Defence Policy, National Service, and the Cold War 1949–1951
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter focuses on the views, conflicts between defence requirements, and economic constraints as the Cold War developed. Opposition to the government’s policy from within the Labour Party concentrated on its costs and social implications rather than its logic or its assumptions. Sentiment against conscription was powerful, but public opposition on the issue had declined as the Cold War intensified from 1948. Abolishing conscription would have required bold and radical action to achieve a fundamental recasting of defence planning. With the rearmament programme under way, that was politically unthinkable for government and party alike.
The Berlin blockade was a turning-point in East–West relations and Western security policy. By standing firm against the Soviet Union the British and Americans laid the foundations for the political and military structures which provided the framework for Western European security and the US commitment to Europe.
By 1949 British defence policy was concerned with two principal objectives. The first was the preparation of armed forces that would be required in the long term to fight a major war. The second lay in the global perspective of Britain as a world power and was based on the view that any withdrawal from areas of strategic interest would create a vacuum inviting communist expansion. In this Cold War British armed forces were necessary to prevent communist exertion of political and military leverage. To withdraw from the Middle East would open up both the Muslim world and the continent of Africa; to withdraw from the Far East would be to surrender vital economic interests; to withdraw from Europe would be to sacrifice everything for which the war had been fought and leave the military security of the United Kingdom in peril.
Military forces were needed in peacetime to deter aggression and preserve British interests. Imperial interests were transformed into the ‘negative sum’ of the Cold War where the lessons of the 1930s were taken to mean that the prevention of aggression required the ability to act quickly and seemingly to intervene on a global basis. The interests involved were a complex of strategic, economic, and psychological factors. The Middle East, for example, was to be held in peace and war for several very different reasons. With the range of bombers then available, it provided bases for operations against the Soviet Union which would include targets beyond the range of bombers in the United Kingdom. When (p. 220 ) long-range bombers became available Egyptian bases would enable the RAF to strike beyond the Urals. Second, if the Middle East were lost, it was argued, the Soviets would be able to expand into Africa. Third, the supply of oil was increasingly crucial to the British economy. In addition there was an element of self-interest on the part of the services. For the War Office, until a full-scale continental commitment emerged, the Middle East remained the raison d’être for the commitment of an army overseas in wartime. This was reinforced by the feeling among military leaders, who had so recently fought for the Middle East, that it was a natural and traditional area of British interest.
How far the global Cold War perspective was shared by the key military and political leaders is a matter of great interest. Although in 1946 Attlee and Dalton had favoured withdrawal from the Middle East, the deterioration of relations with the Soviet Union in 1947 and the events of 1948 had brought home to them, and to most of their colleagues, the pervasive nature of the communist threat. The only circumstances that would allow British withdrawal in these conditions would be when Commonwealth or reliable indigenous (or conceivably American) forces were able to replace them.
By 1949 these perspectives were widely shared in Cabinet. Philip Noel-Baker, previously and subsequently identified with the cause of disarmament, told his colleagues in November 1949 that he thought that ‘every penny that has been spent on defence since the war had contributed to economic reconstruction somewhere in the world, to the revival of world trade, and to the consolidation of the West under the Brussels Treaty and the Atlantic Pact, on which the peace of the world now depended’.1
Yet that is not to suggest that there was no criticism. This was particularly evident when the economic consequences were considered. Nor is it to suggest that foreign policy itself did not have its dissenters. Bevan, for example, disdainful of Britain’s support for the various ‘unstable and reactionary governments of the Arab states’, urged that Britain’s Middle Eastern strategy should be founded on Israel.2 While this reflected a strong pro-Zionist sentiment within the Labour Party, it clearly took no account of the (p. 221 ) need for Arab oil or of the real difficulties in transferring military allegiance from the Arabs to the Israelis. The Chiefs of Staff were themselves keen on a stronger relationship with Israel, though not at the expense of links with the Arabs. What is significant about Bevan’s suggestion is that, radical though it was, it nevertheless was within the parameters fixed by a Middle Eastern strategy designed to thwart Soviet designs in that region.
Dissent did surface from time to time, reflecting various threads of backbench disquiet. Yet as there was no Cabinet committee on foreign affairs, and as the Defence Committee proved an inadequate forum for the discussion of strategic priorities, the major questions of foreign policy were discussed only infrequently. This reinforced the hand of the Foreign Office, which had in Bevin the most formidable member of Attlee’s Cabinet. As for the Ministry of Defence, it was still a new department with a limited role and limited resources. In Alexander it had a minister who was by temperament, ability, and frame of mind unlikely to attempt radical and far-reaching reforms of the armed forces.
Fundamental problems remained about the size and nature of the British defence effort. These were exacerbated as old commitments persisted and new ones arose. In 1948 additional British troops were sent to Malaya. By 1949 commitments had arisen in Aqaba and Abadan. The strategic reserve was despatched to reinforce Hong Kong. Although the withdrawal from Palestine had taken place, those troops were all redeployed in the Middle East. There were still British forces in Greece and occupational commitments persisted in Germany, Austria, and Trieste. Since the signing of the Brussels Pact there was increasing European pressure to make an effective contribution to the ground defence of Western Europe. With the NATO treaty of April 1949, decisions on that contribution would soon have to be taken.
Moreover, as peacetime commitments persisted the problems of preparing the forces for their role in war within the financial limits envisaged by the Treasury were steadily mounting. The defence estimates for 1949–50 had been agreed at £760 million, though this was a compromise that satisfied no one. The Treasury was only reluctantly coming to accept the idea of an eventual defence budget of some £700 million. The Chiefs of Staff regarded even £800 million as inadequate to discharge the tasks of prosecuting the Cold War, preparing for a ‘shooting war’ after 1957, and (p. 222 ) retaining at least some capability to fight in the event of ‘unpremeditated’ war in the meantime.
Fundamental questions, especially about the role of the atomic bomb in British strategy, remained. In September 1949 the Joint Planning Staff reported to the Chiefs of Staff on the significance of the atomic bomb on the respective services.3 The guiding assumption remained that nuclear weapons would not revolutionize modern warfare so far as to remove the need for large conventional armies and navies. ‘The bomb’ would enable the RAF (and the United States Air Force) to pursue with even more devastating effect the role of strategic bombing. Even if this was to be decisive in deterring or in waging a major war, conventional forces would still be needed to prevent the Red Army overrunning the whole of Western Europe and the Middle East.
Defence planning was based on the assumption that the Soviet Union would be in a position to wage war by 1957. This was taken as the date by when Britain’s armed forces would need to be ready for war. That preparation was one task required of the services. The second was to provide the military forces in being to maintain occupational commitments and prosecute the Cold War. In addition, prudence required that they be able to fight with what they had as effectively as possible. The problem lay in deciding on the priorities among these objectives. This was greatly complicated by the absence of an agreement in the West on strategic priorities and on the necessary force levels in each of the regions of Western interest. It seems obvious that decisions on British strategy could not be taken until the broader issues had been resolved. But the practical needs of military planning and British foreign policy meant that it was necessary to reach conclusions that inevitably begged wider questions about Britain’s role in Western strategy.
One of the central issues was the nature and extent of Britain’s contribution to the defence of Western Europe. The history of Britain’s post-war continental commitment was a complex one. The original fears of those like Slessor who believed that permanent peacetime conscription was for the specific purpose of a ‘continental strategy’ were shown to be exaggerated. The decision (p. 223 ) on National Service predated any agreed strategic doctrine, which emerged only in the summer of 1947 and even then in a form which was economically unrealistic.
Although a commitment of sorts to fight on the continent was made in early 1948, it was the Middle East that remained the strategic priority, with the four TA divisions available three months after mobilization earmarked for that theatre, in preference to Europe. It had been recognized that particularly with the development of rocket weapons and atomic bombs, the defence of Western Europe was important for the security of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, until the winter of 1949, the Chiefs of Staff were prepared to recommend only a token increase in the strength of the BAOR, though even this was not acceptable to the government.4
Yet without an effective British-American contribution to the ground defence of Western Europe, the French remained reluctant to provide sufficient divisions. For the Joint Planning Staff, it was the French provision that was to be the very cornerstone of Western European defence.5 Bevin was less concerned with military preparation for a major war. For the Foreign Secretary the main objective was to secure American involvement, as well as to encourage the West Europeans to participate in structures that would help provide collective security.
Within the government pressure to reinforce the BAOR came from the Chiefs of Staff. In January 1949, they and the Foreign Secretary had opposed the despatch of a brigade to strengthen the Dutch.6 Moreover, they had been reluctant to make any guarantees about the despatch of the TA on mobilization. In 1949 that position began to change. The Joint Intelligence and Joint Planning Staffs were asked to re-examine the nature of the threat posed by the Soviet Union to the Middle East in war.
This re-evaluation concluded that the speed at which the Soviet threat would materialize in the Middle East had been exaggerated.7 It was now believed that the Soviet forces would have much greater problems in establishing a rail line of communication through Turkey. The scale of the threat remained, and so did (p. 224 ) British concern in the theatre. But the pace at which it would develop was judged to have altered. This meant that two of the four TA divisions available after mobilization could be assigned to Europe. It was claimed that the defence of Western Europe had become more important for the security of the United Kingdom, although this was not based on any fresh evaluation of that particular threat. What was new was that the Soviet Union had exploded an atomic bomb.
This had taken military and political leaders by surprise. It came at a time when negotiations within NATO over deployments were gathering pace. Having prevaricated since the very beginning of the Western Union discussions on the issue of a British commitment, the Chiefs of Staff now believed that a decision and some form of commitment were unavoidable. It was necessary to make firm guarantees to send additional British divisions to defend Europe as far east as was possible but no further west than the Rhine.
