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The National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the British Information Services presents window on the world. I tape recorded series of talks by eminent British citizens. This week our speaker is Sarah Johns Lasser Britain's marshal of the Air Force. His subject power and peace and now is Sir John's last hour. I'm speaking to you from my office in the center of London about some aspects of British defense policy that during the winter of 1954 55 two very significant things happened in the field of British defense policy. Two things which I don't think it's overstating it to say would have been inconceivable a few years ago. First the British government committed themselves in the Paris agreements to keep a force of photo visions and a substantial tactical air force on the continent of Europe for 45 years to the end of this century. Secondly they came out firmly with a defense policy based primarily on the deterrent effect of atomic and
thermo nuclear power and for the first time in history the RAAF had a larger share of the Defense Appropriations than either of the older services. We rather pride ourselves in button on doing things by evolution rather than revolution. But in point of fact we have committed ourselves to walk for an island country like Britain is ready a revolution in defense policy. As a matter of fact. We have perforce had to do a good deal of readjustment of our whole mental outlook in the last quarter of a century. We are no longer the richest and most powerful nation on earth. That position is passed to you Americans. And incidentally with it is passed the privilege of being abused by the imperialists. It always happens to people who have decisive economic and military power. And if I were you I wouldn't need to keep me awake at night. The British flag no longer flies over great areas of the world wait used to fly and then went on the Hurley brought with it a tolerant rule of decency and justice and public order over people
who were then quite incapable of governing themselves. But in spite of already perhaps because of our surrender of power over vast territories and millions of people I believe our influence in Asia is as strong today as it has ever been and probably stronger. Now that may seem rather a digression but it shows an area of vital importance to the strategy of the free world and hence to British defense policy in the next generation or more. And I thought it worth reminding you in America that you have in that part of the world a nation a pretty valuable and experienced ally in the British Commonwealth whose military capacity is very far from negligible. It wasn't really relevant to my main theme this because our partnership with you in SEATO the Southeast Asia treaty is an obligation for which we must and shall maintain land forces and tactical air forces in addition to our new commitment in Europe. Now to turn back to the first great event I spoke of at the beginning of this top undertaking to keep
land and air forces on the continent of Europe to the end of the 20th century. It's always a bit rash to speculate about what might or might not have happened in certain hypothetical circumstances in the past but I'm going to stick my neck out and say that I believe that if we had done that 20 years ago there would be no world war two. Because we couldn't have done it it just was not politically possible them. I'm not trying to excuse our policy in the years before 1939 I think it was weak and foolish. But don't you Americans talk lightheartedly about appeasement and Mr. Chamberlain umbrella and all that sort of thing. Remember that today there is rotten or cold or perhaps rather too absolutely crucial points of difference from the days before World War Two. Today we in Britain can count upon the partnership and support of America. Thank goodness. In the past 10 years the United States has risen splendidly to their new responsibilities of world leadership and behind all the guarantees of the security of Western Europe stands a massive
part of your strategic air command. Now it's that which has made the crucial difference to the whole picture of European and British and incidentally of American security. And in spite of some nonsense that you sometimes talk to them it's part of the privilege of free peoples to talk Nelsons we know it very well. But remember that in 1939 the reality is about America as far as we in Britain were concerned with the Neutrality Act in the Johnson act and it was nearly two and a half years before the crowning Japanese folly of Pearl Harbor. Maybe it did last certain that to their might of America would be arranged on our side and from then of course the issue would not have died from the purely military point of view. I don't think an undertaking in the parent's agreements has made very much difference. I mean I don't believe for a moment that we should have withdrawn our forces from the continent unless and until it was safe to do so. The Perrys agreements were in no previous agreements. But that's not the point. The real point is that we've abandoned forever the old
attitude of Independence which was such a factor of uncertainty and weakness in the years before 1914 and again before 1939. We've accepted it in the most practical possible way. Responsibilities of leadership in Europe as well as in the Commonwealth and there's nothing incompatible in those two. And we made a most significant sacrifice of national sovereignty. We promised to keep forces of stated strength and composition on the continent of Europe unless and until our allies French Belgium's Dutchman and so on agree that we should reduce or remove them. We've been able to do in Western European Union which owes its existence primarily to the vision and vigor of our Prime Ministers when needed and we've been able to do what we could never possibly have done in that ill conceived monstrosity. The ECB European defense community which now fortunately is dead and that while it involves an expensive and onerous burden on top of our other defense commitments it went on with it as a stabilizing
factor in the Western policy of strength. Now it's time for you to consider for a minute or two the other very significant recent development in British defense policy. The adoption by the British government of a policy based on what so Winston called successful deterrence operated from a foundation of sober calm and tireless vigilance. Now we need to know perfectly well Winston has repeatedly reminded us that during these past troubled years it's been your strategic air command sac that has stood between us and calamity. SAC is still that the great deterrent. We in the RAAF have a fighting force of that excellent like jet bomber the Kember which incidentally the United States Air Force adopted and built under license in the States. But the new for Jet medium bombers the class we call them valiant Vulcan and Victor that are just coming into the service and I can assure you they are very good. And there we obviously can't hope to compete with you in numbers and we
