, and about which I wrote to General Ismay [3] on 21st September 1944. They were- (a) Between the Secretary, Department of Defence, Australia, and the senior member of the staff of the Australian Accredited Representative-later named the Senior Defence Representative; and (b) Between the Secretary, Department of Defence, Australia, and the Deputy Secretary (Military) to the United Kingdom War Cabinet.

The second channel continued to be to General Ismay on the disbanding of the War Cabinet, and I assume that, as Secretary to the Defence Committee, it would now be to you. We do not propose to alter the established channels between our Service Representatives in London and their respective Departments, so that communications from our Defence Representative in London will continue to come to me, and I can assure you that we will see that staff level information will be circulated here so as to avoid the difficulties which would arise from Australian Ministerial action based on data from the United Kingdom which had not reached a similar level.

4. The principles we are working on were arranged through Rourke some time ago in connection with Post Hostilities Planning Committee papers. Briefly they are that:-

(a) We understand that staff level information conveyed through our Defence Representative in London does not commit the United Kingdom authorities, either Government or official, to the opinions expressed therein; and (b) This class of information should not be referred to at a higher level than that at which it is sent.

5. It is difficult to state precise rules for this kind of thing which will fit all situations, but if information from the United Kingdom is sent through me, and that from Australia is sent through you-or the Secretary, Chiefs of Staff Committee, if you would prefer it-I am sure that the system you suggest could be made to work satisfactorily.

6. Our full proposals for the machinery for consultation, and our Government's comments on the proposals for Responsibility for and Co-operation in Empire Defence, which were submitted to the London Conference of Prime Ministers in April and May 1946, are to be considered by the Cabinet shortly and should reach your Government before very long. We have taken a long while in formulating our reply, but it was necessary to bring a number of persons into the discussions at all levels and, also, we had to make some radical changes in our planning staffs in the middle of our examination of your proposals. However, I think that much value has been gained at our end by our somewhat lengthy review, as there is now a much wider knowledge and a fuller understanding here of the whole business of Co-operation in British Commonwealth Defence.

7. Perhaps it would be better if I do not comment further until the Government has sent their full views through the usual channel. But I would like to sum up by saying that we are very satisfied with the nature of the liaison Rourke and Buchanan have established with you and I think, when the new system is introduced, we should aim at using and developing the methods which we have evolved for United Kingdom Australian collaboration in Defence matters which, from our point of view, have worked so well.

8. I am glad to hear that Buchanan is keeping our end up.

1 Brigadier H.G. Rourke, Senior Australian Defence Representative at UK Cabinet Office until 1946.

2 Captain A.E. Buchanan, Australian Defence Representative at the UK Cabinet Office.

3 Lord Ismay; (as Sir Hastings Ismay) Chief of Staff to UK Minister of Defence, 1940-46.

[AA: A5954/1, 45/13]