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100 years ago: No new dockyard at Singapore

22 March 2024

March 21st, 1924.

WE WELCOME the Government’s announcement that it has decided to abandon the scheme for constructing a great naval dockyard at Singapore. The decision has been arrived at after careful thought and many consultations with the Board of Admiralty, and we confess that we are unable to appreciate the criticisms of Mr MacDonald that have appeared in the Liberal Press, for not having at once over-ridden naval opinion and abandoned the scheme without deliberation. Indeed, one of the virtues of the present Government is that its members are ready to listen to all opinions and carefully to consider before a policy is decided. It is suggested that the Dominions will be affronted by the abandonment of the Singapore scheme, and that Australia and New Zealand will feel that they can no longer depend on the mother-country for defence. The question immediately occurs — defence against whom? The British Empire has only two possible enemies in the Pacific. No reasonable man supposes that there can ever be war between the Empire and the United States. We agree, indeed, with Mr H. G. Wells who has recently said: “It is our excellent custom to defer to the United States, and we always shall.” That is a realistic statement of fact which only sheer sentimentality — and true patriotism is entirely divorced from sentimentality — can deny. There remains Japan, and surely diplomacy will be sufficient to protect the Empire from any war with Japan. Mr MacDonald’s speech in the House of Commons, in which he defended the Singapore decision, was an admirable statement of common sense political policy, which we feel convinced will commend itself to the great majority of the nation.

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