§ LORD BEAVERBROOK asked His Majesty's Government for information about the organization of Army Co-operation Command; and moved for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I intend to-day to touch on that very subject that the Leader of the House has been discussing, the question of Army transport aeroplanes. I have heard that the Government have decided to make some changes in their operations which will involve issues that I propose to discuss today. I will therefore confine myself as much as possible to consideration of issues which may be outside the scope of Government plans. Of course I know nothing of Government plans, my information comes entirely from the newspapers and from reports from journalists. But I would like to persuade the Government by any argument I can produce to build forthwith dive bombers and Army transport aeroplanes. When I ask for the building of dive bombers and Army transport aircraft, I mean building in Great 440 Britain with plant, jigs, tools, and labour here. I hope very much that the Government will be prepared to extend plant for the purpose. If that is a desirable object, how am I to go about it? First of all, I shall try to persuade this House and also the public, and possibly by arguments here make some appeal to Mr. Churchill. Of course there is no intention on my part to discuss any controversies between the Services. That is not my object at all.
§ In coming to the House. I offer for your consideration what I believe to be an issue that comes under the title "War doctrine." I do not know if the term is familiar to all your Lordships. It certainly is a term which has been made use of elsewhere, in the part of the Empire I come from, for a long time. War doctrine means with us, and I am sure with you, politics and strategy—not strategy only, but politics and strategy. It means the types of weapons and the use of them. The types of weapon must always be a matter of political consideration. War doctrine means also the kind of war that is waged. The campaign is, of course, strategy but the kind of war that is waged is war doctrine. I repeat that it is war doctrine I am raising to-day—politics and strategy, weapons and the use of them. I submit that that is a proper issue for me to bring to your Lordships, and I must not be subjected in your hearing to criticism from any quarter if I raise that issue. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House to-day spoke of the recent debate on Russia, and it is only because he mentioned it that I venture to refer to it. On that occasion the Lord Chancellor spoke of the "catchpenny phrase" of the Second Front. The Lord Chancellor will catch it, because the phrase is that of Mr. Roosevelt, our Prime Minister, and Mr. Anthony Eden. The noble and learned Viscount was sweeping in his denunciations that day.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I did not mean to offend my noble friend. If I spoke with too much severity, I hope he will accept my apologies. But perhaps he noted that on the very day we had our debate President Roosevelt said that discussions about the Second Front were futile.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
I did not see that President Roosevelt said anything of the sort, and on another occasion I shall 441 have to refer to the subject again. The Lord Chancellor never means to give offence, but he frequently fails to do what he means. In many respects his Lordship is a most interesting character. I looked with interest to the papers to see if he wrote a letter apologizing to me for having misunderstood me when I referred to the U-boat menace of 1940–41. Instead I found him writing a letter to the paper saying he did not mean what he said in this House. The duty of this House is to watch over the weapons that are produced, and that is the responsibility that we must assume. Therefore I bring before you the issue of the dive bomber and the Army transport aircraft. The Army transport aircraft was referred to by my noble friend Lord Londonderry a few days ago, and he told us he is returning to the subject again. Therefore I shall not deal with the Army transport aircraft extensively, but instead I shall attempt to make out a case for the building of the dive bomber here.
The dive bomber means an aircraft that is fitted with brakes. That is an easy definition of it. Heretofore the brakes have been usually adapted to the wings of the aircraft, but the time is certainly not far off when the dive bomber will be braked by its air screw. The brake will be in the air screw. There will be a backward movement like the backward movement of a paddle in water. That will be the development of the dive bomber and, believe me, that development has to be taken into account, for the dive bomber, no matter what condemnation may have been made of this weapon in the past, will certainly make great progress in the system of development that is sure to be carried through in the United States and here if we take to building them. The Air Ministry will not build dive bombers. Since the Air Ministry will not build dive bombers, there is no means of getting dive bomber production in hand at all, for the position is that the War. Office regards the Air Ministry as the authority on aircraft. The Air Ministry discusses requirements with the War Office, and the Air Ministry places the orders. Therefore, unless the Air Ministry decides on dive bomber production, there can be no dive bombers.
I do not deny that the Air Ministry may be right in refusing to produce dive bombers. But my task is to give this Horse and the country reasons why I think 442 the dive bomber should be produced in the face of different advice from the Air Ministry. I want to give you three reasons. The first reason is the operation at Pearl Harbour. One hundred and five Japanese aircraft attacked the American base at Pearl Harbour. I may say, in order to avoid dispute, that this information comes from the American official report. Of those 105 aircraft nearly half of them—48—were dive bombers. These 105 aircraft destroyed 177 American aircraft, 70 aircraft were disabled. Eight battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, two service ships, and a floating dock were all destroyed by this attack by 105 Japanese aircraft, of which 48 were dive bombers. The Japanese force, half of them dive bombers, destroyed or damaged twice as many American aircraft and that number of warships.
I give my second reason. It is a quotation from the Daily Telegraph—that reliable and accurate newspaper—of May 9, 1942:Big concentrations of shipping were caught by the United States dive bombers which, in two days, sank two large aircraft carriers, at least one cruiser, and seven destroyers, and damaged many other ships.That is my second argument in favour of the dive bomber. My first is Pearl Harbour and the 105 Japanese aircraft, half of them dive bombers, and the second is this account of the dive bomber operation by the Americans against the Japanese fleet with its long list of casualties. These are two very good reasons. Here is the third reason. Mr. Secretary Stimson, on February 19, 1943, said:Many American tanks have been destroyed by German dive bombers.Of course he was referring to the attack in the Kasserine Pass.
Now do these three instances make out a case for the dive bomber? I think so. I think a complete case, the best of all, because it is actual experience and practice of what the dive bomber has performed, what it has done. If there is a case, if we are to have dive bombers, how are we to get them? We must turn over design and development to the War Office. We must do that. The Air Ministry do not believe in the dive bomber, so we must turn over design and development to the War Office. As we all know, design and development are the duty of 443 the firm, but none the less the firm will not, until it is under the War Office, give instructions for the design and development of the dive bomber that the War Office requires. The same remark applies to Army transport, because Army transport is required for Army purposes. Again, the dive bomber is really an additional artillery force for the Army, or for the Navy, as the case may be, and the cannon and bombs in the dive bombers used for the Army are really guns and cannon required for Army purposes.
To think that aircraft and equipment required especially for Army purposes and as a special weapon for the Army should be the development of the Air Ministry, is quite wrong. It is much the same thing as if the design, development and production of tanks for the Army were turned over to the Admiralty. A case could be made out for that because it could be said the Admiralty control armour plate, and armour plate is needed for tanks, therefore the Admiralty should develop tanks for the Army. If that condition were to prevail you may be quite sure the Admiralty would get all the armour plate they required before there was any armour plate allocated for tanks for the Army. Perhaps in the same way it might be said the Air Ministry will get all the aeroplanes they require before there is anything left over in the shape of dive bombers for the Army.
