Oral Answers to Questions — Naval Operations (Air Force, Control).

– in the House of Commons on 21st July 1942.

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Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that it has been ruled that in operations in the Middle East the Army Commander shall specify the targets and tasks required to be performed by the Royal Air Force, a similar ruling will be given so that machines of the Royal Air Force taking part in naval operations shall, in like manner, come under the supreme control of the senior Naval officer conducting the operation?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

In the Middle East during active military operation the General, working in the closest association with the Air Commander, has the directing power. Aircraft co-operating with the Fleet conform strictly to naval requirements and movements. In the intervals between land or sea operations, ample opportunities for discussion and agreement between the three Commanders-in-Chief are provided by their meetings under the presidency of the Minister of State. Quite a different arrangement prevails at home where, for the purposes of the North-Western Approaches and the narrow seas, the Admiralty is the predominant authority. In this case the Coastal Command is under the operational control of the Admiralty and questions of the relative strength of the Coastal and Bomber Command are decided by the Minister of Defence, or by the Defence Committee. In other theatres of war arrangements are made to meet the particular conditions there existing, having regard principally to the predominant character of the operations.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

Will the Prime Minister state whether the absence of the excellent ruling which he gave regarding the R.A.F. and the Army in Egypt may not have contributed to our failure to succeed in the operations against the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau"?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

No, Sir, I do not think there is any foundation for that.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to the suggestion that on one occasion during that action, our own destroyers were bombed by our own aircraft?

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

Such things have happened in every Army.

Photo of Commander Sir Archibald Southby Commander Sir Archibald Southby , Epsom

Would it not obviate that if——