185 Chifley to Attlee

Letter 16 September 1947,


Thank you for your letter of 6th August, on the question of applying a certain degree of standardisation in military matters between the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

2. I think the crux of the position was expressed at the Prime Ministers' Conference last year when it was stated on behalf of the United Kingdom Government that 'in a future war, we should have to rely on the active assistance of the United States'. This fact is evident not only from diminished resources of the British Commonwealth, but from the changed strategical position in the Middle East. Furthermore, it will be recalled that, in the last war, the Pacific was assigned to the United States as an area of American strategic responsibility. From the aspects of both Australian and British Commonwealth security, which are inseparable, I agree with your view that it is essential not only to maintain the war-time collaboration with the United States, but to develop it to the greatest degree possible. This can be done quite consistently with the purposes and principles and the United Nations. In fact, as both the people of the British Commonwealth and the United States have peaceful aims and seek to make the United Nations an effective body for the maintenance of peace, such collaboration is a definite contribution to the effectiveness of Article 43 of the Charter, under which members undertake to make available forces to the Security Council for the maintenance of peace and security. As mentioned by you, the wider the field of co-operation with other great powers, the more effective would be the forces at the disposal of the United Nations.

3. As you point out, special arrangements on defence exist between Canada and the United States and it is noted that an announcement last February of the results of discussions which had taken place in the Canadian - United States Joint Board on Defence included the following principle:-

'Encouragement of common designs and standards in arms, equipment, organisation, methods of training and new developments. As certain United Kingdom standards have long been in use in Canada, no radical change is contemplated or practicable and the application of this principle will be gradual.'

4. It is noted that it is the view of the United Kingdom Defence Committee that the principle of standardisation between the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom should be accepted, and that directives have been approved for the guidance of your representatives in Washington and Ottawa, the main points on which agreement is sought being:-

Common operational procedures.

Similarity of tactical doctrine as a basis for training.

Collaboration in research and development.

Standardisation or interchangeability of equipment where possible.

5. As you mention these matters will have parallel repercussions on the Australian Forces, in view of the principles laid down by Imperial Conferences relating to standardisation in organisation, weapons, equipment, and training. Considerable capital expenditure may ultimately be involved in the conversion of production capacity to American types of weapons and equipment, though the development of new weapons may minimise this to some degree.

During the campaigns in the Southwest Pacific Area, it was evident that standardisation would have greatly facilitated aid from the United States and reciprocal aid from Australia.

6. I would express my agreement with the general principle being followed and note that you will keep me informed through Service channels of the practical application of the principle as it develops.

[AA: A5954/1, 1801/9]