Again, we must train Army officers of appropriate rank to deal with the development and equipment of aircraft for the Army. At the present time there are no senior officers in the Army with the knowledge and responsibility of providing aircraft and equipment for the Army, none at all, yet every other nation that has a dive bomber also has high officers in the Army experienced in the production of the dive bomber. Germany has its Stuka—I am told by those who speak German that Stuka means dive bomber. There they have also the Ju 88 and the Messerschmitt 210. The Russians have the Su. 2 and the F.R.R.R. and a special bomber called the Stormovik, not a dive bomber but built on the principle of the dive bomber. The U.S.A., too, have dive bombers. They have two new types of dive bomber, the Douglas Dauntless and the Curtis L. These new types are being produced as a result of all the experience that the Americans possess of the battles 444 between the nations, and of their particular and careful study of aircraft operations in Great Britain. We all know about Japan's dive bombers.
Great Britain is the only nation to go without a production of dive bombers and without equipment for dive bomber operations. Are we to remain alone, or are the experience that has been gained of the dive bomber and the fact that other nations have produced and developed dive bombers, sufficient argument to move the Air Ministry to give up its opposition to the dive bomber? But even if the Air Ministry will not give up its opposition, and even if the War Office does adhere in the future to Air Ministry advice about these aircraft, there is still the need for the dive bomber for naval operations. Surely we all agree that dive bombers are useful against ships. Every argument and every attack, and every criticism of the dive bomber that I have seen invariably ends up with this acknowledgment: "Yes, the dive bomber is useful against ships." What is the opposition of the Air Ministry? I think I can state it quite fairly. It is the opposition of Sir Archibald Sinclair and also of my noble friend Lord Sherwood.
I have the greatest admiration for Sir Archibald Sinclair. I think he is a splendid Air Minister. I have worked with him intimately to my pleasure and satisfaction, but perhaps not so much to his pleasure. As I say, I have worked with him most intimately, and I am convinced we are fortunate to have had Sir Archibald Sinclair as our Secretary of State for Air. I know the reasons that Sir Archibald and Lord Sherwood put forward for their opposition to the dive bomber. One is that it is obsolete and dangerous, and the second is that it is an undesirable type because it is suitable only for one purpose and is not available for general operations. Those are the two reasons they usually put forward against the dive bomber—that it is obsolete and a dangerous type. Of couse it is dangerous—to the enemy certainly. As to obsolescence, that could be overcome by development. As to its not being desirable because it is not available for general operations, that is a pure Air Ministry argument. It does not take into account the necessities or requirements of the Army at all. But the very fact that there is opposition to the dive bomber in the Air Ministry justifies us in saying that the development of the dive bomber should 445 be turned over to the War Office because the Air Ministry does not believe in it. To give to the Secretary of State for Air control over the design and development of dive bombers would be like making Professor Haldane the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church.
Now if development goes to the War Office I think you must at the same time hand over training to that office for the use of the weapon that the War Office would produce. I think the present system of training is quite wrong. The Air Ministry are training for Army co-operation, for the Fleet Air Arm, for Fighter Command and Bomber Command. Surely training by the Army and Navy for their own Service is essential to them. After all, the youth who is about to become a pilot should surely be trained in artillery spotting at the very beginning of his career. In view of the service he will perform when he becomes a pilot in Army co-operation, surely he should be taught to recognize tanks from the very outset, and vehicles and enemy units. He should be given, in addition, instruction in Army tactics and. Army organization, and training which involves technical direction. It is not possible for the Air Ministry, particularly involved in their Fighter and Bomber Commands, to give technical direction to pilots who are to work with and for the Army. Again, photographic work should be under the direction of the Army. The Army is relying on the photographs which are taken. They should have to read them and to develop them and they could then operate as a result of their own photographs. Photography is a reconnaissance service; it is the eyes of the Army. To trust to the eyes of a neighbour seems to me to be quite a mistaken policy.
This argument that I put forward to-day is no new development on my part. It is an old story beginning long before the war. Before the war, as some of your Lordships know, I. was a journalist, and in 1935 the Evening Standard published a series of articles by Lord Beatty, Lord Allenby and others, all with the view to increasing the production of arms throughout the country. It is true these articles were later published as a pamphlet and became a political pamphlet that was widely circulated. It was sent to candidates for Parliamentary representation, who were invited to give answers, and according to how they spoke so the 446 Evening Standard treated them in the columns of that paper. What do you think of that? In that document the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, had a case to state. His case was that he wanted more aircraft and control of the aircraft, and he wanted aircraft carriers. After that experience the newspapers under my control carried on a continual agitation for the handing over of aircraft for the use of the Navy to naval direction, and for Army co-operation under the control of the Army. That continued right up to the time when I ceased to be a journalist. Here let me say that as a member of the Government I continued to agitate the same views and to put forward the same arguments. Since I came out of the Government I am still at it, although I am no longer a journalist. I come to the box of this House and say what I have got to say to your Lordships and the country. I intend to go on doing so and I have no intention of taking any other course.
Concluding my arguments in favour of the dive bomber and the Army aircraft transport I have little else to say because of the case which the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, put forward in a satisfactory form and which I shall support. I say there is plenty of new production capacity in the country to produce dive bombers and Army transport aircraft. After the dispersal of 194o and 1941 there was much more space all over the country available for production. There was a shortage then of machine tools, but that has now been largely overcome and perhaps overcome altogether. I would not be surprised if machine tools were being handed around too loosely now. Jigs can be made and there are plenty of craftsmen out of employment at the present time, so that we have the extraordinary spectacle of a shortage of man-power and of craftsmen out of work. You can make what explanation you like, but that is the fact. There are plenty of craftsmen, factory space and machine tools, jigs can be made and raw materials can be spared. There was a bottle-neck in aircraft production in regard to engines, but I think now engines are in fairly good supply; there is much improvement in the engine position. There are many American engines here too. So I repeat that the object of my Motion to-day is to persuade the Government to develop the 447 dive bomber and the Army transport aircraft.
Now is the time and now, it seems to me, is the opportunity. You can do that as new production. I have no intention of restricting production in relation to our present programme. If the decision is taken to launch a programme of building dive bombers without any interference with existing production such a decision would greatly help the progress of dive bomber production and would not interfere with production now in hand. Placing the responsibility with the War Office, there need be no interference with Air Ministry production. In any case for my part I look hopefully to the future, because I believe that when all the facts are laid before Mr. Churchill he will take up the project, and if he takes it up rest assured he will see that it is carried out. He backed the tank in the last war and also the Stokes gun. In this war he laid down the principles for the design of the Churchill tank. His faith and confidence enabled Ministers to develop it to the furthest possible extent. It was his tank. Much was said in criticism, but Mr. Churchill remained fixed and settled in upholding the production line when many of his supporters wanted him to bring it to an end. Now the Churchill tank has been proved to be the most valuable weapon. Then there was the production of the six-pounder gun. The constant pressure from 10, Downing Street for the gun is the reason why we have that splendid weapon in Africa to-day. Such a capacity for sorting out the good and weeding out the bad must bring the production of Army transport aircraft into production in the near future. I beg to move.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords, I feel that your Lordships will all agree with me in saying that we all enjoy my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook's contributions to our debate. They are all so stimulating, so full of good humour and so enthusiastic. Only the other day he brought forward, as your Lordships will remember, a Motion on the Second Front, after which he so to speak got shot to pieces. Yet he went down with his colours flying, hitting out in every direction and with a smile on his face. That is the sort of debater we all love to see. The noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, reminds 448 me in his ready desire to help the Government of the charwoman in "Itma" who at the most inopportune moment rushes up with the words: "Can I do yer now, Sir?" A lot of his proposals are embarrassing at some particular moment.
