Skip to main content

Historical documents

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

2 Australian-British-Dutch.

[AA : A1608, F45/1/8]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top