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

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


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.


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

2 Sir Shenton Thomas.

3 Lt Gen A. E. Percival.

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

[AA:A981, WAR 42]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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