Despite the agreement of the services on the need for these guarantees and the endorsement of the new Minister of Defence, Shinwell, that commitment remained limited. There were no plans to send the 40,000 men required to bring the BAOR up to its wartime establishment. The regular army division which would be available from the autumn of 1951, at the same time as the territorials, was not included in their proposals and indeed the French were not initially told of its availability.8
Moreover, the two TA divisions would not be ready until some three months after mobilization, although it was hoped to reduce that period. This meant that they would be unlikely to reach the defensive position on the Rhine until after the Western defence had collapsed. Indeed, as the Chiefs of Staff pointed out, in such circumstances they would not need to be sent. Although the decision to switch these divisions from the Middle East to Europe was important, it was clear that there was a long way to go before Britain was committed to a permanent standing army in Germany. In military terms the implications for National Service were not significant. There was no change in the plans for mobilizing the TA or in the need for conscripts for that purpose. But in so far as it was a step towards a firm and binding commitment, it (p. 225 ) reinforced the requirement for trained reserves on mobilization and for a system of military training to provide them.
The conflict between defence requirements and economic constraints was looming larger, particularly as the government faced yet another economic crisis, this time over devaluation. Yet it had been more than apparent in the autumn of 1948 that financial and defence objectives were diverging. As a result it was decided to establish an inter-service working party on the size and shape of the forces in the next three years, 1950–3.9 This was chaired by Sir Edmund Harwood, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Food,10 and had the task of constructing a detailed defence budget on an annual allocation of £700 million in the next three years.
One of the reasons for establishing the working party was to defuse Treasury pressure. The Chiefs of Staff were well aware that £700 million was insufficient for the defence effort on which they had agreed. However, by demonstrating the consequences for foreign policy that such a budget entailed, they would be able to strengthen their case. On the other hand, there was the danger that the adoption of such an arbitrary figure would acquire a psychological momentum in Whitehall and in the minds of the Treasury, as had happened with the Coalition government’s loosely worked-out estimates for post-war defence.
The Harwood Report was finished in February 1949 and discussed by ministers in July. The study had taken several months to complete and represented the most fundamental and detailed set of reforms that the Attlee government was to consider. It has been characterized as the first post-war defence review.11 It was certainly the first attempt to apply the long-standing Treasury demand that defence policy should be based on what the country could afford and then the military strategy hammered out. The starting-point was the figure of £700 million for which Cripps had been pressing.
Although Harwood was not directed to examine foreign policy commitments, the scale of the reductions envisaged meant drastic cuts in all theatres of operation (in peace and in war) and entailed (p. 226 ) virtual withdrawal from the Far East. These recommendations were highly controversial. Furthermore, all three services were to be substantially reduced, and the priority and resources further shifted to prosecuting the Cold War and preparing for ‘unpremeditated war’ in the immediate future at the expense of preparation for major war after 1957. The exception to this was the strategic bombing capability.
Wartime and many peacetime capabilities would be smaller than hitherto deemed necessary. However, it was argued that this would be more than compensated for by the roles envisaged for the United States and to a lesser extent the Commonwealth and the Colonies. It was assumed that the United States ‘would be at war with Russia wholeheartedly and practically simultaneously with ourselves’.12 This was most important where air and naval forces were concerned. Assumptions about the American role were based on an act of faith. There was as yet no formal agreement between the British and Americans with regard to their respective military roles in peace or war. On the navy Harwood nevertheless argued: ‘Our naval contribution in war must be complementary rather than competitive and be confined to those tasks which are essentially a domestic responsibility.’ The navy would be reduced from its existing target of 146,000 at 31 March 1950 to 90,000 by 1952–3. These would be all regulars and all male. The implications of these cuts were considerable, involving a severe curtailment of wartime and peacetime tasks. The idea that the navy’s role would be reduced to ‘domestic responsibilities’ presented very great challenges to the traditions and expectations of the admirals, even though Harwood’s interpretation of ‘domestic’ was a broad one.
One controversial proposal was the disbanding of the Royal Marine Commandos, ‘despite its high standard of discipline, ceremonial and its age-long tradition’, although some 1,500 marines were to be retained on ships. Accepting that this would be a ‘terrible step to take’, the only alternative was to retain their identity by incorporating them in the army, which would have met with as much horror in the admiralty as the threat of abolition.
The Harwood proposals were not just the consequences of cuts that they envisaged. As the report concluded:
(p. 227 ) It is quite clear that since 1945 the navy has supported a peacetime force which could not possibly have been sustained if a proper programme of capital re-equipment and refitting had been put in hand. Moreover there are still a large number of dispersed shore establishments which are legacies of the last war and which will never be abandoned unless and until a real contraction takes place. Our recommendations therefore include many measures which would in any case have been necessary if the navy is to be properly re-equipped, efficient and battleworthy for another war.
Some of the most radical and far-sighted ideas lay in the retraction of peacetime commitments east of Suez. At the start of the war the role of the navy would be confined to ‘home waters’. This meant British ports, the Channel, and North Atlantic shipping lanes, including the Canada, Gibraltar, and Norway routes, together with the Mediterranean (Gibraltar, Malta, and the Levant ports). There would be no British role in the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, Australia, or the Far East. Responsibilities for these would fall on the United States or the Commonwealth or combinations of the two.
The wartime fleet would contain no battleships (as opposed to the currently planned five), twelve rather than fourteen aircraft carriers, and half as many modernized cruisers, although there would be a larger number of smaller ships. In peacetime the fleet would be concentrated in a ‘peripatetic task force’ based around three aircraft carriers, a cruiser, and sixteen destroyers. It was envisaged that this group would cover the North and South Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The reserve fleet would be some ten ships larger in size although smaller in terms of manpower. There would be no battleships except, possibly, as potential platforms for new weapons systems or (rather more bizarrely) for the purpose of Royal tours. Harwood recommended careful review of the future of the battleship and by the following year the Admiralty had accepted that they would no longer be necessary.
These main recommendations were accompanied by a variety of proposed cuts in administration, personnel, and training, and indeed it was here that Harwood had most impact. Harwood also proposed the abolition of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), though women were to continue to serve in the army and the RAF. In Britain the Sheerness, Portland, and (possibly) Chatham dockyards would be closed. Training would be concentrated in Portsmouth and Devonport. Overseas, Singapore and (p. 228 ) Trincomalee dockyards would be abandoned, and the Bermuda and Simonstown yards placed on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis. The naval air stations on Malta would be closed. The Combined Operations role would be much reduced and naval flying and ground training commands integrated with their RAF counterparts. There would be no National Servicemen in the navy.
With the RAF Harwood was likewise not concerned just with the imposition of cuts, but also with changing the air force’s roles in the light of political and other developments. The more radical suggestions involved the peacetime deterrent role and the general personnel structure of the RAF. Harwood shared the Chiefs of Staff’s view that the importance of a genuine deterrent was undeniable. A strategic bomber force with sufficient strength and range to reach the vitals of the Soviet Union was ‘one of the strongest deterrents against war’. It was accepted that the eventual front-line bomber strength should remain as envisaged (528 long-range jet bombers).
However, there was disagreement with existing plans for the interim build-up of the strategic bombing capability: ‘Bluntly, this country has neither a strategic bomber near enough to production, nor indeed the financial resources to maintain a force of bombers likely to deter Russia from embarking on war during the period 1950–2 nor probably until very much later.’ So long as the RAF’s ultimate aim was a strength of ‘528 large and very costly bombers’, there would be a heavy and increasing drain on finances, manpower, and training capacity. The cost of an effective interim capability would be too great.
Furthermore, it was argued that the proposed interim force did not constitute an effective capability. It was to consist of Lancasters and Lincolns. The latter could not reach a sufficient number of Soviet targets and lacked speed, armament, and accuracy. The Lancaster did not have the range of even the Lincoln. Both would be equipped only with non-nuclear payloads. This situation had been overtaken by events to some extent, as in March 1949 the Defence Committee approved the Air Ministry’s proposal to accept an American offer of surplus long-range B-29s.13 It was agreed to accept 194 aircraft to maintain a strength of (p. 229 ) eight squadrons (replacing six Lancaster and two Lincoln) from 1949 to 1955. Negotiations over the purchase began accordingly. The B-29s (known by the RAF as Washingtons) had an operational range of 1,300 km and were able to hit a much wider range of strategic targets from Middle Eastern and British bases. In the event, in the face of Treasury pressure, only seventy of the aircraft were purchased.
This development rather outflanked the Harwood report as the working party had recommended that as long as the Lancaster and Lincoln were the only types available, no expansion of Bomber Command should take place. The existing 144 aircraft would be able to perform non-strategic bombing tasks. However, when the new strategic bombers began to arrive, Harwood proposed that the front-line strength should be no higher than 208 aircraft. It was also proposed to reduce maritime forces to a ‘barely adequate level’. Transport Command was to be left untouched and Fighter Command’s front-line strength likewise endorsed. As for the defence of Western Europe, it was suggested that a Tactical Air Force of some sixty-four aircraft be provided by 1952–3 to demonstrate Britain’s resolve in support of the Western Union.
