244 Mr V. G. Bowden, Official Representative in Singapore, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 92 SINGAPORE, 31 December 1941, 7.19 p.m.

MOST SECRET

War Council.

Following representations by Duff Cooper [1], Council recognised the need of placing one man with plenary powers in control of all matters associated with civil administration such as fire fighting, air raid precautions, water supply, medical aid, labour, transport etc., all of which at present handled under Government and municipal administration by different departmental heads lacking co-ordination and independent power to take immediate necessary action. With the consent of the Governor [2] decided to appoint Brigadier Simson at present Chief Engineer British forces who has special experience and qualifications for this work, and who is to be responsible only to the Council and report to it through the Governor.

Report from General Officer Commanding [3] indicated that the equipment situation somewhat easier.

Air Officer Commanding authorised to refuse request of press representatives for interview because if the question asked 'where is the R.A.F. in Malaya' it would be too encouraging to the enemy to have to tell the truth.

After the meeting I had a private talk with Pownall [4] in which I asked whether he is satisfied with the present air command. He replied that he has confidence in the ability and energy of Pulford but that he has been severely handicapped by serious inadequacies of material both in quantity and quality and by being seriously over-worked. He stated that Air Vice Marshal Maltby arrives tomorrow to act as his adviser on air matters and that while retaining Pulford as Air Officer Commanding he intends to reorganise in such a way as to relieve Pulford of some of his present responsibilities, part of which will be taken by Maltby.

He has moreover assured that additional officers formerly unattainable will now be available for senior posts in command as may become necessary.

Regarding material he has represented strongly to London criticism of the nature of the present position and is pressing hard for immediate reinforcements from different sources.

He feels that London realizes the urgency of the situation and has confidence that provided next few weeks can be tided over valuable air reinforcements will be forthcoming. He gave me some details of reinforcements already contemplated which with above proviso are definitely encouraging.

Air Officer Commanding had previously shown me figures of his present air strength which I can only describe as pathetic.

BOWDEN

1 U.K. Minister of State for Far Eastern Affairs resident in Singapore.

2 Sir Shenton Thomas.

3 Lt Gen A. E. Percival.

4 U.K. Commander-in-Chief in the Far East.

[AA:A981, WAR 42]