The first matter on which I wish to say a word is the present organization of our Air Force. If Germany had organized her Air Force in the same way as we did, if she had thought of her Air Force in broad strategic terms rather than as strictly a war weapon, she would have had very different machines to hit us in the Battle of Britain, machines which we could not have countered. It was only because she wanted to help the Army with air weapons that we were able to take them on and defeat them. I am not going to argue the question of prospective machines. I know we have only got a pot of a certain size and it has to be decided by those competent to judge what are the best machines to produce out of the pot; but I cannot think it right that one nation like America should take up the line that the manufacture of transport machines is a war duty and that we must take a different view. If the manufacture of transport machines is for the prosecution of the war I agree that we must do the same thing.
Now I come to the question of dive bombers which I had no idea the noble Lord was about to raise. I hope we are not going to be divided sharply over this rather technical question. I would like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, that if, as he says, the dive bomber is going to be brought about not by air brakes but by reversing the propellers, I can imagine we shall have a dive bomber in every machine. They may come to that, but they are not within sight at the moment. The dive bomber has, I firmly believe, a use against comparatively unarmed ships. I think everybody will agree there. So we want dive bombers for that. But, looking at it from the Army side, we can only keep a certain strength of Air Forces. What is the most efficient Air Force we can keep? This is really a question for the Cabinet to decide. I do not think that it is really an economic and political question either for us here or others elsewhere to attempt to settle. We have not got the full facts and it is very difficult indeed to decide in such circumstances what is the right thing to do. But 449 I am convinced that the Army, if they had put up to the War Cabinet all the arguments of a forcible nature which they could have used, could have had the dive bomber made. What we have got, which other people have not got, is the fighter-bomber. There you have a combination of two machines—a first-class fighter and a bomber at the same time. It is true that you do not dive with it quite so vertically, but none the less it has proved extraordinarily effective.
Whether it is right or wrong to earmark a certain amount of your production for a machine which can only be used for certain limited opportunities as they present themselves is not, I think, a question which we can decide. It can only be decided by the War Cabinet. It is true, as Lord Beaverbrook has said, that there are certain targets, and it may be that when you get an invasion of a country like France, where you need very accurate pin-point bombing of certain things at certain times to help the troops, the dive bomber may be worth its salt. I will say no more on this subject. I sincerely hope that we shall not get into an acrimonious discussion on the merits or demerits of this type of machine. Many of them are being made in America and will be coming across to this side soon. We shall profit, no doubt, from the experience of their manufacture.
Now I would like to say this with relation to the strict Motion on the Paper. Both in the Army and in the Navy much greater technical knowledge and technical ability are wanted. While I do not think it is wise to manufacture special machines always for special purposes, I know that it is easy to make a cast-iron case for one particular machine. But you have to look at the matter while remembering that your resources are limited, and you have to think of the wood and not the trees. I consider we have been dilatory in the matter of the assistance that could have been given by naval officers in regard to the use and development of machines from the naval side, and we have certainly been dilatory from the point of view of what: the Army might have done in this respect. For instance, when the tank, with air support, rambled through the whole of Europe, was there not one thing sticking out—that the only way the tank was going to be defeated was by a more mobile and faster weapon, namely, an aeroplane fitted with anti-tank guns and 450 with the necessary qualities for anti-tank warfare. But never did any demand for such a machine come from the Army. It should have come. I believe that if there had been a strong technical aeronautical side to the Army organization this possibility would have been seen and the Army would have pressed for this weapon. They would have brought pressure to bear not only on the Air Force—which might have resisted—but on the Government as a whole which would have had to adopt the suggestion. It seems that the Army in this department have given up hope, and have put the whole of their ideas and their trust in the Air Force who are so tremendously imbued with pure Air Force strategy that they forget specialized needs of these older Services. I think that is where we have made a mistake. Frankly I think that one of the first considerations should have been to give such support to the Army. Had this been borne in mind the Army would have realized what a wonderful show it was possible for the Air Force to put up in its aid.
What I have said about the Army applies also to the Navy. If the Admiralty had put forward their views with force based on technical knowledge I believe that the Air Force would have been able to do things which would have left the Navy absolutely gasping with admiration. We are now in the position that the poor Army really cannot speak forcefully to the Air Ministry on the technical side. I sincerely hope that we shall have a technical aeronautical side to the Army and a technical aeronautical side to the Navy, so that in future both these older Services will be able to talk to the Air Ministry on perfectly equal terms, and will be able powerfully to back up their technical and strategical points of view. When the views of these two sides are put fairly before the War Cabinet that body must take the decision as to what is the best to be got out of our industry.
§ LORD GEDDES
My Lords, we have had a very interesting speech from my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook to-day. It was very characteristic, very stimulating and, as always with speeches by him, very refreshing. He made a point that, in his view, we ought to have dive bombers. That is a highly technical question on which very few people other than high officers of the Air Force have 451 any right to express an opinion. With regard to one example he chooses, that of Pearl Harbour, as showing what dive bombers could do, surely that is open to another type of interpretation in that it shows what is liable to happen to a fleet and installations which are not in a posture of defence. We have seen in this country the experiment of dividing Air Forces. In 1917 we had two Air Forces—the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. We know what the result of that was—I remember it very vividly. Now Lord Beaverbrook wants to get back to having multiple Air Services. I believe that to be entirely wrong in principle.
I was through the earlier discussions. They took place a long time ago, but my memory is not so defective that I do not remember the arguments that were put forward on both sides. I remember very well—I was drawn into it because of my responsibility at that time for man-power—how on one occasion General Smuts, with some irritation, after a whole lot of argument for separate Air Forces had been put forward, said to me something like this—I do not remember his exact phraseology but this was the effect of what he said—"These soldiers and sailors do not understand what is happening. They want to use air power as ancillary to their old war methods, whereas air power is going to transform their techniques and bring in a new form of warfare" Surely that is what is happening now. That new form of warfare is being developed, and it was with that idea, as I understood him at the time, that General Smuts prepared a memorandum which was submitted, so far as my recollection goes, to the Cabinet in 1917—to the War Cabinet first and then to all Ministers—and which led up finally to the establishment of the Royal Air Force.
There were in that memorandum two propositions discussed, propositions which were referred to in the Minute which established the Committee. The Committee was charged, first of all, to inquire into and examine the defence of the country against air attack. I will say no more about that than that the present form of defence is the lineal descendant, with the necessary modifications, of the plans recommended by the Smuts Committee. The other recommendation of the Committee 452 was that there should be one Air Force, controlled by a Ministry performing functions with regard to the Air Force analogous to those performed by the Admiralty and the War Office with regard to the Navy and Army respectively. There was something more intended. I was away from the country for some years, and I do not think it was ever carried out, but it was intended that there should be a full examination of the precise relations between the three Services. In the old days before aviation it was easy enough to lay down the line of demarcation between what was the responsibility of the Navy and what was the responsibility of the War Office; high-water-mark was a convenient line which divided the two areas. But the air is not divided and is not divisible, and the principles of air work must be the same over the sea and over the land, whether the Air Force is operating on its own or with one of the older Services; it must all form part of a strategic plan.
