By P. Bell
This publication examines the function of Chamberlain and the nationwide executive in responding to the strategic difficulties created via the emergence of a two-front threat from Germany and Japan. It makes a speciality of the 1st defence requisites enquiry of 1933-4, while rearmament foundations have been laid and international coverage redefined. It explores the inter-relationship among the various departments of country, and among contributors, within the formula of coverage at a time of challenge, and sheds mild at the debate approximately appeasement.
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As with Eyres-Monsell, there was every reason why the Australian High Commissioner should favour closer relations with Japan, but not if it meant curbing Far Eastern preparations. Although the Dominions' preoccupation with Japan was understandable, it is worth stressing that, to some extent, their outlook was short-sighted; for, if Britain ever became involved in a European war because of failure to contain Germany, then it was possible that no fleet might be available to assist the Dominions if Japan took the opportunity to attack in the Far East.
Chamberlain next raised the Review's order of priorities, questioning the desirability of laying down a cut and dried order when the situation was 'so fluid'; it might 'quite conceivably be found, for example, that the situation in Europe became more urgent than the situation in the Far East'. It should be noted in this context that Germany's departure from Geneva, only two days after the date of the Service Review, neatly demonstrated how the European situation could suddenly deteriorate. ' His proposal resulted in a resolution, placing the designated priority order under regular review.
The pact, he argued on 30 January, would let Hitler throw his weight in other directions; it would bring nearer the prospect of a bid for colonies, perhaps as part of an enlarged definition of Gleichberechtigung. The Committee, he urged, should accept that 'the risks had increased rather than decreased', that there was 'more need for speed in making good our deficiencies than before'. 38 The Far Eastern case was again pressed by Chatfield. 39 At the Naval Conference, he feared, Japan would demand parity.