The other main proposed reform of the RAF concerned its personnel structure. Harwood examined the implications of reducing existing manpower levels from 250,000 down to 190,000, a process which had been designed ‘in order to maintain a proper balance between running costs and re-equipment expenditure’. The air force was to retain the teeth but trim the tail, and the report insisted that
there must be imaginative and quite ruthless elimination of some complete units, telescoping of others, reduction of redundant intermediate formations, even though this process may involve breaking with tradition, reversal of recent decisions, overthrow of little ‘Empires’, departure from conventional ideas and the acceptance of certain risks.
Structural reform was not sufficient. An attempt had to be made to reduce the RAF’s dependence on National Servicemen as part of the overall concern with getting rid of conscription in general.
The position of the army was recognized to lie at the heart of the question of priorities imposed by the need to fight the Cold War, prepare for the ‘shooting war’, and remain able to respond to a Soviet attack in the near future. Harwood accepted that the army (p. 230 ) deployed overseas was fully stretched with its occupational and Cold War tasks and that for the next three years there was little likelihood of that pressure diminishing. Harwood’s solution to the problem of priorities followed the trend in War Office and Chiefs of Staff thinking. The main priority should be given to fighting the Cold War and preparing for an ‘unpremeditated’ Soviet attack. While for all the services the divergence between Cold War and ‘shooting war’ capabilities was reflected in the balance between ‘teeth’ and ‘tail’, it was most apparent in the army where the former required supplies of infantry and the latter laid greater stress on mechanized units and on administrative provision to enable the expansion of cadres in war. Even then, Harwood’s claim that the proposal would be sufficient to meet Cold War commitments rested on the assumption that no further obligations would arise or existing commitments, such as Malaya, expand.
With a ‘fire brigade’ consisting of one armoured regiment and two brigades in the United Kingdom, it was recognized that a satisfactory state of preparedness before 1957 would not be possible, even after the change in priorities: ‘It was clear from the start that we could only continue to undertake all of our present Cold War tasks with the reduced manpower and money available if there was a very complete overhaul of army organisation and expenditure at home and abroad.’
The army, at present 390,000 strong, would be reduced to 360,000 on 1 April 1950. In addition to administrative cuts, this meant reducing commitments in all theatres of operation. In Germany, BAOR would be cut by 12,000 men to 43,500. This would mean some transfer of responsibility for internal and border security and might mean a change in the military organization and system of control. The total peacetime garrison for the Middle East would be 42,500. This could be achieved only at the expense of existing plans for building an adequate basis in war, and would therefore necessitate American and/or Commonwealth contributions.
The Colonial garrisons were likewise scrutinized with the aim of replacing British forces with indigenous Colonial troops. Gibraltar would lose its infantry garrison. The infantry battalion in the West Indies was to be replaced by local troops, despite the Colonial Office’s objection that ‘the very rapid growth of political and Trade Union consciousness in the area has resulted in considerable political instability’.
(p. 231 ) As already envisaged, the regular army reserve would be used to bring the active army from peace to war establishment. The Territorial Army would provide five Home Defence divisions for anti-aircraft, internal security, and civil defence. Five more TA divisions (including one armoured) would be available for overseas service. Two of these would be sent to the Middle East but further reinforcements for that theatre would initially have to come from Britain’s allies. As for Europe, it was felt that it would be in the interest of both the United Kingdom and the Western Union if Britain’s contribution were provided exclusively by air and sea contingents. However, in order to demonstrate good faith in the Western Union, it was thought necessary to guarantee two additional divisions to reinforce the occupational forces. These would be supplemented by the nucleus of a Tactical Air Force.
Taking the services as a whole, Harwood proposed a reduction from the planned strength of 750,000 at 31 March 1950 to annual average strengths of 652,500 in 1950–1 and 565,000 by 1952–3. An essential part of this contraction, in keeping with the need to maintain front-line and peacetime strength, was the proposed reduction in National Servicemen from a content of 267,000 at 31 March 1950 to 122,000 by 1952–3. This was based on an eighteen-month period of full-time service and would require an annual intake of 121,000 in 1950–1, 91,700 in 1951–2, and 81,350 in 1952–3. As there would be 192,000 men liable for service in 1950#x2013;1, 201,000 available in 1951–2, and 205,000 available in 1952–3, it was evident that in a short time less than half of those liable would be needed. Raising medical standards and reducing the number of registrations was seen as a partial and interim solution. Harwood recommended an amendment of the National Service scheme to produce a ‘smaller and more flexible intake’ by means of selective service. There was no detailed discussion of this, although it was recognized that a ballot would be likely.
More importantly, Harwood did not see even this form of National Service as a permanent feature of the defence system.14 National Servicemen had been required in the first place to provide the trained reserves of manpower necessary on the outbreak of war, but had been used to augment regular forces. With (p. 232 ) a disproportionate number of regulars involved in training men whose active service life was of relatively short duration, the effect on an army whose level of regular recruiting was increasingly inadequate was to lower the efficiency of the forces.
On these grounds it was therefore necessary to move towards all-regular forces sufficient to meet peacetime needs. It was also necessary to find an alternative method of providing the trained reserves of manpower that were necessary on mobilization. Harwood believed that ‘unless a fundamental change is made in the conditions of service of the regular soldier there is no possibility of the army being able to do without National Service’. In order to produce the required number of regulars Harwood advocated a combination of increased pay and ‘a different approach to the career aspect of the recruiting problem’.
The report did not suggest a specific pay increase but argued that making service pay adequate would involve introducing rates not only comparable to those paid in civilian life, but sufficient to compensate for the disadvantages of service life. If pay were the only consideration increases of 35–40 per cent would be necessary. These costs could be offset against savings in training and other commitments. But a smaller pay increase would be sufficient if a satisfactory solution could be found to the career aspect of regular recruiting.
Harwood argued that these proposals offered a solution both to the problem of pay and to that of providing the reserves of trained manpower in war: ‘The broad conception would be that service in the armed forces is not a thing apart but merely one of a number of forms of public service and that men joining the regular forces, subject to certain conditions, should be assured at the outset of a continuity of public service throughout their active lives.’ There was no indication of which ‘specified categories of public service employment’ would be involved, though this might include the new public corporations.
It was claimed that this scheme would provide ‘more mature, balanced and experienced men’ for civilian public service. Moreover, taken together with an increase in pay, it would mean that ‘the services should find no difficulty in recruiting sufficient men over a period of five or six years to do away with National Service while at the same time providing the trained manpower reserves required for essential tasks’. This would be possible as those tasks would themselves be reduced. The TA would be scaled down and (p. 233 ) its Home Defence divisions, with reduced quotas of artillery and other arms, would require fewer reserves.
As noted, the fundamental and wide-ranging recommendations of the Harwood Report were the result of the attempt to adopt a Treasury figure of resources available and then decide on defence policy. The approach itself was not opposed by the Chiefs of Staff. But the allocation they were given certainly was. They knew that £700 million was insufficient. Indeed, as the working party had acted independently and not had its proposals costed by the service departments, it was discovered that it had underestimated the cost of its defence budget by an annual average of some £55 million. This meant that the Harwood proposals were based on a very similar annual budget to the compromise £760 million agreed for 1949–50. Yet it seemed that even that sum meant radical changes in British defence policy.
Harwood accepted that the suggested forces would not be able to meet all the contingencies of the Cold War, unpremeditated war before 1957, and ‘shooting war’ thereafter. However, in the judgement of the Chiefs of Staff the proposed forces failed to provide against any of these dangers.15 As far as the Cold War was concerned, the forces would be inadequate to support British policy in any number of areas. On the need for American support in peace and war, the Chiefs of Staff had previously and in more forthright terms been urged by Tizard to accept that global responsibility for world security would have to fall on the United States.16 Yet the service chiefs themselves regarded American and Commonwealth forces as vital. However, acceptance of the American predominance did not, for the Chiefs of Staff, entail the immediate and substantial reductions that it did for Harwood or Tizard. While American assistance in the Middle East, for example, was indispensable, until that assistance appeared it was ‘essential to ensure by the example we ourselves set that the Americans do not weaken their resolve’.17 The problem lay not just in the difficulties for military planning, but in the very real difficulties involved in getting American military commitments on a global scale, particularly in areas of British Imperial and post-Imperial interest.
(p. 234 ) The arguments of the Chiefs of Staff were unavoidably based on political judgements. As far as the BAOR was concerned, they argued that any reduction in the occupation forces would weaken the Western Union, contrary to the wishes of the Harwood Report. To abolish the East Indies squadron would create a void in South-east Asia and the Indian Ocean. Naval forces in the Far East would be ‘inadequate to support our policy in normal times, quite apart from the growing Chinese communist threat’. Withdrawal from Simonstown ‘would have political effects in the Union of South Africa, where the presence of these forces is the only tangible sign of the benefits which South Africa receives in the defence field, from remaining a member of the Commonwealth’.
With regard to wartime forces, it was argued that the number of fighters would be barely sufficient to cover the existing radar belt (in south-east England), and when that was extended would be inadequate. Reducing the number of regular and TA anti-aircraft regiments (from 222 to 150) would cause a deterioration in a situation in which a large number of vital areas was already undefended. The wartime fleet that Harwood envisaged could not be achieved as the building and modernization programme after 1952 would be too great for the shipbuilding capacity to undertake before 1957. Even then the Chiefs of Staff argued that there would be shortages of carriers, cruisers, and minesweepers and no provision for offensive anti-submarine warfare and amphibious task forces.
