16

19th March, 1925

PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL

(Due to arrive Melbourne-18.4.25)

My dear P.M.,

NAVAL DEFENCE IN FAR EAST

I write to let you know that a series of most important questions have been handed down from the Cabinet to the Committee of Imperial Defence for investigation. [1] In general terms, they hinge on the broad question of our Naval Defences in the Far East.

The C.I.D. will probably take at least a month or two to get anywhere on it. It is being kept very secret, but I will get the general story of it from Hankey from time to time.

CABINET

The current rumour that is going about is that there is an attempt on foot to discredit Austen Chamberlain as Foreign Minister, originating with the 'Isolationist' section of the Cabinet (Winston Churchill [2], Birkenhead [3], Amery [4], Curzon [5]) and carried on by their friends outside, which include my Lords Beaverbrook [6] and Rothermere. [7]

There is no doubt that they 'downed' him over the French- BritishBelgian pact. One can only say that he did not put it up in a 'do-or-die' manner, but allowed himself to be overruled without much ado; also I think that in this case they had the arguments in their favour.

I am afraid the number of the 'Isolationists' will be less one by the time you get this, as Curzon is very sick, and said today to be dying. [8]

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 The Baldwin Government on taking office had approved renewed work on the Singapore naval base but speed of construction and defence of the base were questions left to the Committee of Imperial Defence. The latter question led to a bitter dispute between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry complicated by pressure from the Exchequer for strict economy.

2 Chancellor of the Exchequer.

3 Lord Birkenhead, Secretary for India.

4 Leopold Amery, Secretary for the Colonies.

5 Lord Curzon, Lord President of the Council and Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence.

6 Chief proprietor of the Daily Express, the Sunday Express and the Evening Standard.

7 Chief proprietor of the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the London Evening News.

8 Lord Curzon died on the following day, 20 March.