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Two guns should be enough


It was June 1939, Germany had invaded Czechoslovakia, and world war seemed imminent. Great Britain's Dominions Secretary, T. W. H. Inskip, wrote the following letter to the Governor of New-foundland, Sir William Horwood, the Newfoundland Chief Justice, who was acting as Administrator and Chairman of the Commission of Government during the absence of the Governor. All references of airport were to the Newfoundland Airport (later Gander) - the only airport in Newfoundland. Despatch Newfoundland 283, [London] June 26, 1939 Secret Sir,

Aviation - It was June 1939, Germany had invaded Czechoslovakia, and world war seemed imminent. Great Britain's Dominions Secretary, T. W. H. Inskip, wrote the following letter to the Governor of New-foundland, Sir William Horwood, the Newfoundland Chief Justice, who was acting as Administrator and Chairman of the Commission of Government during the absence of the Governor. All references of airport were to the Newfoundland Airport (later Gander) - the only airport in Newfoundland.

Despatch Newfoundland 283, [London] June 26, 1939

Secret

Sir,

I have the honour to refer to Sir William Horwood's Secret despatches Nos. 108 and 109 of the 3rd April, setting out the proposals of the Commission of Government for the formation of Newfoundland Defence Force and for the defence of the Newfoundland Airport respectively, and to inform you that these despatches have been considered by the Oversea Defence Committee.

2. As regards the question of the formation of a Defence Force, the Committee noted that the scheme outlined in Sir William Horwood's despatch No. 108 of the 3rd April was to be regarded as modified by the revised proposals contained in your subsequent telegram No. 139 of the 22nd May. The Committee accepted the scheme as thus modified, and as I informed you in my secret telegram No. 191 of the 16th June, the creation of a Defence Force on the basis of the revised proposals submitted in your telegram of the 22nd May is now approved in principle.

3. In this connection the Committee observed that it would be important in making arrangements for the disposition of the Defence Force that the principle of concentration should be observed so far as circumstances permitted. They accordingly recommended that, in view of the undesirability of dispersing the force to guard a number of military objectives, the Government of Newfoundland should be advised to concentrate on the defence of:

The Bell Island iron mine, the City of St. John's, and that detachments to guard the more important cable landings and the Airport should be reduced to a minimum.

4. As regards the proposals for the defence of the Airport, contained in Sir William Horwood's despatch No. 109 of the 3rd April, the Committee noted that two stages were envisaged: Pending the formation of the Defence Force, the immediate training by the Aerodrome Control Officer of members of the airport staff, both as machine-gunners and fire-fighters; On the formation of the Defence Force, the allocation of 30 men from the force to provide continuous guards at the Airport in time of emergency.

The Committee felt, on consideration, that the scale of attack to which the Airport would be likely to be subjected was so slight that the first stage should prove adequate to meet defence requirements, and accordingly that it should prove unnecessary to proceed to the second stage. They therefore recommended that the measures to be taken for the defence of the Airport should be limited for the present to the provision of two anti-aircraft Lewis Guns with ammunition, and the training of the necessary personnel from the staff of the Airport to man them.

Arrangements are proceeding in cooperation with the War Office with a view both to the supply of the arms and ammunition required for the Defence Force, and also to the secondment of an Officer and two Warrant Officers from the Regular Army to assist the Newfoundland Government in organizing and training the Force. I am in separate communication with you by telegraph in regard to these matters.

I should add that careful consideration has been given to the suggestion contained in paragraph 5 of Sir William Horwood's despatch No. 109 of the 3rd April, viz., that expenditure on capital outlay in connection with the defence of the Airport should be regarded as part of the construction costs and that current expenditure should be treated as part of the expenses of operation. It is felt however that it would be inappropriate that expenditure on defence measures at the Airport should be treated as part either of the construction or the operation costs for the purpose of the special arrangement with the Air Ministry, and the view taken is that any such expenditure should properly be regarded as the liability of the Newfound-land Government.

I have etc.

T. W. H. Inskip

Reference: Documents on Relations between Canada and Newfoundland Volume 1, 1935-1949; Defence Civil Aviation and Economic Affairs Ottawa 1974) edited by Paul Bridle, Department of External Affairs, Author: Canada, Dept. of External Affairs.

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