It was in General Smuts's mind—I remember very clearly his talking about it—that as a result of the development of the third Service, with its new and great responsibilities, and its overwhelming influence upon the type of warfare which could be waged by the other Services, there would need to be Joint Staffs. Is not that the line of progressive development, rather than these continual proposals which come before your Lordships' House for the vivisection of the Air Force? Is it not the way of progressive evolution that out of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and perhaps out of some of the elements now serving with Combined Operations, there should be developed a real Great General Staff under the Minister of Defence? Is not that the line to be taken, rather than that we should divide the Air Force and weaken the technical knowledge of air power and the use of air power? It seems to me that that is the way forward. It seems to me, with all deference and respect to the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, that the idea which he expressed the other day, that we should cut out Coastal Command from the Royal Air Force and hand it over to the Navy, and the principal idea which he has put forward to-day—I say the principal idea because, although he put dive bombers in the forefront, his principal idea was to cut something more out of the Air Force and hand it over to 453 the Army—are profoundly mistaken, absolutely wrong in principle and retrograde in view. What we want to do is to go forward, and I suggest to the Government that the step forward which is required is tae development of the Great General Staff, which we still lack, fully equipped, fully balanced and fully prepared to take direction of the Fighting Services of the Crown.
We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, what the dive bomber has done on one or two occasions, but we did not hear from him to-day what co-operation between the Navy, the Army and the Air Force has done in the Battle of Egypt, one of the greatest pieces of evidence possible in favour of the development of the Joint Staff. There, under a Commander-in-Chief—there must always be a Commander-in-Chief—we had the three Staffs working together as a band of brothers—and look at the results! They had no dive bombers, but look at what they did to Rommel's supply line, look at what they did to his communications, look how they served the Army in the field! Many of your Lordships heard from the lips of the Prime Minister himself, on November 11, the tribute which he paid to the Royal Air Force for its work in Egypt in the days of the retreat from Tobruk. He said that we could never have got back if it had not been for the magnificent air cover which was given by the joint Air Forces. Generals Alexander and Montgomery could not have gone forward without that splendid co-operation. I believe that we ought to take that as an example of the co-operation of the Forces, the joining together of the Staffs, which is not yet complete here.
If we had a Great General Staff, which in time would have men belonging primarily to one or other of the three Services, but trained in the technique and the specialties of the others, we should have what we have not got at the moment—aeronautical knowledge in the Army and aeronautical knowledge in the Navy strong enough to balance the aeronautical knowledge of the Air Staff itself. They would then be one Staff. Until we get that, I submit that we have no prospects of getting a, really satisfactory arrangement. But the one thing which I would urge your Lordships to set your faces against most strongly, because I am certain that it is retrograde, is the division 454 of the Air Force into bits. Do not vivisect the Air Force.
After all, would you hand over to the other Departments at the present time any real responsibility for the technical development of the Air Services? Lord Winster the other day, in a most interesting and valuable speech, reminded your Lordships, including the Admirals of the Fleet who were present, of in how many respects the Navy was unprepared for the type of warfare which has developed. As was said with great truth, the Admiralty under-estimated the danger of the submarine. They legislated for slow-moving ships, and not only that, but within the sphere of ship construction they did not build strong enough ships. The first Lord of the Admiralty said yesterday in another place that they were now building stronger ships. Any of us who have been in shipyards or dockyards since this war broke out know that far too many of our ships, both destroyers and cruisers, were too lightly built. I should not have dared to mention that in your Lordships' House if it had not been said by the First Lord of the Admiralty in another place yesterday that they were now building stronger ships—because they had to. The technical direction of the Admiralty, therefore, cannot have been very good.
Again, would you hand over the highly technical matters connected with air to the War Office, with its record on the technical side? We have the most unhappy story, indeed a most sorry story, which will all be told some day, of the tank. It is not a very satisfactory story, but it is one which cannot be told in full in public. Compare the record of the Air Ministry at the outbreak of war with the record of the other Departments. Thank God we had the Hurricanes and the Spitfires which saved us in the Battle of Britain! Those are comparisons of the records of the Departments. There should he no such comparisons. If there were one Staff under a Minister of Defence properly constituted, drawn from the Services, properly trained, I feel sure we should not have these bungles and these failures.
I have said some fairly hard things, and I hope that no one who hears an echo of them will imagine that anything I have said could be taken as detracting from my admiration for and gratitude to the men who are fighting at the front. 455 It is at the centre that I have directed such criticism as I have expressed. The men who are fighting at the front have got quite enough to do without being bothered, as they are being bothered, by many of these controversies that go on about the Air Force in its relation with the Navy and its relation with the Army. We have heard a great deal of this controversy recently in your Lordships' House. I suggest to some of those who have taken part in it with such zest that it does not seem to be helping the men at the front, and I do not think it is doing any good here. May I make a plea that we should get rid of this continual suggestion to vivisect the Air Force? Let us bring all the influence we can to bear in order to get such weaknesses as still exist on the Staff side eradicated by a progressive evolutionary development of the central control of defence.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I do not know if my noble friend Lord Trenchard will permit me to intervene for one moment before he speaks, for at one time I was President of the Air Council and I relied upon his judgment, and there is a letter he sent me which I hope, if he has a copy with him, he will quote. It was not only Field-Marshal Smuts, quoted in the interesting speech we have just heard from Lord Geddes, who took the strong view that it was folly to try and divide the Air Force yet again; it was also the view of Lord Fisher, who had a knack of hitting the nail on the head. When I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Beaver-brook's plea for a dive bomber I wondered whether he might riot very well be quite right. His acute brain has spotted all sorts of faults in our offensive and defensive weapons. I remember that in the last war he was most helpful to all those who were conducting that war by bringing common sense to bear upon these problems. But when he says that if you cannot get the Secretary of State for Air to agree, you will have to begin to break up the Air Ministry by handing over the whole business to the War Office, I part company with him absolutely. To use a phrase he himself is fond of, I am perfectly convinced that he is barking up the wrong tree. If he wants to get scientific development and the provision of the best weapons, to divide up the Air Force now 456 would, as Lord Geddes said, be a most reactionary proposal and would have precisely the opposite effect from that which he seeks.
It may be that there has suddenly arisen in the War Office a group of persons of extraordinarily alert and vigorous mind who want these things done, but have they converted the Army Council to their view? No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, will tell us, but if they have not, that is a reason for going for the Army Council and seeing that they are more alert and alive—not for dividing up the responsibility of the Air Ministry. That Department has been built up with great difficulty, starting from the year 1911, when it first fell to my lot to be Chairman of the Committee that started the Royal Flying Corps, and has now at last come to a point where, as was pointed out by Lord Geddes—and indeed must be apparent to every one of us—the outstanding achievement in this war on the technical side is the production of the aeroplanes that won the Battle of Britain. On all the other subjects—ships, guns, armour, technical developments of every kind—other people have been at intervals, as we all know (it has been disclosed in the Press) in advance of us, and they are in advance in sonic directions still.
