§ LORD CHATFIELD had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government, in view of the fact that the Fleet Air Arm is an integral part of the Royal Navy, and the operational control of the Coastal Command a responsibility of the Admiralty, what is the administrative chain which ensures that aircraft, both of the Fleet Air Arm and the Coastal Command, are designed and constructed to meet the requirements of their users; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am moving the Motion which stands in my name to-day because of the situation in which the problem of the Fleet Air Arm was left when it was last debated in your Lordships' House on January 27, on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord 187 Winster. I feel that art impression may have been left on your Lordships' minds that, if there was fault to be found with naval aircraft at the beginning of this war, it was due to past Boards of Admiralty, and to lack of appreciation by senior naval officers of the full impact of the air on sea warfare. Your Lordships may also have been somewhat disturbed by certain charges and criticisms which were made by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, against the Admiralty and the Navy. If we are to judge whether the Admiralty of the past and the Navy are responsible for any defects that existed in our naval aircraft when war started, then we must have more exact information of what were the authorized responsibilities of the Admiralty and the Navy in design and production of aircraft both before 1940 and after 1940. That is why I wish to obtain from His Majesty's Government to-day some further information about the system of planning for the design and construction of aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm and Coastal Command, not only now but in the past.
§ I am aware that in the last debate the noble Lord, Lord Winster, in a very able and constructive speech, informed the House of the general broad principles on which the production and design of aircraft were conducted before 1940; and the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, also informed your Lordships that it was in 1940 that the Cabinet, for the first time, gave a new charter for the production of naval aircraft, and the Admiralty were able to deal direct with the Aircraft Ministry. In addition, on that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, informed your Lordships that a high Admiralty officer now had his place on the Aircraft Supply Board. But, although those new broad principles are a very great advance, we still shall not obtain satisfactory production for naval work unless the airman, the skilled user, the pilot, the observer and others play their full part in design and production.
§ The system of the skilled user playing his full part in production was first started for weapons by the Admiralty after the last war. It supplanted a system in which the producer largely designed and constructed aircraft according to the engineering possibilities of the 188 day, on the system of going one better. That system has the great disadvantage that the things which are produced are soon shown to have defects which might have been prevented if the experience of those who are going to use them had been applied to the problem. When that experience is lacking, it means that new models have to be produced more rapidly because defects are found by the user which cannot be put right in the existing model. The Admiralty's idea was that there should be a productive team—the skilled user, the maintenance side, the inspection side, the designer and the producer. If you do not have a system of that all-embracing nature, not only to lay down your early specifications, but also to watch over production in its various stages, you will very likely fail to produce what the skilled user wants.
§ You must balance in the early days of production the user's aspect with that of the producer, and with the maintenance aspect as well. As the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, pointed out in his speech on the last occasion, it is not enough to say that the user is to lay down his requirements and that the producer is to meet them as well as he can. That fails, because the producer cannot understand the real problem of the naval airman at sea, and for the sake of constructive simplicity he may make some change in the design which may have considerable reactions on the value of the aircraft for meeting the original requirements. There must be some one watching who is able to say: "No, do not do that; that will spoil the aircraft." That is the system which we adopt in my Service. The skilled user, even if he is called in, will not be able to make himself of full value unless he has some training and understands something of the technique of production and the art of design. That is especially true with naval aircraft, because they are far more exigent in their requirements than those which are based on land. I want to know whether naval airmen, users of aircraft, have acquired some aero-dynamical knowledge as well as aeronautical knowledge to enable them to understand aircraft drawings and criticize them from the standpoint of use and maintenance, as the naval officer can criticize the designs of his ship, the gun mountings and the equipment, and can say that they are produced to meet 189 exactly his requirements. Again, the skilled user ought to have touch with industry, so that he can know how much it is reasonable to expect from the industry at the present time, so that he is not continually, as it were, asking for the moon. I spent long years in the service of the State studying this general problem, and I am speaking from experience of both using and controlling the manufacture of weapons.
§ I ask a similar question from the point of view of the Coastal aircraft. It is a somewhat different problem because the aircraft of Coastal Command are part of the Royal Air Force, and it is the Royal Air Force who are the users of these aircraft. But there is another side to it, because they are operationally controlled by the Naval Staff, and so there is a Naval Staff requirement on broad lines to make quite sure that those aircraft are produced to carry out the particular duty which is going to be assigned to them by the Naval Staff, acting through the Coastal Command. For instance, take the aircraft which are produced for Coastal Command in the United States. Do we have representatives of those who are going to fly and use and fight in those aircraft over in the United States watching the designs, advising on the specifications, and checking the producer when he tends to do something which will not meet their needs? If you do not do that the aircraft will come over here, they will be used by Coastal Command and the Naval Staff, and if defects are found in them then they cannot be remedied so easily, because necessarily you have not got the proper people over here, nor have you got the manufacturing possibilities which existed in Amerca when that particular aircraft which requires modification was built. I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will give me some information on those two important points.
§ I hope the Government spokesman also in answering to-day will be able not only to throw further light on the past story of production, but also to assure the House that the existing organization is one that will ensure that new types of aircraft under construction for the Fleet Air Arm and Coastal Command will not fail through inadequate use being made of user experience and maintenance experience. I believe that any failure in the past has been partly due 190 to the sailor having no voice in production, and to a failure fully to utilize the skilled user knowledge, because I am quite sure that any failing there may have been in our aircraft was not due to the reasons asserted by my noble and gallant friend Lord Trenchard. I must correct the information that he gave your Lordships in the last debate, when he made a number of rather vague, incorrect, and to my mind improper, charges in his attack on the Admiralty and the Royal Navy. I do not ask the noble Lord who is going to reply to deal with that attack; I will do that myself with as much restraint as I am capable of. But I will try and give your Lordships a more balanced view than you were given before.
§ You must remember that it is always very easy to attack a Fighting Service Department. The political figures move so rapidly across the Ministerial stage, to-day and always, that they very seldom know anything about the history of their own Departments, and the technical officers who do know are not allowed to reply. It is sometimes unsatisfactory to stand up for your predecessors. It is so much easier to allow charges against them to stand when perhaps you also have to defend your own skin from blame. I am very loath to enter into controversy—I am not a particularly controversial person—and I particularly dislike having to enter into a controversy raised by my noble and gallant friend Lord Trenchard. I have always striven for Service unity, and I have remained silent when hard things have been said about my own Service and its administration. But if you remain silent you are apt to be misunderstood, and silence is sometimes thought to give consent. That is why I am compelled to speak to-day, to reply to the noble and gallant Viscount, and to defend my Service against what was called in The Times, in reporting the debate, "Lord Trenchard's attack."
His criticisms were that if naval aircraft were badly designed, past Admiralties were to blame because they formulated their requirements not from the airman's but from the sailor's point of view. He said:
The Admiralty could not be persuaded that the real fighting would take place in the air and not on the sea.