simply haven't got the population or the resources Bomber Command with its B-class bombers will be a very valuable partner of SAC in the big stick behind NATO's armed with the atomic and the hydrogen bombs that we are making in Britain. You know where I'm really not at all bad at this Burma business and we've got great resources in design and invention in training tactics technique and in the aptitude of our crews and incidentally inexperience. I think it's not always realized in America that during the war in Europe the RAAF Bomber Command dropped just about half the total tonnage of bombs actually slightly more than your eighth and fifteen thousand forty put together. And as I said earlier today the RAAF has the lion's share of British defense expenditure. Now that really is a very significant thing. A revolutionary development in policy for a country like Britain a small island close to the Iron Curtain whose whole existence and
tradition has been banged up for centuries in the conception of sea power. And please know that policy is not merely that of the Conservative government not in power. It's equally the policy of the Labor opposition and it was not an issue in the general election this spring. Actually the policy was announced in the House of Commons only a few weeks before the election and the government who announced he did what no British government has done for about 100 years. It came back after a general election with a greatly increased majority. Incidentally one solitary MP who did take a stand during the election on the issue that Britain should not have a strategic air force or manufacture the hydrogen bomb. He was defeated by an overwhelming majority. You still hear a certain amount of rubbish talked about it of course from for instance the surprising suggestion that why we should have a strategic bomber force and make the hydrogen bomb. We should not use it unless the Russians used it first. It would obviously suit them down to the ground to have what General Grant had called a world of flesh in which they would have a decisive advantage
and deprive us of the use of that one weapon with which we can be sure of being able to annihilate them. That of course is why the Soviet leaders constantly and invariably advocate the prohibition of atomic warfare. I'd like to make just two points about this deterrent policy. First it doesn't not cease to be effective if and when the Russians equal the NATO powers in nuclear capacity. I personally see no earthly reason why we should not retain great superiority in atomic and thermonuclear power. Indeed I think we ought to be ashamed of ourselves if we don't. With our vast scientific and technological resources and I can see why we should take any notice when the Russians say they've already equal US let alone a pastor's. I simply don't believe it. But that's not the point. So Winston made the real point in that great speech of his in the House of Commons on the 1st of March when he spoke of what he called the point of saturation.
He said that at the outset of a war each side would suffer what he dreaded most the loss of everything they had ever known. And he saw hope in the assumption that both sides would then realize that global war would result in mutual annihilation. As a matter fact long before that he said it is to the universality of potential destruction that we may look with hope and even with confidence. And that's the point. The Kremlin might arrive at a stage when they could annihilate us but they wouldn't see much fun in that if if they're certain to be annihilated themselves. And that is unquestionably what would happen. The second point I want to make is this it's so important when we talk about the great deterrent to be quite clear about what it will in fact deter. Now the most of the advocates of the Terran policy have never claimed for it is that it will prevent a potential aggressor from undertaking total war as an instrument of policy. As Hitler did in 1939.
All from embarking on a course of international action which obviously involves a serious risk of total war. As for instance the Austrian government did in July 1914. That's all. But goodness knows it's important enough. In fact it's one of the most revolutionary developments in the world's history. It means that all our global war as we have no need to know our generation is a thing of the past provided. And this is the crucial proviso. We remain ready to wait with the right weapons. As long as we maintain the great deterrent of nuclear power instantly ready for use then we shan't have to use it. One last word. Nuclear power cannot do everything. It is the ultimate sanction to be ready for use if and when the survival of freedom is at stake. And it can't be used lightly. It's not even a valid deterrent to these sort of minor wars the one I call the other careers that we may still have to fight in Asia. In these sort of brushed wars
there's no substitute for tough well-trained troops on the ground without cover and support. So we must still maintain what have come to be known as conventional forces ready for use against these minor aggressions on the frontiers of freedom wherever they may occur. That is why the maintenance of Garrison's in key areas over seas and others to teach it preserving them to reinforce them in emergency is also a feature of British defense policy. You have been listening to Sir John's last or Britain's marshal of the Air Force speaking on the subject. Power and peace Listen next week when window on the world will present Miss Ailsa Garland women's editor of The London Daily Mirror. Our topic the Woman's Page. This has been a tape recorded presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the British Information Services. This is the end AB Radio Network.
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Window on the world
Sir John Slessor
Producing Organization
British Information Services
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Sir John Slessor, the British Marshal of the Royal Air Force gives a talk titled "Power and Peace."
Series Description
A series of short talks by well-known British personalities on the subjects usually associated with them.
Broadcast Date
Talk Show
Military Forces and Armaments
Radio programs--United States.
Media type
Producing Organization: British Information Services
Speaker: Slessor, John, 1897-1979
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-30-34 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:30
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Chicago: “Window on the world; Sir John Slessor,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 27, 2024,
MLA: “Window on the world; Sir John Slessor.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 27, 2024. <>.
APA: Window on the world; Sir John Slessor. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from