As for the principal theatres (Europe and the Middle East), even if it were possible to count on ‘some months’’ warning of an emergency, no reinforcements of either area would be possible. Given the proposed reductions in the active army, all the reinforcements would have to be provided by the TA, which would mean a lapse of four months before the divisions were fit for active service—slightly longer than planned. The tactical air force envisaged by Harwood was described as well below the reasonable expectations of Britain’s allies. Such criticisms were equally applicable to existing planning; indeed, when the Chiefs of Staff subsequently did recommend a guarantee of two divisions to Western Europe, they did not include any provision for additional tactical air support.18
(p. 235 ) The Harwood Report stood little chance of being accepted. The government would have required bold and dynamic leadership to discard so dramatically the advice of its professional military advisers. Yet the working party’s efforts were not without results and resulted in administrative savings estimated at £40 million. They must have brought home to ministers that if the British government wished to possess military forces on the scale envisaged by its professional advisers and implied by its foreign policy then a considerably larger defence budget would be necessary.
It is certainly the case that many of the radical proposals were far-sighted. It can be argued that contraction on the scale suggested would have solved some of the main problems that British defence and foreign policy faced in the following decades. An early recognition of Britain’s reduced role in the world and the concomitant need for American troops and commitments was an opportunity that was, arguably, lost in the rejection of the report.
Yet there were clearly enormous questions to be answered about the nature, extent, and indeed desirability of an American global role. The United States was to show little enthusiasm at the prospect of sending forces to the Middle East. Even after the NATO treaty had been signed and the Americans began to prepare for a long-term campaign in Europe, their short-term plans rejected on military grounds what was for the continental countries the vital political objective of defending the Rhine.19 It was hardly surprising that the British Chiefs of Staff opposed radical and dramatic ideas when there were such unresolved differences of interest and perspective involved.
Of course, having been a wartime partner of the United States, and by no means a junior partner, it was difficult for Britain to readjust to a subordinate role. It was not surprising that there was a degree of ambiguity about the likely relationship with the Americans. This was well illustrated when it came to the central issue of strategic bombing. As the Chiefs of Staff commented: ‘The bombing force even when it is equipped with modern aircraft and armed with atomic weapons, will be small even for its primary task of supporting the USAF in the offensive against the main targets inside Russia/20 This implied that the RAF would not provide an independent nuclear deterrent and accepted the (p. 236 ) pre-eminent American role. But the questions of why it was necessary to provide a supporting role and on what criteria it was to be judged sufficient indicated an ambiguity that lay at the heart of British thinking about the ‘independent deterrent’.
One of the fundamental problems for Harwood, as for other would-be reformers, was that such proposals were invariably divorced from the context of foreign policy. This was not necessarily an insurmountable problem, but at that time, for Britain to have reduced its armed forces significantly and to have reduced actual commitments would have been greatly to weaken if not to undermine the attempts to persuade allies to provide military forces of their own, in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere. As Winston Churchill privately informed Giffard Martel in June 1949: ‘I am entirely opposed to the abolition of National Service at the present time. I should consider it a great blow to what is left of British prestige throughout the world.’21
While there were many, particularly in the Treasury, who looked to alliances and pacts as means of ultimately reducing the scale of British commitments and expenditure, it remained evident that building those relationships required Britain at least to do its share and more often take a lead. Britain was, for all its economic problems, the least damaged of the European belligerents. These practical political considerations reinforced the British Imperial (and post-Imperial) self-image of leadership by example.
This was apparent in Europe and the Middle East. It was by now also apparent that conscription itself symbolized Britain’s commitment to those theatres and to its foreign policy in general. In Europe the British had played an instrumental role in building the political framework for a military alliance. Even though their own commitments remained limited, the British persistently urged their European allies to provide the military forces to defend Western Europe. In Britain a prerequisite for the provision of those forces was an adequate period of compulsory service.
The British repeatedly pressed their European allies, especially the French, to extend the period of their full-time military service so that the conscripts could be used to provide divisions necessary to defend Western Europe. In August 1950, when the Attlee (p. 237 ) government was extending National Service to two years during the Korean war, the French retained only a twelve-month full-time period and did not have annual part-time training of their conscript reserves. According to Montgomery, who was now Chairman of the Western European Commanders-in-Chief Committee, the Dutch had ‘no army of any sort that could even begin to fight in the field, even against naked savages’.22 The call-up had been suspended in the Netherlands the previous year and it was only now in the process of being re-introduced, though with two years’ service. Also according to Montgomery, the situation of the French army was so ‘thoroughly bad’ in 1950 that the idea that they would be able to create fifteen new divisions by the end of 1953, as planned, was ‘sheer nonsense’.
As for the Middle East, the British had for some time been trying to persuade their Commonwealth allies to share the defence burdens. They had little hope of success—at least where the Antipodeans were involved—until the American position (particularly in the Pacific) had been made clear and Australia and New Zealand had received adequate guarantees about their own security, which were contingent on the peace settlement with Japan. The only real achievement here had been New Zealand’s decision to introduce conscription for the explicit and public purpose of providing troops for the defence of the Middle East in war. New Zealand was the only Commonwealth country to introduce peacetime conscription before the Korean war, and this was largely due to the personal decision of the Labour Prime Minister, Fraser. Neither Australia nor South Africa was prepared to follow Britain’s example; and in 1946 MacKenzie King had reacted angrily to the suggestion of compulsion in Canada, which was hardly surprising given the problems that had arisen there during the war. Even the New Zealand system was designed to provide only some 8,000 men for the army reserve.23 These were to be selected by ballot (as had been the practice in wartime) to serve a basic training period of fourteen weeks with three years’ part-time training and a seven-year reserve liability. The decision was taken after secret consultations with the British Chiefs of Staff, but only after it had been accepted in a national referendum in August (p. 238 ) 1949. Yet even this was not translated into a firm commitment to the Middle East as New Zealand was still waiting on the American position.
Conscription was now viewed by the British government as the means by which societies could provide troops for the enlarged commitments of the Cold War. In the European context Montgomery told the assembled Chiefs of Staff and Ministers of Defence of the Western Union on 4 August 1950 ‘that as things are today, no nation can hope to fulfil its defence obligations unless it will at once have two years’ National Service with the colours’.24 It was interesting that the British with their traditions of voluntary service were now haranguing their European allies on the need for compulsory service. Yet without an adequate period of military service, it was apparent that Europe’s defences could not be built up on the scale required.
To have attempted to persuade European and American allies of the need for conscript armies in Western Europe while at the same time abolishing National Service in Britain would have greatly weakened Britain’s credibility. It is worth recalling that when conscription was being considered by the Defence Committee in 1946 Bevin had told his colleagues that
a plan should be prepared for the Zonal Defence of the Empire and its communications in which the Dominions should assume their full share of responsibility. He felt confident that if this country gave a lead it could rally the Dominions to our support and our determination to defend the Empire would be our greatest contribution to the peace of the world. Furthermore it would have a salutary effect on the United States which was at present seeking a clear objective for its foreign policy and the Western European Nations would be heartened by our example and encouraged to support us in our stand against the communist threat.25
In 1950 it was again hoped that Britain’s example of two years’ National Service would be followed by its European allies. Indeed, it had been hoped that the Western Union states would act together to raise their respective periods of service. If these hopes were founded on expectations of immediate and positive action, they were to be disappointed.
(p. 239 ) But that did not mean that conscription was not important. Once the decision to maintain National Service had been made, a decision to bring it to an end would have signalled a reversal of foreign policy, as it would have meant reductions in Britain’s military strength in peacetime. To have persuaded allies that Britain would be able to maintain existing force levels without National Service would have been extremely difficult. For the French, especially, it would have rekindled long-standing suspicions.
While the establishment of an effective West European defence and an effective Commonwealth defence in the Middle East remained crucial British objectives, the abolition of National Service presented great difficulties. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Shinwell, the new Minister of Defence, who had harangued his European colleagues on the need for effective West European defence and two years’ National Service, was himself keen on the idea of an all-regular British army. Indeed, at the same time he was lecturing the French, he was pushing the Chiefs of Staff into further consideration of abandoning National Service.
It was only when a solution began to emerge to the problem of the political chicken and military egg of Western European defence that Britain could seriously consider ending conscription. Even then it took the trauma of Suez to strike the decisive blow, signalling as it did, among other things, an end to a British Commonwealth strategy in the Middle East. Although Harwood proposed a phased abolition of conscription and although the objective remained more efficient armed forces, the problem of ending National Service while urging allies to make greater defence contributions remained a fundamental difficulty.
The dilemma facing the government persisted. The divergence between economic and defence objectives was intractable. For the Chiefs of Staff the defence budget was only barely adequate to fulfil existing foreign policy obligations. It was inadequate as a long-term basis for a ‘shooting war’ without the guarantee of additional resources to provide for re-equipment. For the Treasury even that figure was too much and when the devaluation crisis erupted in September 1949 the Cabinet was presented with the choice between cuts in social security and cuts in defence.
The state of existing defence capabilities was politically embarrassing to the government. This was an additional factor in (p. 240 ) precluding open and informed discussion, since the government had little incentive to advertise the nation’s weakness. Although there remained a crucially bipartisan approach to the fundamental issues of foreign and defence policy, this did not prevent the opposition, alarmed at the paucity of existing capabilities, from exploiting the situation. Other sections of opinion within the Labour Party and among reputable military critics were equally unsympathetic. By now, for example, the Manchester Guardian, which had initially supported the introduction of peacetime military conscription, had turned against National Service which, it argued, was responsible for inefficient armed forces and in particular an inefficient army.26 The Daily Mail, which had been publishing Martel’s criticisms for some time, urged the abolition of conscription on 18 October 1949. The inefficiency of National Service had long been recognized by the military. The Chiefs of Staff themselves argued that
regular forces backed by the necessary auxiliary formations and reserves provide undoubtedly the most economical and efficient method of meeting our commitments in peace and the requirements of our strategy in the early stages of a war. To use the National Servicemen as we must at present to supplement the regular forces in their peacetime tasks is both expensive and inefficient because it results in an undue proportion of manpower being absorbed by training establishments at the expense of the front line.27
By the autumn of 1949 the government’s defence policy was open to the charge not only of inefficiency but also of inadequacy. Given increasing political criticism and a defence budget that cost too much yet provided too little, disaffection with the scheme of compulsory military service was hardly surprising. On the other hand, previous discussions within government had clearly demonstrated the intractable nature of the problem and the strength of the Chiefs of Staff’s arguments. Nevertheless, an attempt was made by Morrison to get the government to end full-time compulsory training. There was also a further review of the National Service scheme designed to reduce the intake of conscripts and cut expenditure.
