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Ambiguity and DeterrenceBritish Nuclear Strategy 1945-1964$

John Baylis

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198280125

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198280125.001.0001

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(p.423) Appendix 9 Chiefs of Staff Committee/Joint Planning Staff

(p.423) Appendix 9 Chiefs of Staff Committee/Joint Planning Staff

Long Term Defence Programme

Ambiguity and Deterrence
Oxford University Press

DEFE 4/79

JP (55) Note 19 (Final)

4th October 1955


  1. 1. The aim of this paper is to indicate the interservice divergencies in strategic policy revealed in the three service programmes and to show the main implications involved as a result of these divergencies and the reductions called for in the Defence Note.

Strategic Policy

Royal Navy

  1. 2. Naval policy, the implementation of which is limited by the money allocated, is to support our peacetime interest abroad, to maintain in being those ships which would be required to operate together in limited war and to be ready to take our place beside other NATO navies in global war.


  1. 3. The army strategical concept is that it should be organised primarily for cold and limited war, but that the land forces assigned to NATO should not be materially reduced. The War Office consider that the maintenance of NATO forces on the continent is a key factor in preserving stability in Europe and hence in winning the cold war. However, they consider that in order to make financial ends meet reserved forces earmarked to NATO they must have the dual role of supporting limited wars elsewhere.

Royal Air Force

  1. 4. The Air Ministry has reshaped the Royal Air Force on the assumption that its primary task is to prevent war through the (p.424) deterrent. Moreover the Air Ministry believes that global war, should it break out, will be short but intense. To this end 2nd TAF and Coastal Command, being designed primarily for global war of more conventional concept, have been dramatically reduced. The present small Air Forces in the Middle East and Far East are retained for cold and limited war purposes. Furthermore, financial stringency has forced large reductions in Fighter Command.

Major Divergencies

  1. 5. Two fundamental divergencies emerge from a study of the strategical concepts on which proposed cuts in the three services have been based.

  2. 6. The first divergence is revealed by the fact that the Royal Air Force have based their cuts on the assumption that a global war would be short and decisive, whereas the Royal Navy and the Army assume a subsequent phase, in which some form of major fighting would continue.

  3. 7. The second point of conflict in policy is the differing attitude towards NATO of the Navy and the Army on one hand and the RAF on the other. All three services agree that NATO forces produce stability in Europe and hence assist in winning the cold war, but whereas the Navy and the Army consider the present size and readiness of their NATO contributions should be retained, the RAF consider British NATO contributions can be modified with strategic advantage and without political detriment.

  4. 8. From the above stem a number of subsidiary divergencies which are discussed below.

Inter-service Divergencies

Security of the United Kingdom

  1. 9. The cuts in Fighter Command mean that only a nominal defence can be achieved for the United Kingdom. Despite this the Royal Navy plan to commission the Reserve Fleet and the Army have plans to move land forces overseas after the outbreak of global war.

Maritime Strategy

  1. 10. The RAF proposals to reduce Coastal Command and halve the Maritime reconnaissance element in Malta appear to be in (p.425) conflict with the Admiralty plan to keep in the active fleet a considerable number of ships whose global war role would be primarily anti-submarine. This conflict may be more apparent than real owing to the naval requirement to have available in cold and limited war numerous small ships for general duties.

Land and Air Forces in Europe

  1. 11. Although Northern Army Group is to maintain its order of battle including four divisions, the Royal Air Force propose considerable reduction and change of composition in 2nd TAF. NAG will therefore have to rely more and more on the German Air Force for their air defence.

Strategic and Logistic Mobility

  1. 12. The reduction in the size of army garrisons abroad increases the likelihood of calls being made on the strategic reserve. The proposal to cut this reserve enhances the need for increased air transport to meet cold and limited war tasks.

  2. 13. In view of the reduced availability of war reserves and the reduction in administrative units in the army, it is essential to provide increased logistic facilities. This will entail a requirement for landing craft, however it is decided to maintain them, and for an increased number of freighter aircraft though all increases need not necessarily be military aircraft…

Effect on NATO

  1. 18. All services have been forced to propose cuts in forces allocated to NATO. In the case of the Royal Navy and the RAF the cuts were drastic. So far as the Army is concerned, there will be no reduction in the number of units stationed on the continent but these units will suffer substantial cuts in establishment which will reduce their effectiveness. The total result of these reductions on NATO will have serious political repercussions.

The Influence of the United Kingdom in the World

  1. 19. If the cuts suggested by the Minister are imposed this country can no longer simultaneously remain a world power, retain her position as the leader of the Commonwealth and keep faith with NATO.

  2. 20. The Air Ministry view is that if this country is to retain her stature as a world power she must have a nuclear bomber force of (p.426) sufficient size to act as a deterrent in its own right and to take a significant share in planning and executing global war operations. It is the Admiralty view, without denying the importance of airpower, that in peace and cold war the Navy represents the most readily available method, in visible and mobile form, of forwarding HMG’s foreign and colonial policy in all parts of the world. The Admiralty and War Office also consider that, so long as an effective deterrent is wielded by the USA, the limited UK resources are better employed in providing forces to meet her own ends in cold and limited wars by reducing the size of the bomber force.

  3. 21. We believe that the implications outlined in paragraphs 19 and 20 above could be avoided by a comparatively small increase in the Defence Vote which would lead to a disproportionately greater increase in our ability to remain a world power.

  4. 22. It is thought that any such increase should be divided between the Navy and the RAF. The RAF paper already shows what could be achieved by a vote of 600M in 1958–9. An increase in the Navy’s vote to 370M by that date would permit an active fleet capable of facing up to its world wide tasks and allow the foreign bases, which it is at present proposed to close, to remain open although possibly on a reduced scale.


  1. 23. Whatever is decided to be the correct strategic policy we consider it fundamental that our world position should not be impaired.