That seems to me to be a very extra-
ordinary statement to be made by the senior officer of one great Service about another. Certainly the fighting that the Navy does is unobserved, but has there been no real fighting at sea in this war? Was there no real fighting when the Navy brought the Army over from Dunkirk to England, or when we evacuated our troops and airmen and their supplies from Crete? Has there been no real fighting in the Mediterranean or in the Atlantic over the convoys, or at Narvik or on the Murmansk route to Russia? I must say I feel that that statement should not have been made. It is to say the least, if it were true, an unchivalrous statement for the principal officer of one great Service to make about another. The noble and gallant Viscount also stated that the only solution of all the Fleet Air Arm problems was for the Fleet Air Arm to be taken over again by the Air Ministry; that the responsibility for designing Fleet Air Arm Aircraft in 1937 became an Admiralty affair—that is incorrect—and that the Navy is not air-minded and did not believe in torpedo bombers.
§ What good the noble Viscount thought he was doing to the war effort and to Service comradeship by making such a bitterly controversial speech I cannot conceive. To my mind it is highly regrettable, when the Services are pulling together so well. How much more pleasant it was to hear a broadcast on Saturday night by a young airman expressing his appreciation of all that the Navy had done in the Mediterranean to help our fighting on land—what he called the "eternal vigilance of the Royal Navy." Moreover, most of the statements made by the noble Viscount in that debate were not true. They must be shown to be untrue, in justice to those who are not here to defend themselves. Let me first deal with the statement that the sailor does not understand the air or its importance and, therefore, the Fleet Air Arm should be returned to the Air Ministry. I served for 12½ years on the Board of Admiralty, but I am not defending myself because I was at sea when the Royal Naval Air Service was torn away from the Navy and also when the Balfour Committee, in 1923, confirmed that decision which was to prove so fatal to naval air development. Nor was I at the Admiralty when the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, arbitrated on 192 some of the growing Fleet Air Arm difficulties in 1928.
I should like your Lordships to allow me to read a short but remarkable statement made by the noble Marquess in his Arbitration Report. He expressed the conviction that, to develop the Naval Air Service to its full scope during the years of freedom from a great war, it had to be part of the Royal Air Force, and he offered the opinion that
in these early years of the development of the Fleet Air Arm the Air Service must be the teachers and the Navy the taught so that the air experience and skill of the Royal Air Force would drive forward progress in air fighting under sea conditions.
He then stated that
when the condition to which I have referred has reached a point of comparative stability, it is of course possible that the first view (Fleet Air Arm to be considered part of the equipment of the Fleet) will gradually replace the second (Fleet Air Arm to be in spirit as well as in letter a part of the R.A.F.) and that ultimately the Fleet Air Arm may be cut loose from the remainder of the Air Service and become, in all respects, a special branch of the Fleet like any other.
I would particularly draw attention to two points—the Air Service must be the teachers and the Navy the taught, and the Fleet Air Arm should be in the spirit as well as in the letter part of the Royal Air Force.
§ It might appear to your Lordships that those being the conditions under which the Navy laboured for nearly two decades, if it were true, as the noble Viscount has stated, that at the end of it all the sailors were so ignorant of air matters, there must surely have been something radically wrong with the teaching. As a matter of fact the statement by the noble Viscount is not a true one. The Navy has always been air-minded. Only a person entirely ignorant of sea affairs in these days would class the senior officers of the Navy in a separate category of air merit from the junior officers. It is indeed mischievous to try to do so. At sea, alone among the Fighting Services, the senior officers and junior officers fight together in the front line. As they fight together so they also train together. Naval officers at the Admiralty return to sea at frequent intervals to take command of fleets and squadrons. The minds of naval officers, at the Admiralty and at sea, are thoroughly attuned, not separate. Why indeed should the Navy ever have ceased to be air-minded? Before the last war 193 it invented and developed its own Air Service brilliantly, as the noble and gallant Viscount admitted in his speech. During that war the Navy invented the aircraft carrier, and they started to fly aircraft from their ships, which was the beginning, the initiation of a new naval conception; that is to say, aircraft to work with the Fleet and from our ships all over the world, wherever the Navy might be wanted. If anything could have disheartened this great naval plan, it would have been the tearing of the Fleet Air Arm away from its parents and handing it, so young and yet so keen, over to others to rule it.
§ In reality, of course, the noble Viscount's repeated statement that the Navy was not, and is not, air-minded, is a mere pose invented by him in order to humbug the politicians so that they should commit the crime that they committed after the last war and that they should continue to-day. When I went to the Admiralty in 1933, after having been five and a half years at sea in command of our Fleets and our Fleet Air Arm, so impressed was I with the hopelessness of trying to make the Fleet Air Arm efficient under the existing system, that I vowed I would not rest until I had freed it. It took me three years. It was well over two years before I could even get an inquiry into the problem, after thirteen years of effort by the Royal Navy to make the system work assisted by the young officers of the Royal Air Force. Yet within a few weeks of the inquiry eventually starting—it was only brought into action because I twice had to offer my resignation—the judicial mind of Sir Thomas Inskip was brought to bear on the problem and he gave the Fleet Air Arm its freedom. I was greatly assisted in that battle by two members of your Lordships' House—one my noble and gallant friend Lord Keyes, then in another place, and the other the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, who, through his Press, espoused our cause. We were grateful to them, but the main battle was fought in Whitehall, and in Whitehall it was won. The Fleet Air Arm will never return to its old masters—let my noble and gallant friend fully realize that—who brought it into such dire straits.
§ Having delivered that broadside, let me say that I failed to win the whole campaign. Coastal Command remained 194 with the Air Ministry. If we had refused adjudication, another year's delay would have taken place, for the inquiry would have been continued and the decision to give the Fleet Air Arm back would have been withdrawn. I could not afford to wait. War was on the horizon, and we had neither pilots, nor observers, nor proper aircraft. Nor had we got any modern aircraft carriers. There was a long row to hoe before even the Fleet Air Arm could be brought out of the condition that it was in. It must be understood that under this great act of restoration the responsibility for the construction of naval aircraft remained with the Air Ministry, where it had been for fourteen years. It is quite true that the Naval Staff suggested the naval requirements of new aircraft. In so doing they represented, not what my noble and gallant friend would call some obsolete senior officers at the Admiralty, but the experienced opinion of the pilots and the observers in the aircraft carriers, both Royal Air Force and naval personnel, and all the most excellent Wing Commanders who were in charge of them.
§ When they had agreed in discussion with the Air Staff on a feasible requirements problem to set the designers, the Air Staff made out the specifications and called for a design from some firm selected by themselves. It might be a good firm or it might be a bad firm, and the result depended on that because, as your Lordships have been reminded, the Air Ministry have no design department of their own as the Admiralty have for ships. From the moment that the design was called for from some firm or other by the Air Staff, the naval airmen and seamen of the Admiralty, the skilled users, had no more say in the matter. Lacking aero-dynamical experience or knowledge and not being allowed representation on the Air Ministry supply side by which they might have obtained it, they had to accept whatever machine ultimately emerged. The Naval Staff in the past were also excluded from knowledge of the other air production that was proceeding parallel with their own ewe lamb, so they could not judge the possibilities of the day as regards aircraft production and engineering skill. They could not gauge the skill of the firm. The naval user was divorced from production and design. I sometimes wonder whether similar mal- 195 practice in this war has not led to many mistakes with some other weapons in the field of production, and perhaps it is not surprising that the Fleet Air Arm, unnaturally married, should not have produced a very famous offspring.
