No. 266 NAI DFA 2006/39

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 52) (Secret) (Copy)

London, 19 August 1940

As already reported orally, Lord Caldecote told me on the 15th August that the recent big air raids on Britain certainly marked Germany's intention to force the issue.1

There was, thus far, no depression in either the War Cabinet or among the Chiefs of Staff – the latter in fact, after studying the results of the recent air attacks, had feelings of increased confidence. It was, of course, possible that the Germans had some weapon or form of surprise attack unknown to them but if they had no more to face in the future than the attacks they had encountered thus far the present attitude of the British experts was that there was little or no cause for worry.

The Spitfire,2 whose fighting superiority and manoeuvrability Lord Caldecote thought was established, had given them a great deal of trouble in the experimental stages. For over a year they had had one disappointment after another in the machine trials. Their engineers and designers however persevered and today there was no doubt that they had a first class machine. I inquired as to the possibility of the Germans being able to build Spitfires – using one they had captured as a model. Lord Caldecote said the Germans might build one or two as models but from his experience as Minister for Co-Ordination of Defence he estimated it would take at least a year to produce this type of aeroplane on the big scale necessary for war purposes.

It had been remarkable he thought that they had as yet suffered so little from the extensive raids. There had been no interference at all with munitions supply nor, the frequency of the attacks notwithstanding, had any port been out of action.

He dealt at some length with an inquiry I ventured as to whether the losses of German planes reported by the British were completely accurate, assuring me that the figures given by the Air Ministry were always based on fact and were nearly always underestimated. They had never even considered any suggestion of adjusting reports of German [origin] on their own losses to meet apprehension on the part of the British public.

On the question of the new social order which it is suggested is to emerge after the war, Lord Caldecote said there had been no discussion at the Cabinet. They were all so preoccupied with winning the war that no one had time to think out plans for a new world order. As far as Britain is concerned I said it would probably follow the lines already well marked in their history of trial and error and slow growth, rather than on organised scientifically worked out plan. He was confident that the new order, whatever shape it took, would be worked out in the way I had suggested.

Dr. James Hallon, the Warden of Toynbee Hall, with close associations with the Archbishop of Canterbury (President of Toynbee Hall) and with the British Labour Party took precisely the same line saying that the problems had got no further than elementary discussions from the intellectuals and the social reformers.

Professor V.G.S Adams, Warden of All Souls College, Oxford, who is connected with the intellectual left wing life of Oxford and elsewhere told me today that whilst a number of people were thinking about the new order it was necessarily in the most general terms at present, seeking for example some short cut with the problem of unemployment which must of course be of great urgency the minute the war finished. The recent raids on Britain he thought had increased rather than diminished the determination of the citizens to fight to a finish.

I reminded Lord Caldecote of the suggestions made by Dr. Salazar, President of the Republic of Portugal, that some really dependable estimate of the strength of the German war forces should be attempted and enquired whether the position was any clearer than a few weeks ago. Lord Caldecote said that estimates of this kind were, as we all know, based upon reports from Secret Service officers. He was frankly sceptical about those Secret Service reports. They generally represented a small fragment of wheat in an immense amount of chaff. He thought some of the rumours about Germany's strength or lack of strength were put about by busybodies who had no information and who were really defeatist at heart. He said that the Daily Mirror was not merely an enemy of the Government, which circumstance could not of course perturb him, but he was beginning to think was an enemy of the country.

1 The second week of August 1940 saw an increase in the severity of German air raids directed against infrastructure and airfields in England.

2 The design of the Supermarine Spitfire fighter was accepted by the Air Ministry in 1935. The first prototype flew in 1936 and by the outbreak of war in 1939 nine RAF squadrons were flying the aircraft. By the outbreak of the 'Battle of Britain' in the summer of 1940 nineteen RAF Fighter Command Squadrons were equipped with Spitfires.

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