Western Union Defence Organisation

From April 1948, the member states of the Western Union (WU), decided to create a military agency under the name of the Western Union Defence Organisation (WUDO). WUDO was formally established on September 27–28, 1948.[3][4][5]

Western Union Defence Organisation
Badge of the Western Union Defence Organisation.svg
Active28 September 1948[1]
Disbanded20 December 1951
United Kingdom
BranchNavy (UNIMER)
Air force (UNITER)
TypeMultinational military organisation
Sizec. 100 officers and 300 other personnel[2]
Part ofWestern Union
Garrison/HQFontainebleau, France
EngagementsCold War
CinC Comm. ChairmanFM Montgomery
CinCLandGen. Lattre
CinCAirACM Robb
FOWEVice-Adm. Jaujard


The objective of WUDO was to provide for the coordination of defence between the five powers in the military and supply fields and for the study of the tactical problems of the defence of Western Europe; in addition, to provide a framework on which, in the event of any emergency, a command organization could be built up.

The Treaty of Brussels contained a mutual defence clause as set forth in Article IV:

If any of the High Contracting Parties should be the object of an armed attack in Europe, the other High Contracting Parties will, in accordance with the provisions of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, afford the Party so attacked all the military and other aid and assistance in their power.[6]

Article V set forth the obligations of Brussels Pact members to cooperate with the United Nations Security Council to maintain international peace and security, and Article VI set forth the obligations of Brussels Pact members to not enter any third-party treaties that conflicted with the Treaty of Brussels.[6]

The overall command structure was patterned after the wartime Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, which included a joint planning staff.[4]


WUDO's organisational chart as of November 1948, in which solid and dashed lines indicate control and liaison lines, respectively:[7]

Consultative Council
(foreign or prime ministers)
Permanent Commission (4 ambassadors in London
plus Foreign Office representative)
Defence Committee (defence ministers)
Military Supply Board
Chiefs of Staff Committee (WUCOS)
Finance Committee
UN General Assembly Special CommitteeSecurity CommitteeMilitary Committee and Combined Staff of WUCOSCommanders-in-Chief Committee and its Chairman
C-in-C Western Europe Land ForcesC-in-C Western Europe (Tactical) Air ForceFlag Officer Western Europe


Fixed locations of WUDO:
London: Defence Committee, Military Supply Board, Chiefs-of-Staff Committee
Fontainebleau: Commanders-in-Chief Committee

Defence CommitteeEdit

Direction and control was provided by the Western Union Defence Committee which, in peacetime, was composed of the national defence ministers. The Defence Committee was served by the Chiefs-of-Staff Committee and the Military Supply Board, meeting regularly in London. These bodies were analogous to the U.K.'s Chiefs of Staff Committee and Joint War Production Staff, respectively.


The secretariat worked for the other bodies, and had a British Secretary General.

Military Supply BoardEdit

In parallel with this Chiefs-of-Staff organisation, the Western Union Military Supply Board advised the Defence Committee on all questions affecting military supplies and made recommendations as to how the requirements of the Five Powers for Military Supplies could be met. The Supply Board was on a high level and was composed of one representative from each country. The British representative, who was to be chairman for the first year, was also Chairman of the British Joint War Production Staff. The infrequent meetings of the Board were served by a permanent Executive Committee working in London, composed of representatives from each country.

Chiefs-of-Staff CommitteeEdit

The Western Union Chiefs of Staff Committee (WUCOS), based in London, United Kingdom,[8] consisted of the five national chiefs of staff.[9]

WUCOS directed the operative organisation and advised the Defence Committee on all matters affecting the defence of Western Europe, taking account of commitments in other parts of the world. Within this broad direction, its special tasks in Western Europe were those such as:

  • ensuring that the military resources of the five countries were organized to meet the strategic requirements of the Allies
  • ensuring the forces of the various nations were welded into an effective fighting machine
  • ensuring their combined resources were allotted in the best way
  • maintaining a proper balance between the conflicting requirements of internal security and home defence on the one hand, and the European battle on the other
  • evaluation, preparation and distribution of the necessary resources, in particular to the Commander of the European battle, whose special task was to make the necessary operational plans and put them into operation
  • keeping constantly under review definition of the exact area of the responsibility of the command of the European battle in war

WUCOS included observers from the United States and Canada. This American liaison mission was initially led by Major General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, U.S. Army, and subsequently by Major General A. Franklin Kibler, USA.[10]

Commanders-in-Chief CommitteeEdit

The high-level headquarters of Chairman Montgomery of the C-in-C Committee was situated in Château des Fougères (48°25′17″N 2°43′58″E / 48.42139°N 2.73278°E / 48.42139; 2.73278, demolished in 1998)[11] in Fontainebleau's neighbouring commune Avon.

The Western Union Commanders-in-Chief Committee, responsible to the Western Union Chiefs-of-Staff Committee, was created on 5 October 1948.[12][13]

The committee consisted of Western Union Commanders-in-Chief for the three military branches (Land, Naval and Air), as well as the senior officer, designated Chairman. Their immediate task was to study the tactical problems of the defence of Western Europe, i.e. make plans to meet a Soviet armed threat in Western Europe. They did not assume executive command of any forces in peacetime, although they were in close contact with Military Governors of the occupation zones, and it was hoped that, to a limited extent, peacetime dispositions could be adjusted to meet the needs of defence.

