British prepare to discuss the War with the Americans

Aboard the SS QUEEN MARY, around a conference table sit the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Sir Archibald P Wavell, GCB, CMG, MC, ADC, and Admiral Sir James Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO.

Aboard the SS QUEEN MARY, around a conference table sit the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Sir Archibald P Wavell, GCB, CMG, MC, ADC, and Admiral Sir James Somerville, KCB, KBE, DSO.

Seated around a conference table aboard the SS QUEEN MARY are, left to right: Air Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, General Sir Alan Brooke, Mr Winston Churchill. Prime Minister Churchill is presiding over the meeting at the end of the table.

Seated around a conference table aboard the SS QUEEN MARY are, left to right: Air Marshal Sir Charles Portal, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound, General Sir Alan Brooke, Mr Winston Churchill. Prime Minister Churchill is presiding over the meeting at the end of the table.

At the Casablanca Conference the Allies had decided that the next objective, after North Africa, should be the invasion of Sicily. What their following move should be remained undecided, and now Churchill and his war staff we on their way to Washington for a further conference to decide the future of the war. They were travelling on the liner, Queen Mary along with 5,000 German prisoners of war under armed guard. It was thought that the Queen Mary was, in most circumstances, too fast a target for U-boats, and she stopped for nothing whilst on Atlantic crossings.

The Chief of the Imperial Defence Staff, Sir Alan Brooke, was prone to using his diary as an outlet for his frustrations. He was subsequently to note that he was in a particularly jaundiced mood when he made this entry.

It was by no means certain that the Allies should invade Italy after Sicily. The British would be pressing for it, arguing that they could not let many Divisions sit idle while they prepared for the invasion of France. The Americans were pressing for the invasion of France as early as possible and wanted no diversions. The matter would be decided in the next few days:

10 May 1943

This should be our last day at sea as we are due to arrive tomorrow morning if we go on defeating submarines as we have done up to the present. There are about 100 of them operating in the North Atlantic at present, but most of them are concentrated further north. There are only two reported in front of us on the approaches to New York. But as we have now also picked up a Catalina flying boat in addition to our two cruisers and four destroyers we should be well protected.

News from Tunisia continues to be excellent. This morning from 10.30 to 11.30 we had our final COS [Chiefs of Staff] meeting on our pro- posed Mediterranean strategy. We then went on to the PM at 11.30 and discussed the Far East strategy till 1.30 pm.

A thoroughly unsatisfactory meeting at which he again showed that he cannot grasp the relation of various theatres of war to each other. He always gets carried away by the one he is examining and in prosecuting it is prepared to sacrice most of the others.

I have never in the 1 1/2 years that I have worked with him succeeded in making him review the war as a whole and to relate the importance of the various fronts to each other.

At 5.30 pm we had another meeting with the PM that lasted till close on 7 pm. We were intended to discuss the Mediterranean strategy, but it was not long before we were drawn off again to his pet of the moment in the shape of an attack on Northern Sumatra or Penang!! A different theatre, but not only that – a theatre entirely secondary to the European one which must remain our primary one!

After the meeting Pound ran a small sherry party for the naval officers in charge of the ship which we were invited to attend. Now I am off to bed, and if we do not meet a submarine we should be in New York fairly early tomorrow morning.

It has been a very comfortable trip, with plenty of work to fill in the time, and we should by now be ready for our conferences with the American Chiefs of Staff. I do NOT look forward to these meetings in fact I hate the thought of them. They will entail hours of argument and hard work trying to convince them that Germany must be defeated first.

After much argument, they will pretend to understand, will sign many agreements and…will continue as at present to devote the bulk of their strength to try and defeat Japan!! In fact Casablanca will be repeated.

It is all so maddening as it is not difficult in this case to see that unless our united effort is directed to defeat Germany and hold Japan the war may go on indenitely. However it is not sufficient to see something clearly. You have got to try and convince countless people as to where the truth lies when they don’t want to be acquainted with that fact. It is an exhausting process and I am very very tired, and shudder at the useless struggles that lie ahead.

See Sir Alan Brooke: War Diaries

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and the Prime Minister on the deck of the SS QUEEN MARY.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound and the Prime Minister on the deck of the SS QUEEN MARY. Pound was not a well man, with a tendency to fall asleep in meetings. He was discovered to have a brain tumour later in the year and died in October 1943.

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