§ I must not keep your Lordships much longer. Let me reply briefly to Lord Trenchard's attack that the Navy scoffed at torpedo aircraft. That is what has been called in another place a "terminological inexactitude." As the noble Lord, Lord Winster, said, the Navy led the world in torpedo bombing. It was due to our sea exercises and to the inspiration of naval and naval air officers of all ranks before the war that Taranto, Matapan, and the laming of the "Bismarck" were made possible. Rarely did we anchor the Fleet in a suitable harbour without the Commander-in-Chief having already staged an immediate attack by torpedo bombers of the aircraft of the Fleet. The danger of the torpedo air weapon is our main thought in tactics. My own five and and half years at sea in peace were largely occupied in that particular tactical problem which was our main anxiety. After all, if the sailor is not air-minded why did he fight so hard for the Fleet Air Arm, and why, as soon as he was freed from the London Naval Treaty and the Washington Treaty, did he immediately lay down five modern aircraft carriers, the only ones that we have to-day? Even the building of the "Ark Royal" was opposed by the Air Ministry. The noble Viscount's statement that we scoffed at torpedo aircraft is a travesty of the facts which are well known even to the public.
§ I leave this controversy. I have not hitherto spoken of it here. It is only the noble Viscount's repeated and intemperate attacks on the Navy that have made me speak to-day. He seems unable to refrain from throwing monkey wrenches into the delicate machinery of inter-Service comradeship which is so important both to-day and in peace. It is not independence, my Lords, to-day that we want in the Services; what we want is interdependence. It is a great mistake to think too much of your own Service alone. There are not three Services to-day, but one. That is the spirit of the watchword of the moment among those who are fighting at sea, in the air and on the land. I 196 do beseech the noble Viscount to stop his attacks on the Admiralty and on the Navy. We admire so much all that he has done in the past, but it is wholly wrong for him to try and keep up this spirit of inter-Service rivalry. I think it is unpatriotic, if I may say so, and mischievous and unfair to those who are fighting. We also all share with him his admiration for the wonderful Service to which he belongs and for which he and others have done so much, but in praising your own Service it is neither necessary nor right to do so by decrying the value of the other two, as he has recently done both orally and by pen.
§ In a recent article—it is really a notorious article to-day—in a much read newspaper, attacking the Navy he tells his countrymen that it is out of date and merely an extra worry to the Royal Air Force to protect. He advised the Royal Air Force taking over the Navy's responsibilities in future. Is that a wise or chivalrous thing to say at this moment? Is it pleasant for an article of that kind which was headed "Air power not sea power the decisive factor" to be reprinted and hundreds of copies to be circulated in the messes to young officers and to offices where perhaps sailors and airmen are working together? Is that really a wise thing to happen? The noble Viscount seems to envisage one thing only, war in the air alone. We were told the same story in the thirties. If any country is so foolish as to act in such a narrow-minded manner it will be defeated by a nation that has the wisdom and the power to fight in all three elements—land, sea and air, with their various advantages.
§ It is the small battle squadron at Scapa Flow under Sir John Tovey that, unseen and unadvertised, guards our merchant ships to-day from a far greater danger than the U-boat. I would take my noble friend Lord Winster to task in regard to one thing he said—though I agree with 95 per cent. of his speech—namely, that Hitler has decided to win this war on the sea not by battleships but by U-boats. We must remember that Hitler has no option, because the U-boat is his only sea weapon. If it were not for our battle squadron, small as it is—and I would particularly draw attention to this—watching day by day, night after night off the coasts of Norway; if the German battle cruisers, pocket battleships, eight-inch cruisers 197 there in no small numbers could get out on to our Atlantic trade routes to-morrow, the war would end in six months. Whatever we could do, nothing could save us. What has saved us is the small fleet at Scapa Flow. Let us bear that in mind and not laugh at them and say they are no use, as the noble Viscount has done and has told his countrymen. He has advised his countrymen that the whole control of anti-submarine warfare should be taken over by the Royal Air Force. I hope the noble Viscount, if he sneaks this afternoon, will explain to the House how the Royal Air Force, great and skilful and gallant as it is, could conduct convoys to Russia. How could the convoys to Russia be brought, as he said, under the care of land-based aircraft working from this country?
§ I should like to put to the noble Viscount the same question which he put to the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. He said "Will you leave alone a Second Front?" I ask him with all earnestness and sincerity "Will you leave the Navy alone?" It is doing its best. It does not want criticism which is only worrying their relatives. There are two things to consider, seamanship and airmanship. The seaman alone will master the two and he is doing so with skill and with sacrifice. He realizes his modern difficulties in coping with land-based air attacks, but the sailor and his ships will adapt themselves to the needs of the future. They must do so if we are to exist. They will go more and more as it were into the air over the sea. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Templemore, in his reply for the Government, will be able to reassure your Lordships that the past difficulties of the Navy in getting aircraft of the very best kind have been overcome and that hampering causes have been removed. I beg to move for Papers.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords, it is a very admirable practice in war to carry the war into the enemy's camp, and I have been conscious of the fact that the Navy have been attacking the air for the last twenty-four years. We had some grand tussles in another place on this matter and I very much regret that my old friend and enemy on this subject, Earl Howe, is not here to-day. However, I find in your Lordships' House a very formidable array of people against us, all representing the Admiralty—Alexander's Ragtime Band, some of them with the 198 most windy instruments. Take the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who offers not only his advice on the Navy but also helpful articles on the Army. Then we have my noble friend Lord Winster who, when he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, no doubt thought all was well with the Admiralty; but the moment he left somehow grace fell from the Government and the Admiralty and ever since things have been wrong. I have had a good deal of political experience, but I never realized before what enormous influence a Parliamentary Private Secretary had upon a Minister.
We have to face here no fewer than three Admirals of the Fleet. There is the noble Earl, Lord Cork, the red Admiral of the blue, who lives up to his name by bobbing up on every subject. I must say I like his contributions to debate because he is a fine old buccaneer. He wants, like most sailors, to take charge of the Air Force and take it under his wing. I have some sympathy with my old friend, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Keyes. He said the other day what a different thing Coastal Command would have been if it had been under the Admiralty. It practically would not have existed under the Admiralty, but I say with all sincerity that if it had been in charge of my noble friend Lord Keyes it would have been a very fine show because he is an exceptional Admiral, if I may say se. Lastly we come to the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, who of course is known throughout the world as a very gallant sailor, an amazing captain, I understand, of a great battleship. But he has not had experience of the House of Commons and he comes to your Lordships' House treating it rather like a quarter-deck and lectures us on this and lectures us on that. I cannot see that he has ever been right on anything, and yet he comes here to tell us what should have been done and all about the future. I cannot look upon this noble Lord as a very good prophet. I rank him with "Lyndoe," nobody less.
