Mr A. Eden, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered LONDON, 26 September 1939, 4.42 p.m.

Received 26 September 1939


1. During last few days War Cabinet have been considering whole problem of future requirements in air strength and nature of effort likely to be required. Conclusion reached and [1] problem is one of vital importance especially in the light of the success obtained by the German Air Force in helping to achieve rapid subjugation of Poland. It is now abundantly clear that overwhelming Air Force will be needed in order to counter German air strength and, in combination with other military measures and economic pressure, to bring ultimate victory.

2. With this in view War Cabinet have sanctioned immediate measures here directed to further expansion of aircraft production and training. Objective is to build up gradually and maintain in continuous operation a greatly enlarged Air Force. In view of the unfortunate fact that the wastage rate of the Air Force when engaged in continuous and heavy operations is exceedingly high, it is expected there would be required not less than twenty thousand pilots and thirty thousand personnel of air crews for maintenance of this enlarged Force. To provide these, it is estimated that about ninety elementary and advanced flying training schools, with some subsidiary air crew and ground schools, would be necessary.

3. In this respect we find ourselves under grave disability in that the training organization now required is more than twice the entire training capacity available in the United Kingdom, having regard to limited space, operational restrictions and vulnerability to air attack.

4. It seems to us that this is a problem in the solution of which overseas parts of the Empire may well be able to play a decisive part. If about one half of this vast training organization say fifty flying training schools (of which 25 would be for advanced training) with some subsidiary schools could be built up elsewhere than in the United Kingdom it would be, in our judgment, of inestimable value to the common cause. We have therefore been thinking over the lines on which such an effort might be realized and venture for consideration of your Government a scheme of which the following is outlined.

5. Schools for elementary training would be established in each Dominion according to its capacity. Whilst all Dominions enjoy equal immunity from risk of enemy interference Canada has special advantages in nearness to United Kingdom, greater potentiality for the manufacture of service type of aircraft and proximity to the vast resources of the United States of America. For this reason the conception of the scheme involves general agreement on the part of all Governments concerned that advanced training for trainees from elementary training schools should be centred in Canada. There would be a continuous flow of trained personnel from the elementary training schools at our disposal to theatres of operation. It would also be our intention that a number of those who have completed elementary training in the United Kingdom should receive their advanced training in Canada.

6. We appreciate that any such scheme of rationalized training must depend on adequate provision for training types and advanced service types of aircraft. It is our hope that the existing resources of the Dominions for production of trainers and their engines will be fully utilized and expanded to meet requirements of elementary schools as determined by the extent to which each Dominion may decide to participate in the general scheme of training. It would not be the intention to retard or interfere with the projects already embarked on for the Dominion production of service types. We are working out numbers and types of aircraft both training and advanced that we think would be required and we should be in a position to let you have particulars at an early date.

7. We should wish to do everything in our power, as for example by loan of personnel, to help in building up the organisation outlined above. 8. It is of course contemplated that the first call on Dominion personnel who had received their training in schools under the scheme would be for such Air Force Units of the Dominions as the several Dominion Governments might be prepared to provide and maintain.

9. If a scheme on the above lines is acceptable in principle to your Government we suggest as a first step joint discussions between experts. We think these discussions might most conveniently take place in Canada. We ourselves are ready at very short notice to send to Canada a mission of high standing specialty qualified for this particular purpose and we hope that it might be possible for it to discuss the questions involved with similar missions from other Governments concerned.

10. We hope that you will agree to explore the immense influence which the development and realization of such a great project as that outlined in this telegram may have upon the whole course of the war; it might even prove decisive. We trust therefore that this co-operative method of approach to the problem will appeal to your Government. The knowledge that a vast air potentiality was being built up in the Dominions where no German Air activity could interfere with its expansion might well have a psychological effect on Germans equal to that produced by the intervention of the United States in the last war with cumulative effect of its vast resources.

11. It would be most helpful if you could let me know at the earliest possible moment whether your Government approved of the suggested scheme in principle and whether they are agreeable to join the discussions in Canada in order that immediate arrangements may be made to that end. 12. I have conveyed the substance of the above scheme to the Prime Ministers of Canada [2] and New Zealand [3] also [4]


1 ?that.

2 W.L. Mackenzie King.

3 M.J. Savage.

4 The air training scheme was approved in principle by War Cabinet on 5 October 1939. See AA:A2673, vol. 1, 5 October 1939, Minute 13.


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