121 Commonwealth Government to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 750 CANBERRA, 22 November 1941


Reference your M.367. [1] In view of Commonwealth's vital interests in the Far East and the naval, military and air forces employed there, the Government is surprised that these changes should be made without preliminary notification of United Kingdom Government's intentions.

It appears extraordinary after twelve months collaboration between the A.B.D. [2] Powers for perfecting joint plans and machinery that there should be any weakness at the highest level of all- inter-governmental consultation.

Quite frankly we consider it strange on the face of things to make a change in command in Far East at this critical stage. Brooke- Popham is familiar with probable areas of operations and has visited surrounding countries and established contacts with neighbouring authorities.

The following cablegram has been despatched to Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham:-

'Commonwealth Government has learnt with very great regret that you are vacating post of Commander-in-Chief, Far East.

We would like you to know that the Government and people of Australia are deeply indebted to you for the unsparing manner in which you have devoted yourself to strengthening the defences of the area commanded by you, the results which you have achieved, and the manner in which you have collaborated with the Governments of adjacent parts of the Empire and other neighbouring countries.

We have most pleasant and happy recollections of your visits to the Commonwealth and you might like to know that we had the fullest confidence in you as Commander-in-Chief in so far as our own Forces were concerned.

I would extend to you my personal good wishes for the future.


1 Dispatched 20 November. On file AA : A1608, F45/1/8. It informed the Commonwealth Govt that, as announced publicly the previous day, Lt Gen B. C. T. Paget (U.K. Commander-inChief, South Eastern Command) was to be appointed U.K. Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, and therefore would not be available to replace Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham as U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Far East. Lt Gen Sir Henry Pownall (Vice-Chief of the Imperial General Staff) had been appointed in his place. The U.K. Govt regretted that 'owing to the rapid development of the need for announcement of changes in higher command here, it was not possible to give you advance information as to our intentions as to Generals Paget and Pownall'.

2 Australian-British-Dutch.

[AA : A1608, F45/1/8]