I have no doubt that attacks made against my noble friend Viscount Trenchard will be replied to very adequately, but I want to say something about the real subject of the debate, the Fleet Air Arm. You will remember the plea for the user to be brought into the design at an earlier stage. I cannot imagine anything wiser than that. The Admiralty have always been behindhand on the tech- 199 nical side of aeronautics in relation to manufacture. That side of the Admiralty wants strengthening and bringing up to date. Anything which goes to increase technical knowledge combined with user knowledge must be to the good of the Fleet Air Arm. We were told the other day that Fleet Air Arm machines were inferior. The noble Earl, Lord Cork, answered me in the newspaper the other day saying they were inferior to what they ought to be.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
Inferior to what they might be. But it must be remembered that they were machines primarily designed to fight machines coming from their opponents' Fleet Air Arms, in other words, they were sea-borne aircraft. That was why the sailors always wanted to have a good two-seater fighter and that was quite reasonable. It was what they thought would happen. We in the Air Force never produced a good two-seater fighter. The best was the Beau-fighter, which was nothing very remarkable and could always be knocked out by a single-seater fighter. It was bad luck that they never met sea-borne aircraft and always had to fight shore-based aircraft. Shore-based aircraft must always be better than sea-borne aircraft. You cannot within the limits of a ship have the same type of machine as you can based on shore. That has been the tragedy of the Fleet Air Arm, but I do think that gratitude should be shown for the fact that two fighter machines belonging to the Air Force have been converted for use upon aircraft carriers. I refer to the Sea Hurricane and the Seafire.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
This has given a big measure of protection. A move could have been made in this direction earlier if it had been so desired by the Admiralty. When you have these machines, these Seafires, on your aircraft carriers you have the best of all fighting aircraft—I am not dealing with shore-based aircraft—of any nation in the world. It is certainly better than what the Japanese have got, or the Americans.
I noticed a trend of thought in Lord Chatfield's speech, interesting as it was, 200 as to Coastal Command. He said that he would like to have seen the Admiralty coming in early to alter design. We must, I believe, be a little careful here. It is true that upon many points they would have been of great help. But Coastal Command is a very curious entity. It is primarily a concern of the Admiralty. It is true that they give directions such as "Go and look after that convoy," or "There is something which needs your attention in the Channel." But actually in the operations which it carries out, Coastal Command is a microcosm of the whole Air Force. It has its bombers arid its fighters, and, as I say, it is, so to speak, a small Air Force on its own. We must be careful that we do not think of its work really as naval operations. If you are going to bomb something, it does not really matter what is below so long as you bomb it, whether it be ships or submarines or some other enemy target. It is ridiculous to say that if you bomb soldiers you must be soldiers. To carry that argument to its logical conclusion you might say that you must be a Parisian in order to bomb Paris. The thing is to bomb accurately, and that is the airman's job.
Then we come to the question of fighters. In many actions Coastal Command is asked to provide fighter cover. When you are fighting the enemy aircraft it does not really interest you very much whether you are over the sea or over the ground. The fighting is the same. So that it is also a unit which must be able to be swung about to where the greatest need is. It may be that the resources of the Air Force from every direction must one day be swung to help the Navy to look after the submarine menace. Then there may be a time when it must be swung over to assist in carrying out some operation like that which the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, asked for to-day, or to carry out some other of its various functions. But we must be careful of this. Everyone wants their own bit of Air Force. The Navy like to have their bit; they have pleaded vigorously and often for it. The Army, of course, would like their bit too, and now we hear that certain coast towns of England would like a few fighters to look after them. Every case of this kind, if you look at it by itself, appears to be absolutely cast-iron perfect. But it destroys the whole idea of a grand 201 air offensive if you earmark and build machines only useful for one purpose and no other. I have fallen into this trap myself. In the early part of this war I advocated a special type of machine for the Army. I believe that I was wrong—I confess it. I was wrong for this reason; I had not then envisaged such complete co-operation as we got on the Libyan Front. There you saw the whole Air Force rallying round its sister Services and putting in 100 per cent. co-operation. It was a great show. But remember that all these machines can be used for any other purpose at any moment.
Now let us have a word about the long-range bomber. It is one of the cardinal elements in Coastal Command to-day. Does Lord Chatfield think that that would have been ordered five years ago by the Admiralty? It was five years ago when it was ordered by the General Staff of the Air Ministry. I opposed it. I did not do so on technical grounds, but because I did not think that we had the time to produce it. Five years to get a machine lake that into production! I thought we might encounter such troubles that we should find we could never get it through. But to-day it is coming through in large quantities. Is that no help to the Coastal Command? Is this machine with its huge range over the Atlantic and the other seas which wash our coasts not a valuable addition to our Forces? I thank the Air Force Staff very much for their imagination, and for sticking to their guns in spite of the criticism of myself and others.
I have spoken about this division of the Air Force. Let us be careful about it What are we trying really to do? First of all, of course, we are trying to win the war, and to keep the seas free. We are really not interested as a nation, as to the way in which we keep the seas free. If it is shown that we can keep them free better by means of the air than the Navy, is there any reason why we cannot do it in this new way? Because Lord Trenchard gets up here and puts new ideas into our heads, should that automatically be looked upon as a disgraceful contribution to human thought? I confess that I cannot follow that argument at all. Our grandfathers said: "We are an island, and provided we have a gallant and completely equipped Navy we can sleep soundly in our beds." That was the Blue Water School. Well that 202 has not proved to be of much good when you operate in three dimensions. It is a Grey Sky School that we need to-day. And we have need to remember that some of these treasured things which the Navy have so much at heart, such as the battleship, are passing away. To-day I should think that, except in areas where you cannot operate shore-based aircraft, the battleship is of very little use. There are still, of course, those areas where you cannot bring shore-based aircraft into operation. Then there are people so keen on the battleship that they say: "Oh, she is fine, and you must have air cover, you must have air fighters and bombers to accompany her." I ask you, when you have provided all that what is it that die battleship can do that the aircraft, which are protecting it, cannot do themselves?
These are serious problems which we have to consider. But in this particular very big problem let us concentrate entirely on what can be done best by the best technical equipment, whether at the expense of one Service or at the expense of another. I pay, and I think everybody pays, sincere tribute of admiration to me Navy for the terrible day and night dirty work which they are carrying out. Nobody who is sincere could withhold that tribute. But the Air Arm to-day wants to help as much as possible, that is 100 per cent. the whole time. I say render unto the Navy what is of the sea and unto the Air Force what is of the air.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I hope that the Government welcome as much as I do another voice raised in your Lordships' House in defence of their policy—because this is the Government's policy. I feel that you will think that I have taken part in far too many debates of this kind. I have looked through the official records, and I cannot see that in the last two years or more I have put down a single Motion such as those which have been put down by noble Lords who are Admirals. I have replied to every one of them up till now, but to-day we have just had a great speech, which has dealt with the subject faithfully and truly, by the noble Lord opposite. To-day we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the formation of the great Red Army. That Red Army saved Russia. In a few weeks we are going to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, 203 which, with its Coastal and Bomber and Fighter Commands, saved Britain. I hope that the celebrations will be as nation-wide. I do not intend to make a speech this afternoon. You will have heard my voice time and time again in answer to the enormous number of Motions and criticisms which have been made here, and I shall not weary your Lordships again.
The speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, has been controverted conclusively by me, in my opinion, many times, and it would be wearisome repetition if I were to answer it again. I propose to read, however, a letter written by one of the greatest Admirals of modern times—probably the greatest Admiral of the century. He wrote it in 1919, after the last war, and headed it: "The Future of War—A Swarm of Aircraft." He wrote:By land and sea the approaching prodigious aircraft development knocks out the present Fleet, makes invasion practicable, cancels our country being an island and transforms the atmosphere into the battleground of the future. I say to the Prime Minister: there is only one thing to do to the ostriches who are spending these vast millions, which no man can number, on what is as useful for the next war as bows and arrows—sack the lot.He added a postscript to that letter, and the postscript was this:As the locusts swarm over Egypt, so will the aircraft swarm in the heavens, carrying, some of them, inconceivable cargoes of men and bombs, some fast, some slow. Some will act like battle-cruisers, others as destroyers, all cheap and—this is the gist of it—requiring only a few men as the crew. No one's imagination can as yet depict it all. If I essayed it now, I should be called a lunatic. I gently forecast it in January, 1915, and more vividly on July 11, 1918. We have the star guiding us, if only we would follow it. 'Time and ocean and our fostering star, in high cabal have made us what we are.' On Friday last the presiding genius at the Marine Engineers said that the day of oil fuel and the oil engine had arrived. In 1885 I was called an oil maniac. Nunc dimittis."That letter was signed by Lord Fisher in 1919. That is all I have to say, except how much I agree with him!
§ LORD KEYES
My Lords, I welcome Lord Chatfield's Motion, because if the noble Lord who is to reply to it to-day can give us a frank answer it will clear the air and dispose of two of the many fallacies which the noble and gallant Viscount, 204 Lord Trenchard, nurses. From my experience of debate in another place, I know how difficult it is to get a frank answer from a Minister where another Ministry is concerned. Whatever the Minister may think about the shortcomings and the direction of that other Ministry, he will never mention them in public; he cannot possibly reflect on his colleague.
When air matters were debated in your Lordships' House on the last occasion, my noble friend Lord Bennett said that it was not a good thing to refer to the past unless you could learn something from it and be guided by it. The whole root of the evil from which the Royal Naval Air Service is suffering lies in the past, and it is only by getting at the root of the evil that we can cure it and eradicate it. In view of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, in your Lordships' House on January 27, and the articles and letters which he has published in the Press, I propose to tell your Lordships exactly why not only the Fleet Air Arm but also the Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force were so dangerously ill-equipped when war broke out. I do not think that the noble Viscount can take exception to my being frank, although I do not contemplate being quite so frank as my noble and gallant friend Lord Chatfield.
Within an hour of my entering your Lordships' House, the noble Viscount with great deliberation read out what was obviously a prepared speech, in which he told us that he would have liked to move an Amendment to Lord Winster's Motion, to the effect that the best way of making certain that the Fleet Air Arm was properly equipped was for it to be taken over by the Royal Air Force. The noble Viscount knows very well the part which I played in helping to recover the Fleet Air Arm for the Navy in 1937 and the further efforts that I made to hasten the transfer when war was upon us. It was held up by the Air Ministry for nearly two years, until the very brink of war. I think that the noble Viscount's speech was, in the circumstances, a very provocative challenge. It took me completely by surprise and at a great disadvantage, since I had to make a maiden speech without any preparation and on the spur of the moment; but obviously I could not let that challenge pass.
Before I go any further, I should like to place on record my unbounded 205 admiration for all our young men who fly, whether they wear dark blue, light blue or the uniform of one of our valiant Allies who have taken their place in the air alongside us. I have a great admiration for the ground staffs who service the craft so splendidly, and for the Staff work which mounts these gigantic raids. But the Air Ministry seems to be infected by a germ which was introduced by the noble Viscount during the ten years in which he held sway there, to the exclusion of more broad-minded ideas. It is a most pernicious germ; it is like that of scarlet fever, which I believe can emerge out of the pages of a book in which its original patron has browsed. It seems to affect everyone who comes within the portals of the Air Ministry. This is no reflection on the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, for whom I have a profound respect and admiration, or on his young sailor brother, Rear-Admiral Portal, who is also a brilliant flyer. It is a good omen, I think, that the Chief of the Air Staff's sailor brother should now at long last be in a position at the Admiralty to see that the Navy is properly equipped in the air.
I very much hoped that I should be First Sea Lord in order to play a part in re-establishing the Royal Naval Air Force. I looked out for young officers who were likely to be of assistance when the Naval Air Service was re-formed. I remember when I was Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean I gave Admiral Portal the earliest possible promotion with that in view. Lord Beatty intended me to be First Sea Lord; he meant to hand the office over to me, but the two next First Lords did not consider that I would be amenable to political requirements. I think your Lordships might probably think the same. At any rate I do believe that if I had become First Sea Lord after Lord Beatty the London Naval Treaty would never have been ratified, and the Navy would have had its own Air Service thirteen or fourteen years ago. I have been trying for the last twenty-five years to recover for the Navy complete control over the development, equipment and training of its Naval Air Service, which was ruthlessly torn from it on All Fools' Day (which the noble and gallant Viscount means to celebrate), 1918. It has been withheld from it ever since, mainly with the help of much political wirepulling and 206 ceaseless propaganda on the part of the noble and gallant Viscount.
I should not be a member of this House to-day if I had ever hesitated to attack the enemy, and I do regard as enemies to the safety and welfare of the country all those who have deprived the Army and the Navy of their ability to become thoroughly air-minded and to possess, as integral parts of their Services, all the air power they need to fulfil their great responsibilities. If the country can afford a great independent strategic weapon, such as my noble friend Lord Brabazon suggests, well and good: its functions are, no doubt, essential for the conduct of war. But in divorcing the Army and Navy from the control of a weapon that is essentially part of their equipment for modern war, they have put them at a great disadvantage compared with every other modern Army and Navy, who have been able to develop their naval and military aviation to a much higher degree than has been done by the Air Ministry, dominated as it has been for many years by the noble and gallant Viscount's obsession that wars can be won by bombing alone, that Armies and Navies are almost redundant, and only useful—we have heard it again to-day—to occupy the territory of the enemy or to carry supplies overseas under the protection of the Air Force, and therefore to be subordinate to the Royal Air Force. I never expected to hear that again, but he repeated again to-day what he actually suggested on January 27 and has said in many articles in the Press. In fact, the noble and gallant Viscount's outlook seems to me very much that of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, or was it the Mad Hatter who said, "If I say a thing five times it must be right?" But the noble Viscount has been saying the same thing for the last twenty-five years and it is obvious he believes it. But it is pretty serious because he misleads other people. He has repeated these fallacies so often that other people, naturally, with his great prestige in the country, believe it—people who, like himself, have no practical experience of the sea and the realities of sea warfare and the Navy's needs when fighting not only the enemy but also the warring element of the sea and its ever-changing moods.