The Air Ministry has throughout the whole of this desperate conflict maintained the lead on the technical side. What folly it would be now in face of what has happened, when civilization has been saved by the technical skill residing in the Air Ministry—what folly to choose this moment to divide it up. I hope Lord Beaverbrook may say it is not in his mind to divide it up again. But there are a great many people who, unlike him, have rather muddled brains, who think the solution of the whole difficulty is to divide the Air Force into three again. That would be a sad blow. We might even lose the war if that were done. But, as it is, of course I agree that we should have a technical side in the War Office of people with a real technical skill who understand air business, and let it be acknowledged that they should be part of the Staff. Similarly on the Admiralty side there should be air technicians as skilful as they have in the Air Ministry itself so that they can talk on equal terms. But do not destroy the co-ordinating power of the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force, which in my considered judgment, and I think 457 many of your Lordships will agree, has saved this country from disaster and will ultimately bring it to victory.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, after the speeches we have heard following that of Lord Beaverbrook there is really little need for me to add anything, but I would like to say in regard to the wonderful speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, to-day that I had not for some years heard the whole principle of air stated as clearly as I have heard it from the noble Lord this afternoon. The intervention of Lord Brabazon in this debate was also most useful, as was also Lord Mottistone's allusion to all that went on in the past. With regard to the Motion on the Paper perhaps I ought to have known when that Motion was put down that the noble Lord would probably deal with something quite different. He introduced the question of the dive bomber. I am not going to follow his many inaccuracies—his speech was full of them—on the subject of the dive bomber. And really it was absurd to say that Pearl Harbour showed what a wonderful weapon the dive bomber was, when it was purely a matter of treachery and anything would have done. No doubt the dive bomber appealed to the noble Lord when he was Minister of Production as a weapon that could hit a ship.
I cannot quite understand what was the object in putting down this Motion. A few days ago the noble Lord instructed your Lordships that what should occupy the whole attention of the House at the present time was the campaign in North Africa, the campaign in Russia and the war at sea. Well, I dare say the dive bomber would come into any one of those campaigns, but with regard to North Africa surely what was done by the Eighth Army in the retreat after Tobruk and by the Air Force out there showed that we had a weapon that was more than equal to any dive bomber. Surely what happened in the miraculous advance all the way from Egypt to Tripoli showed that the system adopted by the Eighth Army and the Air Service was more successful than any suggested idea of going back to the old type of warfare with the dive bomber.
I do not want to bore your Lordships, but I feel there is one thing the noble Lord always forgets, and many other people too, and that is that the Air has 458 to fight two wars. The Army has to fight the other Army, and the Navy the other Navy, but the Air has to do two things. One is to get command of the air. If it gets command of the air 100 per cent.—I hope the noble Lord will understand this point—the whole of the Air Force can throw in its weight to help the Army or the Navy. If it only gets 80 per cent, command of the air, it can throw in 80 per cent, of its strength, but before you fight the battles on the ground of the Army or the Navy you have to fight your own battle in the air first. That is what the noble Lord has shown, by many of his statements, that he completely misunderstands. On my last visit, it was marvellous to see all that went on in the Middle East and North Africa. There I saw thousands of sorties going out in a day, and only twelve Germans coming over. There I saw the Air helping the Army in every possible way, smashing up transports coming across the Mediterranean, knocking out tanks and lorries, and inflicting thousands of casualties. I saw them also evacuating the wounded for the Army, and I was told of the Army clearing the minefields at tremendous risk on the aerodromes in order to enable the aeroplanes to land safely and not have all their crews blown up.
I happened to be also at other places. I saw at Gibraltar a detachment of twenty or thirty men under an Army officer, assisted by a young air mechanic, erecting all the aircraft necessary for the attack on North Africa. Then take Malta. It is well known what the Army has done there for the Air, and what the Air has done for the Army. Everything goes perfectly smoothly out in the Middle East. The thing is one. You have the Air commanded by the Air Marshal, and the Army commanded by the General, and both are directed by the Army Commander-in-Chief. The organization works perfectly smoothly. They live together in the same headquarters, and there is no such thing as division. It is exactly the organization we had at the end of the last war with Haig. I have no more to say.
§ LORD KEYES
My Lords, I understood after our debate on February 23 that we were going to "call it a day" and drop all this controversy between the Services. It has all been revived this afternoon by Lord Brabazon, Lord Geddes, Lord Motti- 459 stone, but not by my noble friend Lord Trenchard. I had every intention of keeping strictly within that agreement we made when we called it a day, but being a very wicked animal I really must defend my kith and kin. Before I go any further, I should like to say to my noble and very old friend Lord Mottistone, that when he took me to task for saying that the Army and the Navy had suffered grievously because they had not sufficient air co-operation at the beginning of the war, he claimed that he had some authority for that. But that decision was made in March, 1918. My noble and gallant friend was then commanding a cavalry brigade in the Canadian Division. When I was taken to the Western Front I was shown the place where my noble friend made a most gallant cavalry charge in 1918 which won the battle of Amiens—perhaps it did not, but that was the impression. We know Bill Adams won the battle of Waterloo!Still I was enormously impressed by the terrain over which my noble and gallant friend led his cavalry charge, and I know it played a considerable part in the discomfiture of the Germans on that occasion.
I have heard the Prime Minister say so often that when the last war ended he was offered by Mr. Lloyd George either the Admiralty or the War Office. He could choose either and take the Air Force to whichever Department he went to. He chose the Admiralty, but there were troubles in the War Office about demobilization, and he went in the end to the War Office, taking the Royal Air Force with him. I cannot help thinking that it was a very unhappy thing for Imperial defence that Mr. Churchill went to the wrong place, because the whole outlook would have been different. I would have been in charge of the naval side in 1923, and I am quite certain that in the next four years naval aviation would have been developed as the result of the great experience I had had previously in the war. We should not have been in the Navy 100 per cent, behind the Japanese and the Americans in the development of naval aviation. We are going to the American Navy to-day for so many planes.
I do not want to pursue this, but I am quite certain that in the Admiralty we would have insisted on giving the military part over to the War Office. In the past 460 twenty years, if the Army and the Navy had developed aviation, we should have got where my noble friend Lord Geddes hoped to get. We should no doubt have had an Air Ministry to help with design and with the technical side, but the Army and the Navy would have been air-minded, and we should have developed, just as the Americans have developed and the Japanese have developed. You can see in the Pacific the wonderful achievements of the American naval and military Air Force equipped to help the Navy and the Army. We owe an enormous debt to America for insisting on maintaining naval and military aviation on the scale they have done.
When I came back from the Belgian campaign I was refreshed to hear from Lord Brabazon that he was frightfully keen on producing dive bombers on an enormous scale. I had seen dive bombers working in the Belgian campaign. I shall never forget it. It was the 11th of May. I had been sent over to be liaison officer to the King of the Belgians during that campaign, and I arrived in Brussels on the morning of the 11th. The whole air was dominated by planes diving down. They were not out to destroy much. They knew, probably, they would occupy Brussels soon. They were out to alarm, coerce, and frighten the people, and they certainly did—me too, often. I would not say I could recognize the man in any one of these planes, but I am certain he was able to count the stripes on my arm. That went on all day. The British Army was coming up utterly unequipped for air co-operation. The Belgian Army was falling back from the Albert Canal to the line of the Dyle, with the roads dominated by bombers, and there was not a fighter to reply. Every fighter except seven in the Belgian Air Force was destroyed by that treacherous attack at dawn on the 10th. I foresaw a disaster.