(p. 241 ) The autumn was becoming the traditional season when the government re-examined the size and nature of the National Service intake. This arose from consideration of the defence budget. In 1949 the examination again took place against the background of economic crisis, on this occasion precipitated by devaluation. After the pound had been devalued in September, a fresh round of cuts had been imposed on the armed forces which had made it necessary to lower financial and conscript manpower ceilings. When the problem had been considered earlier in the year, it was agreed to reduce the intake. This could be done by omitting two quarterly registrations in the period 1950–2, which would raise the call-up age by six months to eighteen years nine months.
By November 1949 financial pressure to reduce the manpower ceiling had grown. It was at this time that Morrison attempted to persuade his colleagues to bring full-time National Service to an end. With unhappiness in the party and an election not far away, the idea of radical reform to secure financial and political benefits was not without attraction. In October the Defence Committee established an inter-departmental committee under Godfrey Ince, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Labour and National Service, to investigate methods of controlling the National Service intake.28
The options were no different from what they had been in 1947 or 1948. Neither were the arguments. In particular the principle of universal liability was still a fundamental political prerequisite for a scheme of peacetime military conscription. The use of a ballot was again rejected, although it was noted that in certain circumstances it might prove unavoidable if no other method could be found, and when the numbers liable far exceeded the numbers required. It was recognized as the simplest scheme to operate; it was also noted that selective service appeared to work on the continent and in the United States, where the draft had been reintroduced in 1948. On the question of raising both educational and medical standards, the report echoed previous conclusions. While it was accepted that there were obvious advantages, particularly where illiterates and ‘dullards’ in the army were concerned, the principle of universal liability held sway.
(p. 242 ) Once again the government’s options looked clear. Omitting one or more registrations presented neither administrative nor political problems. The government was faced with a surplus of about 65,000 men over the period 1950–3 (slightly less after development of the apprenticeship schemes). If the low-calibre men could be eliminated then the surplus would be reduced to 50,000. As each registration yielded an average of 35,000, it would be necessary to omit at most two registrations, increasing the age of call-up by at most six months to eighteen years nine months. It would not be necessary to raise the call-up age in 1950 and the same would probably apply in 1951. Omission of the registration would then take place early in 1952, with a possible second omission early in 1953. The complexity of the situation meant that speculation beyond that date was not considered worthwhile.
This in fact was largely what had been anticipated earlier in the year. Again attention was given to the eventual call-up age, and it was strongly urged that call-up at age twenty was the ‘most advantageous from all points of view’. It would be necessary to move gradually towards that age so as to avoid missing out any particular age group. It was argued (contrary to the conventional political wisdom) that a higher call-up age would be beneficial for industry. While employers were reluctant to take on school-leavers at fifteen for permanent jobs only to lose them three years later, with a five-year period of potential employment that reluctance would be reduced. There was no reason to suppose that the considered decision of the 1939 Military Training Act was not sound, although it would have been impossible to arrange the 1947 Act to call up men at twenty as using wartime legislation would have meant forgoing any intake for two years and allowing eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds to get away without any service. There was some ministerial disagreement on this, as Bevin had always believed industry would benefit from as low a call-up age as possible. Nevertheless, the recommendations of the Ince report were accepted by the government. However, these decisions were overtaken by the Korean rearmament drive, and far from the age for call-up rising, it was lowered by one month in February 1951.
Given his responsibility for economic affairs Morrison had long been worried about the economic consequences of the defence budget and of conscription in particular. In October 1946 he had (p. 243 ) given support to Cripps over the length of service.29 His concerns were shared by his Permanent Secretary, Max Nicholson, who described existing defence policy as combining ‘some of the most burdensome features of pre-war continental armies with the old British conception of seapower and a new conception of a highly technical and mechanised force’.30
Moreover, as Leader of the House of Commons Morrison was well aware of feeling in the Labour Party and the desire to ‘render our defences defensible against public criticism’ appeared to weigh as heavily with him as the desire ‘to support the development of the most effective practicable measures of military security’.31 A general election was not far off. Whatever the political problems of reversing decisions on National Service (and being seen to do so for purely electoral gain), abandoning conscription would have provided significant electoral benefits and afforded the opportunity of outflanking the Conservatives.
In November Morrison attempted to persuade his colleagues to end full-time National Service. Ammunition was provided by the Harwood Report and even more by the initial budgetary targets for 1950/1 and the following years, which were already posing choices between social security and defence that would later throw the Labour Party into such bitter internal conflict. Morrison’s arguments were submitted in a memorandum to the Defence Committee and discussed, with Alexander’s reply,32 on 25 November.33 Morrison was clearly aware of the political and military sensitivity of his proposals and went to some lengths to assure his colleagues of his support in general for foreign and defence policy. Before the Defence Committee he wrote in friendly style to Alexander (on Nicholson’s suggestion34) to emphasize that he was Very anxious to help in any way possible’.35 Yet his recommendations inevitably involved scaling down commitments.
(p. 244 ) His line of attack was a subtle one. He did not question the principle of conscription per se and indeed in his letter to Alexander declared that he was ‘strongly in favour of retaining National Service’.36 Instead he suggested that there should be some form of compulsory part-time training, in the TA, for example. While recognizing that this would involve very great difficulties in the transition period, he nevertheless argued that ‘it seems worth careful investigation as the most promising means of ultimately securing better balanced and more efficient forces with less strain on our economy’.37
The responses of Alexander and the Chiefs of Staff were predictable, familiar, and, as far as the Defence Committee was concerned, irrefutable. National Service was still the only means of providing the two manpower needs of the services. First, it was the only effective means of building up the reserve of trained men required in a future emergency. If the conscripts had not had a period of basic full-time training, they would be of little value as trained manpower. Second, conscripts were needed to supplement regular forces to provide for peacetime and Cold War commitments. At this stage the armed forces comprised some 750,000 persons, of whom 300,000 were National Servicemen. At a previous Defence Committee Alexander had submitted proposals to reduce that total to 682,000 (with 230,000 National Servicemen) by April 1951.38 He estimated that an all-regular force would need to comprise only some 600,000. But this would mean finding another 150,000 regular servicemen, an increase of about a third.
The fundamental question to which Morrison and indeed many of the military and political critics of conscription outside government failed to provide an adequate answer was how to provide these forces. Furthermore, while one of the motives for the opposition to National Service was to reduce its cost, any attempt to phase out conscription would have required additional financial incentives for regular recruiting. Alexander claimed that any chance of increasing regular recruiting on the scale envisaged would add £30 million to the pay bill. This increase would have to take place immediately, whereas the reductions in the National Service intake would need to wait until there were sufficient (p. 245 ) regulars. While this could be defended as a short-term cost designed to ensure a long-term saving, the fact of fierce and continuing conflict over the defence budget meant that Alexander and the service chiefs were bound to be reticent. From a political point of view, substantial increases in service pay might also affect civilian wage negotiations and the government’s incomes policy in the period up to the election.
Most importantly, there was no guarantee that even dramatic increases in service pay combined with improvements in service conditions would procure the necessary immediate and substantial increase in regular recruiting. Certainly Alexander shared the Chiefs of Staff’s view that, with full employment, expectations of regular recruiting were based on little more than wishful thinking. Subsequent rates of regular recruiting in the ‘professional army’ of the 1960s and 1970s do little to question the soundness of that judgement. Harwood’s view that the ‘career aspect of the recruiting problem was a potential solution’ was based on nothing more than speculation.
Morrison was clearly aware of these objections. His paper called for an investigation by the Chiefs of Staff into the practicability of his proposal, but carefully avoided the issue of regular recruiting. However, in his letter to Alexander, he addressed himself to these questions. He argued that it was possible to exaggerate the importance of pay increases as a method of attracting the right type of recruit: ‘Interest and opportunity of service career and prospects of a favourable entry into civilian life at the end of it may be even more important.’ In particular, he indicated that he would be happy to explore the possibility of persuading the socialized industries to ‘give facilities for an intake of suitable ex-servicemen at a convenient age’, something which the Post Office had been doing and which had been canvassed previously, notably in the Harwood Report and by the Secretary of State for War. Such a proposal was clearly not contingent on an end to conscription. Moreover, whatever its intrinsic merits, it could hardly amount to a transformation of military service that would facilitate the necessary increase in regular recruiting.