207 Many thousands of soldiers have died or are languishing in prison camps because the Army lacked the aircraft they needed to deal with those of the enemy, or to enable them to operate in the way German and Japanese Armies have done while driving us out of Europe and our Far Eastern possessions—tactics which were only checked when the German Army found itself against the Russian Army, whose war machine was developed on the same lines, with aircraft, armoured vehicles, guns and ground troops working in perfect unison under one supreme command. Now after three years of war the Royal Air Force is at last co-operating with the Eighth Army in North Africa successfully, performing its proper military function for the first time, and that Royal Air Force is no more independent of the military Commander-in-Chief than are his tank generals and infantry and artillery generals, because now at long last, fortunately, unity of command has been established, or has been imposed. Similarly many thousands of seamen have perished, millions of tons of shipping have been sunk, scores of men-of-war have been destroyed or damaged because when the war came we had no Naval Air Service in any way commensurate with the Navy's needs, or even comparable with the Royal Naval Air Service we possessed at the end of the last war, when it was handed over to the Royal Air Force. The flying boat, shore-based reconnaissance aircraft, fighters, fighter-bombers, shore-based torpedo bombers, etc., which had been developed by naval officers and were part of the Royal Naval Air Service, were either handed over to the Fighter Command, Bomber Command, Coastal Command or allowed to disappear. Meanwhile in the strength and equipment and training of the personnel, and in the operational control of Coastal Command, the Navy had no say whatever, although the functions of these aircraft were and are entirely naval, and are of vital importance in the conduct of the sea war and in the safety of our sea communications, on which the very life of the country depends—and, I would add, our ability to operate an Air Force from Great Britain or to carry one overseas.
As your Lordships were told on January 22, when the transfer was made in 1918 the Navy possessed 2,500 aircraft of all 208 types with R.N.A.S. personnel of about 55,000 men. It was gratifying to hear from my noble friend the Duke of Sutherland such a handsome tribute to the Royal Naval Air Service in the last war. He said:In the last war the sailors of the Royal Navy built up such a fine Air Service that they were able to lend large numbers of their aircraft and pilots to the hard-pressed Army. I refer particularly to the Camel fighter, a direct ancestor of the still more famous Hurricane of to-day. In fact the Royal Naval Air Service was so far ahead that it finally had to be amalgamated with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Service.Then he went on to say something about what naval airmen have been doing in this war, and told the House—probably what you have heard for the first time—that there were a great many naval officers flying machines in the Battle of Britain, when the young fighters of the Royal Air Force won one of the decisive victories of the world. Who heard of these young naval pilots? Who heard of what they did at the evacuation of Dunkirk?
When a young man joins a Service he absorbs the spirit of the Service. We heard the other day a broadcast by a Royal Air Force officer who told how he seized the first aerodrome in North Africa. I do think he might have mentioned that a young naval officer accepted the surrender of that aerodrome before he arrived. That sort of R.A.F. propaganda causes bad blood and bad feeling. There is tremendously good feeling between the officers of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The arrangements making it possible for this dual control to be carried on were made by Lord Trenchard and myself, and they lasted for fifteen years, but they did not result in the development of a proper Naval Air Service. The noble Duke might have added the Port flying boat, designed by a naval officer of that name, by far the finest design of the kind at that time, and the Handley-Page night bomber, by far the best and longest ranged in the world.
On All Fools' Day, 1918, three-fifths of them were taken away and given to the noble Viscount to form an independent Air Force to bomb German cities. Cologne, I believe, was his objective, and it is interesting to note that not one single bomb had been dropped on Cologne when the Armistice came. Meanwhile the submarine base at Bruges was spared some hundreds of tons of bombs. That brings me to another of the noble Viscount's obsessions. 209 The submarine base at Bruges was an exact replica of the pictures you see now of the submarine bases at Lorient and St. Nazaire. The Handley-Page bomber only carried 600 lb. bombs, but these had no effect on the submarines lying under them. When I went to Bruges after the war I found the submarine base there intact. Everything that mattered was under fourteen feet of concrete. The Germans are a progressive people. I cannot believe that all this tremendous bombing—devastating though it is to the people and causing a great deal of damage to buildings—is really doing all that the noble Viscount thinks. I wonder whether it is having any more effect at St. Nazaire and Lorient than it had at Bruges. Of course the Germans have made powerful concrete defences and have other means of protecting their ships and military objectives.
I do not want to detain your Lordships, and Lord Chatfield has already covered much of the ground, but there are one or two more points I should like to bring to your Lordships' notice. The noble Duke might also have said that the Royal Navy built a great airship and handed it over to the Royal Air Force, with its naval crew disguised in military uniform and military titles, because that was one of the things on which this soldier-dominated Royal Air Force insisted. That airship flew to America and back in 1919. That feat was not repeated for many years, even by a Zeppelin. The Royal Air Force started to try and improve on these airships. The first broke in two over Hull, the second broke in two over France, and then the Air Ministry gave it up. I would not refer to these unpleasant and unhappy memories if the noble Viscount were not always attacking the Admirals and the Admiralty. I have mentioned these points to prove that the Admiralty is fully able to equip, design, and produce the finest Royal Naval Air Service in the world. The noble Viscount does not agree. Does anyone really believe that the Admiralty, which built up this great force, the Royal Naval Air Service, in the last war, would not have had a Naval Air Service commensurate with its needs when this war broke out? The noble Viscount puts all the blame on the Admiralty. I blame the Admiralty for not insisting on shaking off the crippling shackles of dual control from which the Navy suffered so 210 long—shackles which the Board of Admiralty, of which I was a member, would have got rid of in 1923 if we had not been given an absolute guarantee by the Prime Minister of that day that this dual control was only to be regarded as an experiment. That guarantee was never honoured. I blame the Admiralty for not insisting on our splendid young naval airmen being provided with aircraft at least as efficient as their brothers in the Royal Air Force flew when they were also working from shore bases and performing exactly the same services.
Whatever may have been the Admiralty's shortcomings, I would ask who was responsible for the utterly inadequate equipment of Coastal Command when war broke out? The Air Ministry had only provided a few obsolete planes and flying boats. There were only a few more or less modern Sunderlands. The most efficient aircraft which Coastal Command possessed was an American commercial aircraft, the Hudson. That was all that the Air Ministry provided for the reconnaissance work on which the safety of the Navy and the Mercantile Marine depended. They had no striking force—torpedo planes or bombers—to attack the enemy when they came out, and many opportunities were missed. They had no fighters to attack the German aircraft that preyed on our coastal trade, shot up our fishermen, attacked lighthouses and lightships, and generally held command of the North Sea. Coastal Command was entirely dependent on Bomber and Fighter Commands for the co-operation which was very often not forthcoming. I cannot do better than quote from a book written by a Royal Air Force officer, with a foreword by the Commander-in-Chief of the Coastal Command. He said:Coastal Command has always been the Cinderella of the Commands, because it ranks after Fighter and Bomber Commands in priorities of supplies, and aircraft, and men.That explains everything. It is a question of priority, and my point is that the Air Ministry has failed to provide the Navy with the air service it needs.
