Sir Harry Batterbee, U.K. High Commissioner to New Zealand, to Sir Thomas Inskip, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Dispatch 23 (extract from copy) WELLINGTON, 26 April 1939


[The Pacific Defence Conference was held in Wellington, New Zealand, from 14 to 26 April 1939. The Australian delegation was led by Sir Ragnar Colvin (Chief of the Naval Staff), who also represented the Royal Navy; other members were Colonel V.A.H. Sturdee (Director of Staff Duties, Army Headquarters), Wing Commander G. Jones (Director of Recruiting, R.A.A.F.) and Captain E.C. Johnston (Controller-General of Civil Aviation). Colvin’s report on the Conference (on file AA: MP1049/9, 1846/4/101) is mainly concerned with defence and civil aviation matters beyond the scope of the present series and has not been published. The Conference did, however, give some attention to matters of strategic importance to Australia, as the following extract shows.]

7. It became evident that underlying all the strategical and other discussions were doubts not indeed of the intention but of the ability of Great Britain to despatch a fleet of capital ships to the East in time to prevent the fall of Singapore, and doubt of the security of Singapore itself before the arrival of the fleet. These doubts were clearly felt by the New Zealand Delegation and, though the Australian Delegation, being led by Vice-Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin, did not express the feeling, he assures me that the Commonwealth Government feel them as strongly or even more so. Holding such views, the New Zealand representatives were more sympathetic to measures calculated to increase their own domestic security than to those aiming at the general defence of the Empire. Moreover, they appeared to be inclined to measure their own effort by the Australian standard and to be unwilling to undertake commitments not expected of Australia.



[PRO: FO 371/22793]