To some extent this typified the debate between those who argued for all-regular forces and those who accepted conscription on the grounds of mathematical imperative. There was a tendency for the former to revert to generalities about improvements in (p. 246 ) conditions of service. There had been great reluctance at the idea of following pre-war continental examples where conscripts were paid significantly less than regular servicemen. Initially, in order to defuse political opposition, it had been decided that the conscripts would receive the same rate of pay. This changed in November 1948 when, in the face of mounting manpower problems among the regulars, the government had given them a pay increase but not done likewise with the conscripts. Subsequently, with National Service extended to two years and with every prospect of conscripts seeing active service (initially Malaya did not count as active service), it was decided that for the additional six months’ full-time service the conscripts would receive the regular rate of pay.39
The case for an all-regular force invariably involved the suggestion of an improvement in conditions. Yet this in itself posed unavoidable political problems. Aside from the impact of service pay increases on wage negotiations, any improvement in service conditions could only come at the expense of civilian programmes (unless it came from the defence budget). This was especially evident in housing. While it was widely recognized that the living quarters of troops and their families at home and abroad were appalling, and indeed deterrents to recruiting and re-engagement, it was equally evident that improvements in service housing could only be made at the expense of a civilian housing programme that remained a crucial political priority both for the government and for the electorate. Even had such improvements in service conditions been made, there is still little evidence to suggest that military service would have been significantly more attractive to sufficient numbers of people. Even if a change in popular perceptions of service life could be affected, it could only be a long-term transformation.
Yet the argument did not end there. Morrison, for example, had already raised the question of developing police formations along the models of the Palestinian Police and the Royal Ulster Constabulary to replace army units in occupational and certain kinds of Cold War commitments.40 Furthermore, he suggested greater use of Colonial, allied, and Dominion manpower to (p. 247 ) relieve the burden on the United Kingdom. These ideas had of course arisen before (most recently in the Harwood Report) and had self-evident benefits.
The equally obvious problem was that the government had no control over allied or Dominion governments, many of which were unwilling to enter into commitments. As noted above, although New Zealand had introduced conscription for the purpose of providing forces for the Middle East and although South Africa and Australia looked likely to send divisions to that theatre, no Dominion commitments had yet been made. While conscription remained anathema for Canada, as a NATO signatory it was expected to provide some contribution to West European defence, though the negotiations over NATO force levels were still at an early stage. Until the end of 1949 the British themselves remained unwilling to commit any further divisions to Europe. And with the Americans loath in their short-term planning to commit themselves to a defence of the Rhine, the suspicions of Britain’s European allies were hardly surprising.
Colonial manpower offered a more attractive proposition, in so far as the British government could exercise more direct political control over the decisions involved. Indeed, several of the government’s critics within the Labour Party were keen on this idea, not least because they viewed it in terms of racial and political equality. Attlee himself was clearly in favour of a greater Colonial contribution.
However, there were inherent problems in using Colonial forces. In the first place there was the question of the cost. Expenditure on Colonial forces would have to come at least partially, more probably largely, from the British Exchequer. Although Colonial troops could be paid less than British conscripts, there would still be costs to be borne. Nevertheless on military grounds the Indian Army and the Gurkhas provided the best examples of the value of Colonial troops. Yet there was considerable reluctance, especially in the Colonial Office, to place reliance on such troops in politically sensitive areas where their political reliability might be in question. These doubts were one element behind the government’s reluctance to press any form of conscription on the Colonies.
While it might be imagined that Colonial conscription could be viewed as an instrument of social and political control, the (p. 248 ) opposite view was widely (and almost certainly correctly) held. The Colonial Office was in fact reluctant to see Bermuda adopt a system of compulsory service.41 Where there were demands for local militias (e.g. in Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands) these were judged solely on grounds of military necessity and were confined (notably in Kenya) to Europeans. The military requirements were concerned with internal duties (i.e. combating subversion); these forces were not, as more radical critics proposed, considered for external roles.
To be able to deal with internal threats, it was necessary to have politically reliable forces. It was believed that compulsion did not provide reliable troops. In addition, it was recognized that there would be enormous political problems in imposing compulsory military service on the Colonies. The policy on conscription was laid down by the Overseas Defence Committee in 1948. As Creech Jones informed the Governor-General of Gibraltar, Sir Kenneth Anderson, on 15 September 1948:
Compulsory military service has political aspects not only locally but also in the United Kingdom and I do not intend at present to apply it as a general policy for all Colonial territories. That intention however, does not rule out the possibility of compulsory military service being imposed in any territory where special circumstances might apply.42
Where conscription was considered this arose out of local initiatives, in Kenya, Gibraltar, Bermuda, and the Falkland Islands.
There was some feeling that as conscription existed in Britain, so British subjects abroad should be expected to ‘do their duty’. At the same time, as the commander of the Falkland Islands militia explained to the Governor-General, Miles Clifford, ‘on the outbreak of war when the force was embodied and conscription introduced every possible excuse was put forward by all and sundry as to why they should not be called up and the percentage of those seeking active service was extremely small’.43
There was also the more important military objective of providing forces for internal security in wartime. As in Whitehall, there was little inclination towards using Colonial forces overseas.
(p. 249 ) There was also some rather non-military concern. The Governor-General of the Falkland Islands believed that ‘There are far too many larrikins with nothing to occupy their time after working hours and with compulsory service still in force at home compulsory part-time service here would be a reasonable contribution to Empire preparedness and a wholesome (and much needed) discipline for the young’.44 In purely military terms one Colonial Office official minuted: ‘The possibility of the Falkland Islands being in an active sphere of operations is very remote.’45 While the Governor-General drew attention to a possible attack from Argentina, which he said was ‘not beyond the bounds of possibility’,46 Creech Jones was reluctant to provoke Argentina (or Chile) and quietly let the matter drop.
Although consideration of Morrison’s ideas continued into December, the Defence Committee saw no reason to reverse government policy. To have taken such a decision so shortly before an election would have certainly been seen as an irresponsible and cynical move. (Whether it would have worked in the election was a different matter.) Yet this was not the last attempt by a Labour minister to get rid of National Service. As has been noted, the new Minister of Defence, Shinwell, was keen to move to an all-regular army, and would make just such an effort. But Morrison’s initiative was the last such attempt in Attlee’s first government.
In the February 1950 election National Service was not an issue. Although the Liberals opposed it because it created inefficiency, weakened the economy, and impaired family life,47 the opposition and the government still maintained a bipartisan approach on the issue. The Labour Party was not especially keen to advertise the subject; while there were general references to the duties and obligations of citizenship in the party manifesto there were no references to conscription.48 The Conservatives, on the other hand, argued that with better administration it was possible to reduce the burden of National Service.49
(p. 250 ) The new Attlee government in March 1950 moved Shinwell to the Ministry of Defence. His doubts about National Service were of long standing. As one of those who had not occupied office during the war, he had criticized the idea of conscription in 1945. Despite this, in November 1949 he had accepted the arguments of the Adjutant-General, Sir James Steele, that it was unrealistic to consider abandoning National Service.50 Nevertheless, he had long been reluctant in his acceptance of conscription and had taken every opportunity to press for an all-regular army. In addition he wanted to get to grips with the strategy and foreign policy that underpinned the defence policy for which he had been departmentally responsible. As Minister of Defence, with a seat in the Cabinet, he would now be in a much better position to do that. Having arrived at the War Office with the crucial decisions on National Service already taken, he had had little realistic hope of reversing policy. As a new Minister of Defence with growing experience and indeed a growing reputation, he would have a much better chance of achieving reform.
The problems that immediately confronted him and the government were considerable. The level of regular recruitment and re-engagement was low and getting worse. The Chiefs of Staff were becoming increasingly concerned with the unpreparedness of the armed forces for war in the near future. Yet Shinwell wasted little time before tackling the issue of National Service. By May 1950 he was arguing with the Chiefs of Staff in favour of an all-regular force along the same lines as he had done at the War Office.51 A regular army would be more efficient. It would free from the task of training conscripts some 15,000 regulars who would then be available to provide additional fighting units. There would be corresponding reductions in the wastage of manpower in general. As he had previously suggested, the necessary reserves could be provided by a period of part-time training in the auxiliary forces.
In the long run, an all-regular army might (but only might) be cheaper. In the short term however, it would undoubtedly mean an increase in costs, since it would be necessary to increase regular emoluments and improve conditions before National Service could be deemed unnecessary and discontinued. From the (p. 251 ) Treasury point of view short-term cost, even set against the promise of long-term saving, was not an endearing prospect, and if there was no certainty of savings, Treasury enthusiasm was unlikely. The idea that the additional expenditure involved should come from within the defence budget would have horrified the service chiefs, whose priorities lay in a wholly different direction.
Shinwell’s initial action in May was to inform the Chiefs of Staff of his views and to ask the War Office and the Air Ministry to estimate first, the numbers of regulars that they would need to fulfil their existing commitments and second, how much the transition to all-regular forces would cost.52 He also wanted to know whether the problem of providing the trained reserves could be met by the existing regular reserves being supplemented by a ‘form of compulsory training in the Auxiliary forces alone’—an idea which he (and Morrison) had unsuccessfully advocated in the past. Indeed, Shinwell’s initiative amounted to no more than a restatement of previous ideas and wishes (his own, Morrison’s, and Harwood’s) which had never before gained effective support within the government. Moreover, by the time the service departments had completed their preliminary investigations along the lines requested by Shinwell the Korean war had rendered the prospect of radical reform unthinkable.