I hope my noble friend who is going to reply will make quite clear who is responsible for the failure of the Air Ministry to provide the Navy's requirements, as they assumed control over 211 everything that the Navy wanted to fulfil its responsibilities. I should like to refer to a letter I wrote soon after the war began. I was so concerned at the beginning of this war that I wrote to the Prime Minister, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, and asked how we could possibly get on with the war when not only was the Navy denied control of the aircraft that carried out purely naval functions, but these functions were divided between the aircraft of three separate air Commands, often in conflict with one another, with consequent delay and consequent time lag whilst action or inaction was discussed on the telephone. That happened over and over again, and I gave Mr. Churchill, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, several examples of shocking miscarriages. I said:There has been nothing so humiliating to our naval pride and prestige as the German aerial domination over the North Sea and the losses their aircraft have inflicted on unprotected vessels round our coasts since the Dutch Navy entered the Thames 300 years ago.A Blake would be found, I said, to put all this right, and it has come right in time, but what a humiliation we suffered in those days, and how the merchant seamen and the trawlers and patrol craft that were protecting our convoys suffered.
I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Brabazon has gone. I did not mean to refer to him. We have crossed swords often in the other place. When, however, he opened his brilliant attack on my noble and gallant friend I made up my mind to remind him of one or two of his inaccuracies, and of the bad advice he has given in the past. I have a great admiration for the gallant holder of Pilot Certificate Number 1; nevertheless, I am bound to say that he was one of the people who helped to deprive the Navy of what it should have had, a Royal Naval Air Service entirely under naval control. I did not mean to quote from Lord Brabazon; I only wanted to draw your Lordships' attention to something that was said in this House on March 30, 1922. The noble Marquess, Lord Linlithgow, then drew attention to what he considered very improper statements made in another place. The statements were made by the Secretary of State for Air in another place. This was said: 212It is already proved that one bomb can sink the most powerful battleship in a few minutes. A battleship may survive a direct surface hit but you cannot protect it from the explosion of a bomb underneath its waterline.Then this was said:In ten years' time I believe that a combat between the forces of the air and the forces of the sea will have become a grotesque and pathetically one-sided affair.Lord Brabazon and the noble Viscount (Viscount Trenchard) still think so.
This is what Lord Brabazon said:I know it does us immense harm to exaggerate the powers of the Air Force, but I do ask those honourable Members who are interested in the subject to read what happened in America with regard to depth charges.Then he told them about certain absurd experiments that were carried out which had no relation to war. He went on:It is not a question of hitting a ship but only a question of dropping a depth charge near, or within 200 yards of a big vessel—not a very difficult thing to do even from a height of 10,000 feet.He went on to say:We heard the other day on the Navy Estimates that we had deteriorated and become less than a one-Power nation on the sea. I heard no protest from anybody.I was not in the House in those days. He also said:Surely at last people are realizing that such a change has happened in the world that the Navy to-day is obsolescent.As Lord Chatfield asked your Lordships, what in Heaven's name prevents the ships that the Germans built, great ships like the "Tirpitz," "Bismarck," "Scharnhorst" and the pocket battleships, coming out on to our trade routes and harrying and destroying our trade vessels?
Why did the Germans build those ships, if they did not build them for that purpose, and what prevents them from carrying out that purpose now? Lord Chatfield has told your Lordships that if those ships did get loose the effect would be far more dangerous and decisive than a submarine attack. I am sure the noble Viscount will speak again, and perhaps he will be able to tell us then what has prevented depredations by these German ships. I say that just as the Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow in the last war contained the German Fleet in its own waters and prevented it going out to destroy our merchant ships, so small battle fleets equipped with aircraft carriers stationed at Scapa 213 Flow and Gibraltar now prevent such depredations by German warships. The potential marauders since the "Bismarck" was destroyed have been in German waters. They have been within range of the Royal Air Force for the last few years, but it is not the Royal Air Force that is preventing them from being an immense danger to our commerce at sea.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer but there is one point I want to bring out. I am anxious to suggest that the name "Fleet Air Arm" should die out. It means nothing to-day. The Fleet Air Arm was a part of the Royal Naval Air Force, but the Fleet Air Arm as it exists to-day is, with its officers and men, just as much a part of the Royal Navy once again as the cruisers, destroyers and other ships, whether the men of the Fleet Air Arm are embarked in ships or work from a shore base. Their equipment is as much a part of the Navy as its guns and torpedoes; therefore I say let the Fleet Air Arm be called once again the Royal Naval Air Service. It is a proud name with great achievements behind it. I am confident that out of the ashes of the original Royal Naval Air Service so cruelly destroyed will spring a new Naval Air Service which will help the Navy to capture the mastery of the sea, lost to-day by the folly of naval disarmament to placate other nations in the interests of peace and because of the weakness of the Admiralty in submitting to interference by another Service in the control of the weapons the Navy needs to discharge its responsibilities. When the Navy is properly equipped with a Royal Naval Air Service, it will once again be in a position to seize the trident and be supreme at sea. There is no question apparently of altering anything during the course of this war, and I really would not advise it. The two Services, as had been said, are working together amicably. The Coastal Command works under a naval officer and I am told the co-operation is excellent. Therefore what really is the use of going on hammering away here and in the Press over this matter?
There is one matter mentioned by Lord Chatfield to which I must refer. I think the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, should look into this matter. It is a fact that the noble Viscount's article in an important paper was reprinted by the thousand and 214 issued to a number of messes and sent to the Coastal Command headquarters where the naval and air officers are working together. What a thing to throw into the arena. I think responsibility for that should be ascertained. I look upon it as being just as much Fifth Column work as anything performed by a number of people now detained under Regulation 18B. I am not suggesting that the noble Viscount is responsible for sending it out, and I am sure that neither the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, nor the Secretary of State for Air had anything to do with it. It was a most mischievous article, full of fallacies, which were exposed in the correspondence which followed, but I noticed that the noble Viscount summed up in his own favour. I hope the matter will be looked into because it may well cause a good deal of unpleasantness. Let me join with my noble and gallant friend, Lord Chatfield, and beg the noble Viscount to let us have a truce until the war is over. Let the people who are doing the work get on with the work without all his tiresome, foolish, mischievous propaganda.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord the Admiral of the Fleet in his speech delivered a most bitter attack upon the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. If he reads the report of his speech he will see that he attributed to him disasters and loss of life of seamen and others which really should never be stated in a House of Parliament unless you can substantiate your facts—and then the man should be impeached. I know my noble friend Lord Keyes did not realize how bitter were the things he was saying, but I rise, not having intended to speak before, to say that on the points he raised—going back to the end of the last war and indeed before that—I was the political chief of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. I take all the blame for most of the things, but I know also that the noble Viscount is not in the least to blame for the things named. Had I the time and your Lordships the patience I could prove it. At the very end the noble Lord said: "Let us call a truce." I say that too. One war at a time for me. I am perfectly certain that the man in the street, and what is more the officers and men in the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force will say when they read the speeches of the two Admirals of the Fleet "A plague on both your 215 houses." What is needed is to get on with the work of building more aircraft and the best aircraft and making the best arrangements for their distribution and management. This debate is a most extraordinary thing to happen in the midst of war. Bitter things have been said. Our sole object should be to produce the greatest number of aircraft, a difficult thing, to produce the best design, more and more difficult in view of ever-changing needs, and yet we have this quarrel even going back to the days of airships. Has the noble and gallant Lord forgotten that he is very vulnerable when he is speaking about things when the Navy had control? Has he forgotten the airship built when the Navy had control called the "Mayfly" and how with one great laugh it was rechristened the "Wontfly"?