Members of the Western Union Commanders-in-Chief Committee
Portrait Name Title Defence branch Nationality
  Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.[10] Chairman British Army United Kingdom
  General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny Commander-in-chief, Land Forces, Western Europe (CinCLand) French Army France
  Air Chief Marshal Sir James Robb Commander-in-chief, Air Forces, Western Europe (CinCAir) Royal Air Force United Kingdom
  Vice-Admiral Robert Jaujard Flag Officer, Western Europe (FOWE)[4][14][15] French Navy France

The committee formed a nucleus command organisation in the French town of Fontainebleau, south of Paris, known as the Combined Allied Command of WUDO (UNILION), which, in war, would be capable of commanding all land forces and supporting air forces to meet a Soviet armed threat. UNILION employed c. 100 officers and 300 other personnel.[2]

The top-level headquarters of UNILION, with the office of the C-in-C Committee Chairman, was housed in Château des Fougères in Fontainebleau's neighbouring commune of Avon.[11][16]

The Henry IV quarter at the Palace of Fontainebleau
(48°24′10″N 2°42′8″E / 48.40278°N 2.70222°E / 48.40278; 2.70222) housed the air, sea and land commands
of the Combined Allied Command. Prior to World War II these
offices housed the Artillery School.

UNILION's three subordinate commands, one for each service, were housed in the Henri IV quarter at the Palace of Fontainebleau:

  • Sea Command (UNIMER)
  • Air Command (UNIAIR)
  • Land Command (UNITER)

Much ill-feeling was caused in the headquarters from disagreements between Chairman Montgomery and CinCLand de Lattre. Volume 3 of Nigel Hamilton's Life of Montgomery of Alamein gives a good account of these disagreements.[17]

Château de Courances served as private residence for Chairman Montgomery.[12][18][15]

Military exercisesEdit

The Western Union mounted the following training exercises (incomplete list):

Operation Gladio was a clandestine "stay-behind" operation preparing for, and implementing, armed resistance in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion and conquest.



  1. ^ "Multinational Commands". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. RAFWeb.org. 6 November 2007. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  2. ^ a b "LIFE". 1949-04-25.
  3. ^ Duke, Simon (2000). The elusive quest for European security: from EDC to CFSP. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-312-22402-8. Retrieved 2010-11-27.
  4. ^ a b c Maloney, Sean M. (1995). Secure Command of the Sea: NATO Command Organization and Planning for the Cold War at Sea, 1945-1954. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 66–67. ISBN 1-55750-562-4.
  5. ^ Cichock, Mark A. (1977). "Chronology of Major European Events, 1815-1985". University of Texas at Arlington. Retrieved 2010-11-27. Compiled by Dr. James A. Kuhlman, University of South Carolina, 1977; edited by Dr. Mark A. Cichock, University of Texas at Arlington.
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  7. ^ "Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1 to the Secretary of Defense (Forrestal)". Office of the Historian. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  8. ^ Miller, David (2015-03-17). The Cold War: A Military History. ISBN 9781466892279.
  9. ^ Sean Maloney, 'To Secure Command of the Sea,' the University of New Brunswick thesis 1991, p.95-97 and Lord Ismay, NATO: The First Five Years
  10. ^ a b Barlow, Jeffrey G. (2009). From Hot War to Cold: the U.S. Navy and National Security Affairs, 1945–1955. Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press. p. 209. ISBN 9780804756662. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  11. ^ a b "Elan" (PDF). 1 December 2006. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Did you know that Europe already had a defensive military alliance prior to NATO?". Allied Command Operations (ACO). NATO. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
  13. ^ Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. p. 309. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0.
  14. ^ Lord Ismay, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO—The First Five Years: 1949–1954, Edited by NATO International Archives Section, Online ed. (Paris: NATO, March 2001), c. 1; Field Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, “The Western Union & its Defence Organization,” Lecture, The Royal United Service Institution (RUSI), London, October 12, 1949, Chaired by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Newal, The RUSI Journal 138, 4 (August 1993): 52–59.
  15. ^ a b Lord Ismay (December 6, 2001). "Origins of the North Atlantic Treaty: The Brussels Treaty". NATO: The First Five Years. NATO. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  16. ^ "Sauvons Bellefontaine" (PDF). 16 May 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  17. ^ 21st June 2012 (2012-06-21). "Western Union Defence Chiefs Deny Split Aka Disunity Rumours Threaten Western Union - British Pathé". Britishpathe.com. Retrieved 2020-05-14.
  18. ^ Kaplan, Lawrence S. (2007). NATO 1948: the birth of the transatlantic Alliance. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. pp. 139–165. ISBN 978-0-7425-3917-4. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
  19. ^ "Operation "Bulldog" - Air Exercise". YouTube. 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2020-05-14.
  20. ^ a b c d e "WESTERN UNION: Exercise Verity". TIME. 1 July 1949. Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
  21. ^ Heathcote, Thomas Anthony (2002). The British Admirals of the Fleet 1734 - 1995, A Biographical Dictionary. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Ltd. p. 162. ISBN 0-85052-835-6. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
  22. ^ "Exercise "Cupola" - Western Union Air Exercises - British Pathé". Britishpathe.com. 1950-08-29. Retrieved 2020-05-14.