The war notwithstanding, the Air Ministry and the War Office presented powerful arguments in favour of the retention of conscription. The Air Ministry replied to Shinwell on 30 June 1950 (in a letter from the Deputy Permanent Secretary, F. H. Sandford, to Sir Maurice Dean).53 It was calculated that the provision of an all-regular force would allow the ministry to reduce its estimated manpower requirement from 205,000 to 192,000. The former comprised 131,000 regulars and 74,000 National Servicemen and assumed both an eighteen-month period of full-time service and a regular recruiting rate at existing levels. The figure of 192,000 assumed the same shape and size of embodied forces and that the men would serve the same average length of regular service. It made no provision for the basic training of National Servicemen either during a possible short period of embodied service or during a period of reserve liability as (p. 252 ) envisaged by Shinwell. No attempt was made to calculate how much of the saving in manpower (some 13,000) would be taken up in providing either of those facilities.
By now the size of the National Service intake was determined primarily by the numbers required for active service, which meant more reserves than would be immediately needed. The value of men who had been trained only part-time and/or in the auxiliary forces would be limited, especially where they had not had sufficient experience in their service trade. The Air Ministry suggested that if National Service were radically reduced then the RAF might abandon its policy of training National Servicemen in skilled trades, as many of these would in any case be in reserved occupations in the event of war. Training conscripts in unskilled or only slightly skilled occupations would not require an increase in the training establishment or the manpower estimate of 192,000.
It would also be possible for some of the more skilled personnel, such as those for the Command and Reporting System, to be accommodated within the 192,000 figure. Here there was an additional problem. At this time the RAF trained some 300 National Servicemen a year to be pilots. In addition to their eighteen-month period of service, they were required to accept the full obligations of either the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAAF) or the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, as opposed to the normal reserve liability of the ordinary conscript. These trainees constituted virtually the only manpower source for meeting future pilot requirements for the twenty fighter squadrons of the RAAF, a substantial part of the air defence of the country which, since mid-1948, had been an increasing defence priority. As the RAAF was currently manned largely by pilots trained in wartime, and as these would have to be replaced before long, the need for National Service pilots for the RAAF would grow accordingly. Thus some form of National Service would still be required (within the 192,000 figure) to provide for these and the Command and Reporting System.
At this stage the Air Ministry made no comment on the practicability of increasing the regular content, although it drew attention to the inevitable expense of the transition period and to the fact that as the average cost of a regular airman was higher than that of a National Serviceman, the anticipated financial (p. 253 ) saving would not be proportionate to the reduction in the size of the force. While this is what the Air Ministry told Shinwell, it privately held out no hope whatsoever of attracting and keeping the required number of regulars, although there was certainly some sympathy for the idea of an all-regular force. No attempt was made to suggest means of providing the additional regulars; nor—contrary to Shinwell’s wishes—was there any costing of the transition period.
Slessor, now Chief of the Air Staff, recognized that the additional numbers could be found only with substantial inducements, but in his opinion even a spectacular increase in pay such as the Minister of Defence might contemplate was of doubtful recruiting value in the present period of full employment.54 He had for some time favoured tackling the conditions and morale of the RAF (particularly its Pilot and Flying Officers) and had in the past proposed a variety of measures to improve the morale and elan of the service and particularly its officer corps. These ranged from uniform allowances to private glider flying (the modern equivalent of the hunting that he had enjoyed as a young officer) to an educational allowance designed to make it possible for RAF officers to send their sons (but not daughters) to public schools: ‘If we want to continue to attract the type of officer who had made the service what it was in the past, we must make it possible for him to send his son to the type of school that he went to himself.’ Nevertheless, he did not regard pay and taxation as unimportant. As he commented, ‘It was a damned sight easier to have a spirit of adventure when income tax was five bob in the pound and one’s Father had something to leave one instead of leaving it to the Chancellor.’ These sentiments and values reflected the socially exclusive base of the officer class in peacetime. There was little sympathy with (or understanding of) Labour ministers compelled to impose a disquieting level of austerity (from rationing to pay policy) on their own working-class supporters and who remained at least nominally wedded to ideas of ‘democratic armed forces’. What was apparent was the belief, certainly shared by Shinwell, that pay itself was not the whole answer to the recruiting problem.
(p. 254 ) The Army Council discussed the issue in June 1950. Shinwell received the War Office’s reply on 19 July,55 and on the following day the new Secretary of State for War, John Strachey, sent a personal and far more sympathetic response.56 The War Office argued that an all-regular army was an ‘undoubtedly attractive’ conception for the purpose of fighting the Cold War but that while there were many other advantages of a more stable army, the case against the all-regular force was considerable. The problems remained: providing sufficient regulars to meet peacetime commitments and training the reserves for mobilization in war.
In order to remove the National Servicemen from the active army it would be necessary to phase out conscription by gradual reductions in the size of the intake or the period of service or indeed both. It was calculated that the reserve army would require a strength of some 100,000 men for an indefinite period. With a reduced intake there would be increasingly adverse effects on the strength of the reserve, which ‘sooner or later would involve Selective Service which might be politically unacceptable’.57 To reduce the period of full-time National Service would have very serious effects on the standard of training in the reserves, especially of officers, specialists, and tradesmen. The War Office argued that this would further retard the mobilization of the TA, which would then take some six months to become effective, twice as long as planned at present. Reinforcement of Europe and the Middle East would be seriously jeopardized. There would also be particularly serious effects on the state of readiness of the Anti-Aircraft Command.
In this situation, Turner explained, the active and reserve armies would have conflicting long-term requirements. Any advantages of an all-regular army were a long way off. The active army required some 350,000 soldiers (including women and National Servicemen) to meet its commitments. To meet those commitments with an all-regular army would need 310,000 men, a figure which did include provision for the basic training of National Servicemen prior to their entry into the reserves. The existing regular strength was only 180,000. Moreover, with current (p. 255 ) recruiting trends, it was anticipated that the regular strength would fall to 150,000 in the next few years.
Therefore, in order to provide an all-regular army capable of filling existing commitments it would be necessary to more than double the number of regular soldiers. As Turner noted: ‘Any discussion on a long-term all-regular army is therefore bound to be largely academic. The real problem for the War Office at this time was the level of regular recruiting and re-engagement.’ ‘Considerable improvements’ were necessary even to arrest the downward trend of recruiting. How these could be achieved was not clear. Actually increasing the regular strength would take a number of years to become effective, even on the most optimistic of War Office forecasts, and even if ‘political, economic or financial considerations dictated an appreciable reduction in the size of the Active Army and even if improvements contemplated in conditions of service and other factors led to a dramatic improvement in recruiting’. During that time National Service would still be essential to provide the required numbers of troops for the active army.
Despite the force of these arguments and despite Army Council discussion of the whole issue, John Strachey, Shinwell’s successor, was yet another Secretary of State for War who was less than happy with the War Office view, and he urged Shinwell to continue with the ‘detailed study of the financial and other effects of the approach to all-regular forces’.58 While recognizing that the matter needed a great deal of study, he nevertheless quoted £20 million as the figure which would be required to effect a dramatic change in the trend of regular recruiting. This figure had been picked up from the Army Council discussion and it was, as Strachey admitted, only a guess. If £20 million were the price of progressively reducing conscription to a training period of only three to five months, it strengthened the case for reform for Strachey and Shinwell.
Strachey did accept that a reduced period of full-time training would mean lengthening the time between the mobilization of the TA and its disembarkation overseas. It would also mean that the reserves would be short of skilled tradesmen and officers. This was recognized as serious, but he believed that the difficulties (p. 256 ) could be ameliorated by specific increases in the pay of the tradesmen or by giving special inducements to civilian tradesmen. In spite of these problems Strachey considered that an all-regular army would mean a substantial improvement in the quality of the active regular divisions available at the beginning of war: ‘In other words the tendency would be to improve the force available at the very beginning of war but to postpone the arrival of efficient reinforcements for that initial force’—a view which had considerable political implications for the British contribution to West European defence.
The timing of Shinwell’s initiative gave it little chance of serious consideration. Even before he had approached the War Office and the Air Ministry, he had reported to the Defence Committee that he and the service ministers were gravely concerned at present trends in regular recruiting and re-engagements, and he undertook a series of enquiries (through inter-service working parties) into various measures designed to improve recruiting. These would investigate such factors as career and trade structures, living conditions, and training. The purpose of the report to the Defence Committee was not in fact to advertise the regular recruiting issue, but to ensure that ministers refrained from making premature statements that would encourage hopes of service pay increases.59 This caution arose from the fear of the Chancellor, Hugh Gaitskell, that any such public statement would damage the government’s wages policy.
The development that put paid to Shinwell’s efforts was the Korean war. This was not because additional troops were necessary. Initially the Chiefs of Staff were reluctant to send any British ground forces and when they did agree to do so, the commitment was only a token combat brigade, sent for purely political reasons. (None the less, when that did happen, they were hard put to raise the troops.) Initially the Chiefs of Staff did not believe that the North Korean attack on South Korea indicated an imminent Soviet attack on Western Europe. However, the heightened perception of the communist challenge (especially among ministers) did bring the existing inadequacies of the forces into sharp relief. The Chiefs of Staff were provided with an opportunity to press their case on a more receptive audience. In addition, the risk of (p. 257 ) a general war with the Soviet Union had increased, the service chiefs believed, and they warned the Cabinet that the Soviet Union ‘might engineer another act of aggression in the near future in Germany or in Persia and an increase in the period of National Service would yield the forces needed to meet any threat of this character’.60 Such acts of aggression would not necessarily involve all-out war. It was not until after the decision to extend National Service was taken that the full-scale Korean rearmament drive got under way and the government and the service chiefs began to take more seriously the prospect of a full-scale assault in Western Europe.
Extending National Service to two years with the colours would mean retaining 77,000 conscripts, of whom nearly 50,000 would be in the army. After strengthening various overseas garrisons this would allow for a strategic reserve comprising an infantry division, an armoured brigade, and an airborne regiment. It would, however, inevitably mean deferring entry into the TA, which would create the same sorts of problems as had arisen when conscription was last increased.
