The Chargé in the Union of South Africa (Connelly) to the Dominion Affairs Officer, Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs (Shullaw)

top secret

Pear Harry: John Davis, our Army Attaché, has just showed me a copy of his top secret report of August 17, 1951 to the Department of the Army, No. R–149–51, which gives the latest dope on the Union’s commitments regarding defense of the Middle East.1 You will probably be getting your complete copy in the usual way but as there are certain sections dealing with the purchase of defense equipment I am paraphrasing them for your information.

Most of the equipment for South Africa will be purchased from England. Total orders for this equipment will be placed in the near future and will come to thirty million pounds. This sum will be expended over a six year period. The first yearly budget of five million pounds would be voted during the next session of parliament. All fighting vehicles, medium tanks, light tanks, armoured personnel carriers, will be purchased from the UK. Arrangements are being made with Canada to purchase Ford four and six wheel vehicles without bodies. The bodies will be manufactured in the Union on British specifications. Signal equipment will be purchased from Canada and possibly some from the UK.2

John Davis’ report also points out the terrific impression which Field Marshal Sir William Slim made on Minister of Defense Erasmus and other members of the Union delegation. Both Mr. Forsyth and General du Toit told me immediately on their return from London what an outstanding job Slim had done in his review of the world military situation.3

If South Africa carries through with its plan, as stated in John’s report, to purchase from the UK and Canada, it looks very much as though any Union purchases from the United States, other than very minor items such as a few bazookas, will be postponed indefinitely.

With the best of wishes,

Sincerely yours,

Bernard C. Connelly
  1. A copy of the communication cited here is not included in Department of State files.
  2. A similar appraisal was reported by Attaché Davis in a message of May 11 to the Department of the Army, a copy of which Chargé Connelly sent to Shullaw under cover of a letter of June 1. Davis commented that the British hoped that the new South African procurement policy would end the attempt by South Africa to obtain equipment from the United States. (745A.56/6–151)
  3. Erasmus attended the Commonwealth Defense Ministers’ Meeting in London in June 1951.