I went out to the Belgian headquarters, learnt the position, and then I went to the telephone in Brussels and called up the Prime Minister. I did not know he was the Prime Minister then. I called him up at the Admiralty, and begged him to use all his influence to insist on the Government sending out a strong fighter force to clear the air while the Belgian and British Armies were taking up their positions. He switched me on to the Air Ministry, but I got no sympathy and no help from them. Being annoyed, I held the receiver 461 of my telephone out of the window and said to them: "Can't you hear them; it was a constant roar like this all day long." The Prime Minister acted with characteristic vigour, and I think a great part of the Metropolitan Fighter Force came over. Then I watched a most wonderful transformation. I watched these young fighters tear the Huns out of the sky. I believe they shot down a hundred that day. It was a marvellous thing, and it did clean the air.
I talked with many of those young pilots. There is one in particular that I shall never forget, a boy who had just left Cambridge. He said: "It is wonderful—marvellous—I shot down three, and I was so excited that I was following the fourth and forgot all about my petrol" He said: "I had to plane down on to a landing field where I saw long lines of planes, but when I got down I found they were all destroyed." So he taxied alongside them hoping to escape notice. He was pouring petrol into his plane when some Hun saw him, dived down and shot up his plane. He cursed himself for his short-sightedness, and only wanted to get back as soon as he could to England to get another plane. That was the spirit of these young fighters. It was fortunate they were sent out. Nothing could have been done by the Royal Air Force; it was operating under the High Command of the French Army and was thrown into the French battle. The British Army was left very short of the air co-operation which was necessary.
I made one other appeal during that campaign. There was a very dangerous situation. The British Army was already preparing to go down to the sea. The Germans were seeking for a soft spot. They knew they could probably destroy the British Army later, and so they concentrated on the Belgium Army which was putting up a valiant fight. All day long dive bombers were attacking. The Belgians had very few anti-aircraft guns, and not a single fighter plane. Again I made an appeal to the Prime Minister. He switched me over to Sir Archibald Sinclair who said he would do all he could to help. Again our young fighters came over, but the Germans had learnt their lesson, and they had put a screen between our fighters and their dive bombers. Our fighters shot down seventy. They had a wonderful day but they never got through the screen to the dive bombers 462 who were farther inland and were destroying the Belgian Army. I had a disappointment later when my noble friend Lord Brabazon became Minister for Aircraft Production. I hoped then that he would see to it that if not that particular dive bomber, at any rate the equivalent of it was produced. But we had to wait for three years of war before we got that happy and splendid co-operation which my noble friend has described in North Africa. We had to wait for three years for that.
§ LORD KEYES
Yes, three years. At no period of the first Libyan campaign did the Army have the air co-operation which they might have had. What was the result? I do not want to detain your Lordships too long, but I would like to mention one other subject in connexion with my experience of war. When the tide turned on the Western Front in the last Great War and when our Second Army, a French corps and the Belgian Army launched a great attack on the 28th September, Lord Haig considered my command as his left flank. The guns of our ships, every naval siege gun mounted behind the Belgian line burst into flame at zero hour. Our young naval fighters went into the attack, and in spite of a westerly gale and driving rain rendered valuable co-operation. The first thrust took the Belgian Army twelve miles, well beyond their communications. The advance force would have had to fall back if our young naval airmen had not supplied it with food and ammunition by air. That, in those days of rigid trench warfare, was probably the first occasion on which a British Army was supplied from the air. We sailors do understand what is needed, and our complaint is that what the country needs, and what Lord Geddes looked forward to, did not come about.
The Air Ministry—and there is any amount of evidence to show it—were obsessed with this idea that they could win the war by bombing, and that military and naval aviation could be neglected. I realize that you cannot change things now. I do not think anyone asks that things should be changed now. All we ask is that there should be a high and unified Command. It took three years to get this in North Africa; it took 463 seventeen months against a great deal of Air Ministry opposition to get the Coastal Command, which is carrying out purely naval functions, put under naval operational control. Now we can look forward to the victory which is in sight, but the war will be prolonged until we get all three Services working in the closest co-operation. We of an older generation have not been allowed to take part, but we have watched our youth paying for the follies of the past. We can only look forward to the day when we shall get back those who are spared, but we shall not get the war ended until we have all three Services working together without any of these controversies which are boring the House and the country.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD SHERWOOD)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, has, as usual, brought forward a very important Motion, upon a subject which is very much alive to-day, and is in all our minds, especially now when the United Nations are starting forward towards an offensive. As has been the case with the noble Lord in the past, he spoke with vigour and eloquence. Also, as has been pointed out—but to this I have certainly no objection—his speech did not, perhaps, deal entirely with the question he had put upon the Paper, or, at all events, he dealt with just one part of it. He dealt with a bigger question than that which is mentioned on the Paper. In his question he asked for information which I think your Lordships are entitled to have. You are entitled to have the fullest information and knowledge on that question apart from the controversies about dive bombers and the controversies about various types of machines.
Dealing, therefore, with the question put by the noble Lord on the Paper, which is to ask His Majesty's Government for information about the organization of Army Co-operation Command, I have this to say. The Army Co-operation Command is not one of the old established Commands. It came into being on the 1st December, 1940, which is only two years ago. Your Lordships are entitled to know, what are the objects of the Command, what, after two years, it has achieved, and how it is proposing to deal with the future. The primary functions which were laid down only two years 464 ago of this important Command, which obviously was not an easy one to organize, were, to experiment and to train in all forms of co-operation between the two Services, the Army and the Royal Air Force; to work in constant association with the Army and Air Force Commands concerned; and to ensure the rapid development of a technique of Army-Air co-operation, and to foster common understanding of all aspects of inter-Service co-operation.
As your Lordships will note, the day on which this Command came into existence was December 1, 1940, which was after what had occurred in the Battle of Britain and the Battle of France. Those were the basic reasons for this Command being brought into being. You have a right to judge it by its success during the last two years. That is the standard by which the Air Ministry ask you to judge. In those two years great strides have been made in development and expansion while training has been going on in other Air Force commands besides the Army Co-operation Command. We have had the advantage of the campaigns in Egypt, Libya and Tripolitania to enable us to see how these developments have gone forward. In another place, when the Army Estimates were introduced by Sir James Grigg, he made a statement on the advance that had been made, and he said:In the Middle East campaign we have learnt much from actual experience in what has I think been the most successful example of close Army-Air support and co-operation this war has witnessed, and we are ready to apply the lessons to other possible theatres of operations.Of course there have been failures and omissions in this co-operation, but it is not to those that we want to look. I am certain that at this moment the Air Marshals understand much more clearly than they ever did the needs of the Generals and the Generals understand much more the capabilities and strength of the Air Marshals. I can state that there is an absolutely genuine readiness to work together now and I have no doubt that this co-operation will go forward.