The RAF would retain 28,000 National Servicemen, enabling it to improve both the serviceability of its equipment and its ground functions, currently at only 50 per cent of their normal establishment, which was in ‘an unsatisfactory condition’. While this would help the RAF it could not solve the basic need for long-service troops. The navy, maintaining its token intake of conscripts, noted that it would not directly benefit by the extension.
In the minds of a number of Cabinet ministers (including Shinwell and Bevin) the rationale for the longer period of service was the reinforcement of the defences of Western Europe. By increasing the strength of the forces of occupation in Germany back to three divisions, Shinwell hoped to set an example which the other Brussels Pact signatories might follow. If that happened the resulting forces ‘would provide a useful deterrent against aggression’,61 even without the American commitment that ministers were now beginning to doubt, in the face of the Korean priority. It was also the case that if the British decision to extend conscription were co-ordinated with similar French, Belgian, and Dutch action, then it would be politically easier to effect (p. 258 ) in Britain. Indeed, when the Cabinet first discussed the question on 11 August they decided to defer their decision until the French, Dutch, Belgian, and Luxemburg governments had been approached.
However, Bevin’s preliminary soundings proved disappointing, as he reported to the Cabinet the following week.62 The governments in question had all dwelt on the internal political problems of extending conscription. In particular, the French (with elections impending) argued that any action on their part would depend upon further American or British aid. Bevin concluded from this that it was increasingly evident that Britain should turn to NATO rather than to the Western Union for effective co-operation in defence.
It was his view that the Cabinet should take the decision to extend National Service without waiting for further European responses, in the hope that the force of Britain’s example would lead the others in a similar direction. Shinwell concurred and held out the hope that at least the Dutch might be co-operative. There was, however, some feeling in Cabinet that unilateral action might make the Western Union countries even less willing to provide forces. As there would be more British troops available, more of these could be deployed in Western Europe, reducing the number of continental troops required. Unilateral action would also advertise the lack of cohesion and effective co-operation within the Western Union.
Bevin and Shinwell’s view prevailed nevertheless. It would be potentially more embarrassing for the government if the other countries were to refuse publicly. In any case the European aspect was but one part of the reason for the increase in the length of service. Accordingly the Cabinet gave its approval on 16 August. A week later this decision was communicated to the armed forces in a broadcast delivered by the Prime Minister. On 12 September 1950 the House of Commons was recalled to discuss the Korean situation. On conscription, opposition to the government came only from the relatively small number of MPs who had previously opposed the government’s policy on grounds of principle. National Service was now to be two years with the colours, which was the period of service that lasted until its abolition in 1957.
(p. 259 ) The Korean rearmament programme represented an unprecedented peacetime defence effort and was intended to cost £4,700 million over three years.63 Detailed analysis of the programme is beyond the scope of this study, but it is important to emphasize that the expansion of the defence budget involved a change in emphasis within the defence policy priorities between short- and long-term goals. Unlike previous changes in priorities, this was not at the expense of other objectives: indeed, as far as meeting peacetime foreign policy commitments was concerned, the opposite was the case. The extension of conscription provided the services with the extra resources they needed and when, for example, the government seriously contemplated military intervention at Abadan in 1951, manpower was not an obstacle. In addition, in January 1951 it was decided to recall up to 235,000 Z reservists (in the RAF known as Class G reserves) for fifteen days’ refresher training.64 The result was a further strengthening of Britain’s ability to react, but one which nevertheless fell short of real preparedness for war, which the Chiefs of Staff do not appear to have considered imminent.
As the Cold War developed, attitudes changed. Opposition to the government’s defence policy from within the Labour Party concentrated on its cost (and social implications) rather than its logic or its assumptions. Sentiment against conscription was still powerful, but public opposition on the issue had declined as the Cold War intensified from 1948. Abolishing conscription would have required bold and radical action to achieve a fundamental recasting of defence planning. With the rearmament programme under way, that was politically unthinkable for government and party alike.
(1) DO (49) 20th, 15 Nov. 1949, AIR 19/583.
(2) CM (49) 3, 17 Jan. 1949, CAB 128/15.
(3) JP (49) 45, 23 Sept. 1949, DEFE 6/8. For the development of British nuclear strategy see Ian Clark and Nicholas Wheeler The British Origins of Nuclear Strategy 1945–55 (Oxford University Press, 1989).
(4) DO (50) 20, 20 Mar. 1950, CAB 131/9.
(5) JP (50) 22, 10 Mar. 1950, DEFE 4/29.
(6) DO (49) 2nd, 10 Jan. 1949, CAB 131/8.
(7) COS (49) 168th, 14 Nov. 1949, DEFE 4/26.
(8) COS (50) 43rd, 16 Mar. 1950, DEFE 4/29.
(9) DO (49) 47, 21 Jun. 1949, CAB 131/7, first discussed by ministers on 5 Jul.1949, Gen 296/1st, CAB 130/53.
(10) The other members were: Air Vice-Marshal R. Ivelaw-Chapman, Rear-Admiral C. E. Lambe, and Brigadier J. H. N. Poett.
(11) Peter Hennessy, Whitehall (Fontana, 1990), 415.
(12) DO (49) 47, para. 24, 21 Jun. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(13) DO (49) 13, 2 Mar. 1949, CAB 131/7, discussed at DO (49) 7th, 9 Mar. 1949, CAB 131/8.
(14) On 30 Oct. the Sunday Times carried a report claiming that Harwood had reached agreement on the role of the services and concluded that conscription was essential.
(15) DO (49) 50, 22Jun. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(16) COS (47) 251, 2 Dec. 1947, PREM 8/659.
(17) DO (49) 50, 22 Jun. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(18) DO (50) 20, 20 Mar. 1950, CAB 131/9.
(20) DO (49) 50, 22Jun. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(21) Churchill to Martel, 21 Jun. 1949, Papers of Sir Giffard Martel (Imperial War Museum, London).
(22) Montgomery to Attlee, 14 Aug. 1950, PREM 8/1154.
(23) COS (48) 152, 8 Nov. 1948, PREM 8/1158.
(24) Montgomery to Attlee, 14 Aug. 1950, PREM 8/1154.
(25) DO (46) 27th, 16 Oct. 1946, CAB 131/1.
(26) Manchester Guardian, 23 Dec. 1948.
(27) DO (49) 50, 22 Jun. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(28) DO (49) 74, 21 Nov. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(29) DO (46) 28th, 17 Oct. 1946, CAB 131/1.
(30) Nicholson’s brief for Morrison, 18 Oct. 1949, CAB 124/131. On Morrison’s relationship with Nicholson, Attlee told Dalton that Morrison ‘reads out briefs in Cabinet without really understanding them’. Dalton’s view was that he ‘eats out of the hand of his twittering little bird watcher’: Diaries of Hugh Dalton (London School of Economics), 8 Sept. 1947.
(31) DO (49) 69, 3 Nov. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(32) DO (49) 70, 7 Nov. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(33) DO (49) 22nd, 25 Nov. 1949, CAB 131/8.
(34) Nicholson to Morrison, 10 Nov, 1949, CAB 124/131.
(35) Morrison to Alexander, 15 Nov. 1949, CAB 124/131.
(37) DO (49) 69, 3 Nov. 1949, CAB 131/7.
(38) DO (49) 19th, 19 Nov. 1949, CAB 131/8.
(39) CM (50) 53, 11 Aug. 1950, CAB 128/18.
(40) Morrison to Alexander, 15 Nov. 1949, CAB 124/131.
(41) Departmental Colonial Office Minute, Acheson to Steel, 28 May 1948, CO 537/4400.
(42) Creech Jones to Anderson, 15 Sept. 1948, CO 537/4400.
(43) Clifford to Sir Thomas Lloyd (Under Secretary of State, Colonies), 8 Dec. 1947, CO 537/4400.
(45) Departmental Colonial Office minute by Edmonds, 23 Jan. 1948, CO 537/4400.
(46) Clifford to Lloyd, 26 Apr. 1948, CO 537/4400.
(47) Liberal Party manifesto, No Easy Way: Britain’s Problems and the Liberal Answers (1950).
(48) Labour Party manifesto, Let Us Win Through Together (1950).
(49) Conservative Party manifesto, This is the Road (1949).
(50) AC/M (49) 5, 18 Nov. 1949, WO 163/63.
(51) COS (50) 77th, 17 May 1950, AIR 8/1588.
(52) Sir Maurice Dean to Sir James Barnes (Air Ministry) and Sir George Turner (War Office), 20 May 1950, AIR 8/1591.
(53) Sandford to Dean, 30 Jun. 1950, AIR 8/1591.
(54) Slessor (then at the Imperial Defence College) to Sir Hugh Saunders, 25 Aug. 1949, AIR 8/1591.
(55) Turner to Dean, 19 Jul. 1950, AIR 8/1591.
(56) Strachey to Shinwell, 20 Jul. 1950, AIR 8/1591.
(57) Turner to Dean, 19 Jul. 1950, AIR 8/1591.
(58) Strachey to Shin well, 20 Jul. 1950, AIR 8/1591.
(59) DO (50) 29, 21 Apr. 1950, CAB 131/9.
(60) CM (50) 53, 11 Aug. 1950, CAB 128/18.
(62) CM (50) 54, 16 Aug. 1950, CAB 128/18.
(64) CM (51) 8, 25 Jan. 1951, CAB 128/19.