1966 Defence White Paper
The 1966 Defence White Paper
White paper
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and are often requested and used in politics, policy, business, and technical fields. In commercial use, the term has also come to refer to...

was a major review of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's defence policy brought about by the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 government under the Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

. The main author was the then Secretary of State for Defence
Secretary of State for Defence
The Secretary of State for Defence, popularly known as the Defence Secretary, is the senior Government of the United Kingdom minister in charge of the Ministry of Defence, chairing the Defence Council. It is a Cabinet position...

, Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

. In 1967 the government further announced the strategic withdrawal of British forces deployed East of Suez
East of Suez
The phrase East of Suez is used in British military and political discussions in reference to imperial interests beyond the European theatre ....

, which marked a watershed in British foreign policy.


The government decided on significant reductions in the defence budget, with defence being the primary target of the government's efforts to reduce public spending due to wider economic problems. It resulted in cutting a number of significant new capital projects, including the CVA-01
The CVA-01 aircraft carrier was to be a class of at least two fleet carriers that would have replaced the Royal Navy's existing aircraft carriers, most of which had been designed prior to or during World War II....

 aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...


Budget rivalry

In the early 1960s, the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 began to plan for new aircraft carriers to replace its aging fleet. To the Navy, this was a perfectly legitimate and necessary common sense exercise, not in need of explanation. The Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

, however, saw the renewal as a chance to defeat the Royal Navy and win the budget share which would have been necessary for new carriers. In order to do this, they compiled a history of Royal Navy aircraft carriers and a history of Royal Air Force tactical bombers, comparing the two and finding in favour of bombers. They then submitted this to the Treasury
HM Treasury
HM Treasury, in full Her Majesty's Treasury, informally The Treasury, is the United Kingdom government department responsible for developing and executing the British government's public finance policy and economic policy...

, proposing the TSR-2
The British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2 was a cancelled Cold War strike and reconnaissance aircraft developed by the British Aircraft Corporation for the Royal Air Force in the late 1950s and early 1960s...

 tactical strike aircraft in place of the RN's new generation aircraft carriers.

The government cancelled both the TSR-2 and, later, the CVA-01, showing that 'when the individual armed forces fight, only the Treasury wins'.


Professor Andrew Lambert
Andrew Lambert
Andrew Lambert BA , MA, PhD, FRHistS is a British naval historian, who is currently Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King's College London.-Early life and education:...

has described the 1966 Defence White Paper as the 'perfect example of what happens if your enemy knows your history better than you do', the enemy in this case being the RAF. In order for individual armed forces to win budget rivalries and public opinion, it is necessary for them to own their own history, to understand what it is and how to employ it.
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