The word "co-operation" is a two-edged word. Personally it is not a word that I entirely agree with or like, because when one speaks of co-operation one tends too much to think that one is doing something for the other man, and that it is a 465 one-sided agreement. It has beet proved that that is not the way it is looked at in the Eighth Army, and I would give your Lordships several illustrations of the way in which it has worked. It is not merely a question of the Air having had to co-operate With the Army in the advance of the Eighth Army. When they were going through Libya the Army at Marble Arch cleared a landing ground of a thousand mines and booby traps in eight hours and lost ten lives. That was an example of air co-operation by the Army and it was realized that without question they were doing something which was for the joint effort. In that co-operation there have been cases where a whole brigade has been turned on to clear a landing ground of stories, although it was at that moment in the front line, because unless it was done it would be absolutely impossible for the Air Force to work jointly with the Army that was fighting. That is the real secret of the advance from El Alamein to Tunisia. It can be said that the Eighth Army and the Air Forces in the Middle East have got beyond the stage of co-operation to the stage of being in effect one unit, a unit of Army-Air power. That is the reason for this triumphant advance—triumphant indeed it has been—of the Eighth Army.
This co-operation, or as I should prefer to say this unified action between the Eighth Army and the Allied Air Forces in the Middle East, has been founded on basic principles on which the Army Co-operation Command have worked consistently over the past two years. It is on those principles that we have advanced and they came to fruition in the advance of the Eighth Army as a result of co-operation. I must pay tribute to the Commander-in-Chief, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Barratt, who for two years has been working on this problem. He himself visited this theatre of war not long ago and saw the results of his work. It was a source of justifiable gratification to him to hear it said that it was because his teachings had been carried out—of course with alterations necessitated on the battle field—that this great victory of arms was made possible. Four men—General Alexander, Air Chief Marshal Tedder, General Montgomery and Air Vice-Marshal Coningham—have worked forward together and I think we are entitled to expect that this joint work will go forward to more and greater victories.
466 Now I come to the question with which Lord Beaverbrook dealt fully in his speech—dive bombing. We know that he holds very strong views on that question. We also know from the noble Lord himself that he is not a journalist, that he has nothing to do with journalism at all. We also know that Lord Beaverbrook is a very honest man. It was his honesty, I think, that made him let the cat out of the bag. It is not so much that he wants dive bombers but that he wishes to divide the Royal Air Force between the three Services. When it is suggested that the Air Marshals, Sir Archibald and myself were saying that the dive bomber was not possible and that the Army were acclaiming it all the time, it is time to say that that is not so. I ask your Lordships not to think that it was merely because of the stubbornness of the Air Marshals that we have not got dive bombers. The matter has been explained by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, and others.
The noble Lord mentioned Pearl Harbour, quoted the Daily Telegraph and cited a third reason. But is it necessary, as the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, said, merely to go into the past? I am not going to deal with Pearl Harbour. What happened there is not going to determine whether we should build dive bombers. We should want to know what were the defences there, and what the opposition to them was. If you go out into the rain without any umbrella any little water pot will make you wet. There is no reason to think you are guarded unless you have got defences. I think we should remember what the Prime Minister said when he came back, for after all it is a big point. He had been going around the Army, and he said afterwards:Three times when I asked the question 'What do you think of the dive bombers?'—because I asked all sorts of questions of all sorts of people—I got the answer 'Which dive bombers?', from officers of different ranks. There is no doubt at all that cur ground strafing aircraft and fighter bombers are achieving results at least equal to those of the Stukas without being as vulnerable as the Stukas are when unprotected by their fighter escort.I am not going into the question again of ordering and non-ordering, or of priorities at various times. In regard to this weapon I would say that—as with almost every weapon if you can afford it—there are moments when it can be used with great effect. But at the same 467 time there are great disadvantages. I would ask your Lordships not to think, or to get other people into the way of thinking, that it is merely because of the stubbornness of a few Ministers and Air Marshals in the Air Ministry that you do not have this weapon. Think a little more of the security which has been achieved with the weapons which we have and think how much we owe to the ability and technical skill of those responsible for producing the weapons which defend us.
On transport aircraft, the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, I know, holds strong opinions. He attaches great importance to transport aircraft, and so, I may tell him, do the Air Ministry and the War Office. There is no clash at all between us there. The future will find us better off, I hope, both in the supply of these aircraft and in the organization for their requirements. No doubt many noble Lords will have noticed that there was an article in the News Chronicle to-day dealing with this question. Well, I can say this. We are in a happier position with regard to transport aircraft, and, as a result, it is natural that a statement of policy regarding their use should be made. I do not, however, propose to anticipate to-day the statement which will be made by my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Air, on the Estimates next week. Therefore it is clear that I cannot deal any further with that question.
There is, however, one big point which I would like to stress to your Lordships. It is a mistake which is often made—but one which I do not think any of your Lordships are guilty of making—to think of the problem of supporting an Army as a task to be exclusively entrusted to one particular part of the Air Force. It is a great mistake to think that Army Co-operation Command alone is interested in giving air support to the Army. As Lord Trenchard has said—and he saw it for himself on his visit to our Forces in the field—immense forces are used for this purpose. The whole of our Air Force is closely concerned with the operations that are taking place. This matter of support is not fundamental to any one part of the Air Force. When land operations are going on the Air Commander has to face two distinct but inter-related problems, as Lord Trenchard has said on several occasions. First he 468 has to deal with the enemy Air Force, and to drive it, if possible, from the skies. If he can do that he at once affords protection to our own land forces. That must be the first aim of the Air Commander, and by achieving it he clears the way for his second task, which is to give the maximum support to our Armies in the field.
Again, it is a great mistake to believe that this support is limited to direct attack on enemy concentrations on the battlefield. Such direct attack is of course of very high importance, but there are many occasions, it has been proved, upon which it may be even more valuable to sink the enemy's supply ships and tankers, to bomb his ports and harbours and generally to disrupt his communications, in many cases a long way behind the battle front. These are not tasks for one section of the Air Force, but for the Force as a whole under an Air Commander, who must be intimate with the situation over the whole battlefield. Lord Keyes, to whom I always listen with the deepest interest, especially when he speaks on this subject of which he has such great knowledge, started off by saying that he thought that now we were going to call it a day. But having thrown out a very happy sort of smoke-screen himself, he then started banging away at his old target again.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
I am not going to get myself involved in an argument to-day with the noble Lord, whose views we all respect, but I do want to put some things to him because I consider they are fundamental and very important at the present time. This is a very technical age and a man, be he soldier, sailor or airman, must spend a lifetime of specialist study if he is to become a master of his trade. Can any one of these, soldier, sailor or airman, become proficient in the trades of the others without proportionately neglecting his own? Can a sailor become competent to operate the Army? Can a soldier become competent to operate the Navy? Can an airman become competent to operate either of these other Services? Or can either a soldier or a sailor become competent to operate the air?
§ LORD KEYES
If the noble Lord is asking me I say that a sailor is competent to develop a Naval Air Force to fulfil its particular responsibilities.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
With all due respect to the noble Lord, the air is one element, and if you are going to get the highest result—which the country is entitled to demand—with the three elements, air, land and water, that must be achieved by those who have specialized in respect of each. When we view what is happening to-day we see the enormous advantages which are coming to us. We see the vast production of the United Nations and it must be quite clear that one of the trump cards in our hands for the defeat of the enemy lies in the development of overwhelming superiority in the air. The air problem is essentially one problem. Beat the enemy's Air Force and the way is open before you for air support on an unparalleled scale. It is the Government's firm intention to exploit to the full the growing air predominance of the United Nations, and it is in that way that we shall be able to afford to the Army air support on a scale which no other Armies have ever enjoyed, and which, together with the efforts of the other Services, will ensure that we achieve success in this war.