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
I would venture to suggest that it is quite wrong to say that what has happened by dividing the Air Force from the Navy has damaged the national effort. I am quite sure when history comes to be written, taking it from the date of the foundation of the Royal Flying Corps in which I had to take a leading part, it will be realized that things would have been far worse if the Air Force had been divided up between the different Services. History will know how this art developed in other countries and will see that Britain, having had the wisdom to make, so far as possible, one Service, progressed further and faster so that at the end of 1918 she dominated the world in the air. Then of course came the years to which the noble Lord referred, 1919, 1920, 1921—do not I remember them? I had to resign on that issue—but I think history will again recall that ultimately when we decided to make as far as we could one Service, with the one exception referred to in the Motion on the Paper, again we were right so that in 1940 Britain was able to save herself and civilization by making one Service which fought the Battle of Britain. I am sure that to divide this Service for any reason would be a retrograde step in the face of all recorded experience. I rose specially to defend the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. I am sure that if he had never been born this 216 country would be far behind in power, not only in the air but in all parts of our offensive service. I hope your Lordships will reject any thought of attempting again to divide the indivisible Air Force.
My Lords, I rise to say only one thing, having served for seven years in the light blue of the Royal Air Force as well as in the dark blue of the Royal Navy. Let us leave any differences between the light blues and the dark blues to be fought out on the River Thames between Hammersmith and Barnes after the war.
§ LORD TEMPLEMORE
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Bruntisfield, who is still away ill, it falls to me to answer the question of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield. We have had a very interesting and at times entertaining debate, which I personally up to now have enjoyed very much, though I am bound to say that I nearly handed over my brief to the noble Viscount because I thought the remarks of the noble and gallant Lord were addressed more to him than to me. However, I intend to confine myself strictly to the question on the Paper. Your Lordships will remember that in May, 1940, a new Ministry styled the Ministry of Aircraft Production was set up and charged with the responsibility for research, experiment, design and production of aircraft and equipment, both for the Fleet Air Arm and for the Royal Air Force. So far as Fleet Air Arm aircraft and equipment are concerned the existing procedure is for detailed requirements to be drawn up by the Naval Staff and to be communicated to the Ministry of Aircraft Production after approval by the Board of Admiralty. These requirements are prepared by officers who have had practical operational experience and cover such matters as the functions of the aircraft, its limiting weights and dimensions, its armament, munition and equipment, and any special features which have to be incorporated, such as buoyancy arrangements, armour protection and so forth.
On the Council of the Ministry of Aircraft Production is a naval officer of Captain's rank who is styled Chief Naval Representative. He is a qualified pilot, and is responsible both to the Minister of Aircraft Production and to the Board of 217 Admiralty for the oversight of the research, experiment, design, development and production carried out by the Ministry on behalf of the Admiralty. The Chief Naval Representative is assisted by a staff of naval officers comprising pilots and observers, as well as technical experts such as engineers, radio and gunnery officers. These naval officers work in the various Departments of the Ministry concerned with research, design, development, production, etc. They are responsible to the directors of the division in which they serve, but their activities are co-ordinated by and are under the general supervision of the Chief Naval Representative. This naval organization at the Ministry is also responsible for giving the Admiralty technical advice on the acceptance or rejection of designs, for arranging technical trials, for keeping contact with production, and advising the Admiralty on any anticipated difficulties and delays in obtaining deliveries. In addition to the naval officers who serve at the headquarters of the Ministry, there are also other naval officers who serve as overseers at the various factories engaged in the manufacture of naval aircraft and equipment.
So much for the administrative chain on the Fleet Air Arm side. As regards Coastal Command this is under the administrative control of the Royal Air Force, but is, for all operational purposes, under the control of the Admiralty which is exercised by the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Coastal Command. For Coastal Command aircraft the administrative chain is briefly as follows: The broad strategic requirements for building up the Air Forces used in co-operation with the Navy are drawn up by the Air Ministry in consultation with the Admiralty. Progress is watched and controlled (in common with other aspects of Air Force development) by a high level Committee on which all interested Departments are represented. Any disagreement, either as to the programme itself or as to the priorities afforded to the different components of it, would be reported to the appropriate Ministerial Committee. Detailed requirements of types and numbers of aircraft for maritime purposes are then drawn up by the Air Ministry and communicated to the Ministry of Aircraft Production who are 218 responsible for meeting them to the best of their ability.
The question of operational requirements, that is to say of specifying what speed, range, armament, etc., are expected of the new designs for R.A.F. aircraft—including general reconnaissance land planes, flying boats, torpedo bombers, etc.—is entrusted to a special division of the Staff under an Assistant Chief of the Air Staff who is responsible for maintaining close contact with the user's views. These operational requirements are, of course, drawn up in close consultation with the Commands responsible for operating the aircraft in question, and particularly with Coastal Command. There is in addition a joint Admiralty-Coastal Command Committee to keep under review such matters as numbers, types and equipment of aircraft, types of weapons, requirements for effective reconnaissance and methods of perfecting attacks on ships as well, of course, as a whole variety of problems which are not relevant to the present Motion.
My Lords, that is all I have to say in answer to my noble and gallant friend's question. I only hope that I may have satisfied him with my answer, or, perhaps, if that is asking too much, may I say that I hope that he will not be too acutely disappointed after what I have said? I would like to add that I endorse what has been so eloquently said by my noble friend Lord Mottistone and by my noble friend Lord Gifford. I do suggest with all respect to the gallant Admirals of the Fleet and to my noble friend Lord Trenchard, that they call it a day and let these great Services get on with their jobs. The noble and gallant Admiral talked about people throwing monkey wrenches into the works. His Majesty's Government are perfectly certain that officers of these great Services are doing nothing of the kind. They are working with the greatest loyalty under the arrangements which have been made. Let them get on with their job, which is to strike the enemy whenever possible and wherever possible, and to win the war as quickly as possible.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
My Lords, it is very late but I have only a little to say. I thank the noble Lord who has replied so far as he is able to do to the question raised in my Motion. I am extremely sorry that those who have criticized me for having put forward this Motion did not under- 219 stand that I was speaking not to attack but to defend. I think they missed the point. Perhaps they appreciate the point of the old French saying: "Cet animal est très méchant. Quand on l'attaque it se défend." That is what I have done, and I think that to turn round and accuse those who are sticking up for my own Service of making a contribution towards controversy is a little ungenerous and unfair. It is not correct, as the noble Lord who replied for His Majesty's Government has implied, that I myself need any reproof from him or from His Majesty's Government, concerning my duty towards the comradeship of the three Services. I resent that implication, which is absolutely unfounded. It is my duty to satisfy the very serious feeling among my own sailors outside who are indignant at the criticisms that have been made. Let it all stop. Do not have any more attacks on the Navy, and then there will be no need for more defences. Let us have complete silence on the subject in your Lordships' House. That is what I hope will happen. Do not let us have any more debates of this nature. Let us keep silent, and let the other men go on fighting for us. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.