The ‘Ministry of Defence’ Campaign, 1919–26

  • G. A. H. Gordon
Part of the Studies in Military and Strategic History book series (SMSH)


While the supply controversy was not an issue to arouse much passion outside Whitehall, the post-war years saw ‘continuing Parliamentary and public demand for a centralised security organisation, preferably headed by a Minister of Defence’,1 and once more ‘opposition to radically improved coordination was spearheaded by the Admiralty’.2 Widespread experience in political circles of civil-military control in wartime ensured that the surfeit of opinions belied the simplicity of the principles involved. The question would arise again, in the 1930s, but with neither the frequency of the more compounded procurement issue nor with the same fundamental relationship to this study. The subject of this chapter must nevertheless be recognised as at least potentially the senior of the two coordination issues, though so uncoordinated were the enquiries that it is unclear whether both ministries were thought to be technically possible at the same time, or whether a Ministry of Defence could, at the other extreme, have left undisturbed the three independent supply arrangements


Service Leader Coordination Issue Separate Minister Fait Accompli Political Circle 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    F. R. Johnson, Defence by Committee, p. 167.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid, p. 176.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lord Thomson, House of Lords, 16 June 1926, Hansard LXIV, Col 416.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Johnson, Defence by Committee, p. 176.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid, p. 178. see also N. d’Ombrain War Machinery and High Policy (1973).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    S. W. Roskill, Hankey, Man of Secrets, 3 vols (1970–4) vol. II, p. 154.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Ibid, p. 179.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    ‘National Expenditure’, 14 December 1921, Cmd 1581.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Roskill, Hankey, vol. II, pp. 259–60.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Ibid, p. 32.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    21 March 1922; also mentioned by Hankey in ‘Proposed Ministry of Defence’, ND Paper 28, 9 May 1923, CAB 16/47.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Roskill, Hankey, vol. II, p. 260.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    ‘Proposed Ministry of Defence’.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    4th Marquess; Lord President of the Council, 1922–4; Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1922–3.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Memo 27, ‘Proposed Ministry of Defence’.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Ibid. Memo 8.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Memo 54, ‘Proposed Ministry of Defence’.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Roskill, Hankey, vol. II, p. 340; ‘Proposed Ministry of Defence’. The Salisbury Report was dated 31 July 1923. There seems no clear reason why Johnson placed the report in November 1924, or, for that matter, the Weir report on Amalgamation in January 1926 (Johnson, Defence by Committee, pp. 193, 182).Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    Johnson, Defence by Committee, p. 195.Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    Ibid, p. 189.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    Ibid, p. 184.Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    ‘Coordination of services common to the Navy, Army and Air Force’, CID Paper 695-B, 3 June 1926, CAB 4/14.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    ‘A Ministry of Defence’, CID Paper 696-B, 4 June 1926, CAB 4/14.Google Scholar
  24. 25.
  25. 26.
    Lord Thomson, House of Lords, 16 June 1926, Hansard, vol LXIV, Col 416.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl; Leader of House of Commons and First Lord of the Treasury 1891–2 and 1895–6; Prime Minister 1902–5; First Lord of the Admiralty 1915–16; Foreign Secretary 1916–19; President of the Council 1919–22 and 1925–29. Balfour had had much to do with the CID, and had chaired it on behalf of Lloyd George during the latter’s second coalition administration.Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    Haldane likewise had strong early connections with the CID; he had not only chaired it on behalf of MacDonald, but had even allegedly crossed from the Liberals to join the Labour Cabinet for the purpose of protecting the CID (Johnson, Defence by Committee, pp. 194–5).Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    The COS Committee was supported by a Joint Planning Committee set up in 1927 at Beatty’s behest (44th COS, 14 March 1927, CAB 53/2).Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    Roskill, Hankey, vol. II, p. 340.Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    Ibid, p. 337.Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    Ibid, p. 420.Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    Hankey to MacDonald, 25 February 1926, ‘Committee of Imperial Defence, Constitution and Functions 1922–27’, CAB 21/469.Google Scholar

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© G. A. H. Gordon 1988

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  • G. A. H. Gordon

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