§ LORD KEYES
My Lords, my noble friend asked me a question, and perhaps he will allow me to ask him one. Is he at heart satisfied with the co-operation which the Air Ministry gave to the Army and Navy at the beginning of the war?
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
My Lords, I should like to say one word to my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara, although he is no longer in the House. The air-screw brake will certainly come; it is perhaps here already; but the fact that the air-screw brake is developed will not make every aircraft a dive bomber. An aircraft, to be a dive bomber, must be strengthened in its air frame. Unless it is, it will not be any use at all, and will not be able to 470 come out of its dive safely. My noble friend spoke of American production, but we cannot rely on American production; we must build the machines here. It is not my duty to defend the Army, and certainly I make no attack on the Air Force; but I must say that the anti-tank gun is the development of the genius of one man, and that man is not in the Air Force.
My noble friend Lord Geddes had a most interesting speech to make, which appeared to have been taken into consideration before I made my speech, because he dealt with subjects which I did not raise at all. He said many things that are interesting, and I respect his views; but I would point out to him that in Russia the Air Force is part of the Army, and it is a very successful Air Force, while in America the Air Force is divided between the Navy and the Army, and is most successful also. My noble friend Lord Geddes gave me some advice, as I understood him. He said that I should not talk about technical subjects, and then he set out on a long harangue himself on technical subjects. I find that that often happens in this House. I am the last man in the world to attack the Royal Air Force. I have many reasons for holding the Royal Air Force in as high esteem as any of your Lordships, and in some respects in higher esteem than any of your Lordships. I hold in the highest esteem the achievements of the Air Force, not necessarily the Air Marshals. I suggest to my noble friend Lord Geddes, who made a very violent attack on the Admiralty, that I made no attack on any Ministry, Minister, Service or existing situation to-day at all. I would point out to him that the Air Force is already divided. He said that he read the speech made by Mr. Alexander in another place yesterday. Mr. Alexander said in that speech—I am quoting from memory—that the Fleet Air Arm is now an integral part of the Navy, and must not be regarded as another Service.
§ LORD GEDDES
My Lords, I was not talking about that part of the speech at all. I was referring to the construction of surface ships, and I referred to the criticisms already made of the Admiralty by Lord Winster—most bitter criticisms, but I am afraid deserved—and I pointed out that the First Lord of the Admiralty had made a further criticism by implication by saying that ships were now being 471 built more strongly. That is the only reference which I made to the First Lord's speech.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
My Lords, all I said was that my noble friend had stated that he had read the speech made by the First Lord. That was my only comment. I followed it with a subsequent comment which had nothing to do with my noble friend's criticism.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
If you examine that speech, you will see that it discloses that the Air Force is already divided.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
That may be, but my noble friend made an impassioned attack on anyone who wanted to divide the Air Force. It is already divided; the First Lord made that perfectly plain yesterday. I notice that my noble friend Lord Mottistone has also left the House.
§ LORD KEYES
He asked me to say that he had an appointment with the Lord Chancellor, and he apologizes for leaving.
§ LORD BEAVERBROOK
My Lords, I notice that the noble and learned Lord Chancellor has disappeared also. I had intended to make some references to him. I want to say this about Lord Mottistone. He spoke of the Spitfire. We must give credit where credit is due. The Spitfire is the product of Vickers Supermarine. That is where the Spitfire comes from. If you are going to give thanks for the Spitfire, give them to that firm and to Mitchell and to Westbrook, the men who worked on the development of the Spitfire, and to the Schneider Cup Race. That is where the Spitfire comes from.
The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, deplored my speech, as always, and suggested that I addressed this House on many subjects. Well, the noble Viscount speaks on many subjects. I have examined his record since January 1, and I find he has spoken 11 feet 3¾ inches. He is not alone in becoming a mighty tree. 472 I am sorry if I addressed myself to this subject in a fashion which interfered with or changed or altered the speech which the noble Viscount had prepared to make to the House—but he knows how to dispose of it! I was deeply moved by the speech of my noble friend Lord Keyes. His record and his splendid service to the British Empire must give him a place in this House which few if any others are entitled to occupy.
I now come to the speech of my noble friend Lord Sherwood. I cannot see what he complains of. He suggests that I have not followed the Motion which stands in my name. In that Motion I asked for information about the organization of Army Co-operation Command, and I pointed out in my speech that that organization prevented Army Co-operation Command from ordering dive bombers and Army transport aircraft. I said that that was a defect in the organization. There is nothing wrong with that, is there? That was my whole point. All kinds of suggestions have been attributed to me to-day, and all sorts of opinions suggested in one speech after another, but I was dealing with the question of the organization of Army Co-operation Command and the misfortune, under that organization, of the impossibility of Army Co-operation Command ordering dive bombers and Army transport aircraft. That was my point, and I think that I made it clearly.
I never made an attack on co-operation, and I have never attacked it, as far as I know. I was discussing the defects in the organization. The answer that my noble friend has made is much further from the speech that I made than my speech is from the Motion on the Paper in my name. I did not blame any Ministry for its conduct in the past. I never said a word in criticism of there having been no dive bombers in the past—not one word. I have heard plenty of criticism; I am always defending the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production against charges of having failed to produce the dive bomber, and I have spoken in this House on two occasions to explain why dive bombers were not manufactured in 1940. I was a party to that decision, and I am ready to defend it. I do not attack it; on the contrary, I think that the right decision was taken, and I have said so here. I do not blame any Ministry or make any charges whatever. 473 What I said was, build now. Build now: that was the whole spirit of my speech. Those who were in the House during my speech will bear me out when I say that I addressed myself entirely to the need for the immediate building of dive bombers and of Army transport aircraft. That was my subject. It is other noble Lords who have dealt with events in the past, not me.
Again, take the matter of the attack of dive bombers on the American Fleet at Pearl Harbour. I explained quite clearly that 105 aircraft had gone into Pearl Harbour, of which nearly half were dive bombers and that they had done immense damage, so that the dive bomber was evidently an effective weapon. I do not deny that the dive bombers might have been shot down if fighter aircraft had been about, but they destroyed twice as many American aircraft. My speech was entirely directed to showing the nature of the weapon and making a case for it.
I think I have made all my points, but I want to say one more thing. I am delighted to hear the good news that the Army transport aircraft are to be taken in hand. It is good news for this month, and I hope that next month the good news will be that the Air Ministry or the War Office has decided to take in hand the immediate construction and development in Great Britain of the dive bomber. And let me emphasize once more that development is perhaps more important in dive bombers than design. The design brings the dive bomber into existence, but development, which is the improvement of the dive bomber, is the result of actual experience and operation. It is what has brought the Spit fire into its present high position, it is what made the Hurricane what it is, it is what made the Lancaster the greatest and finest bomber in the world. All these three aircraft flow from development rather than from design. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.