On the 17th of October Air Chief Marshal Robert Brooke-Popham was called out of retirement by gaining the role of Commander in Chief in the Far East Command. Some agree that his appointment indicated how much influence the war in Europe unfolding took its toll on the British Military’s plans and left them only able to improvise when making arrangements for the Far East.
On the other hand, another reason for his recruitment was said to be his dedicated service as Governor of Kenya which earned him the reputation of having traits that consisted of patience and an individual who was placate and peacemaking. These qualities Robert carried were just as important as his military resume when it came to being the Commander In Chief, they needed someone who could make good decisions and be in control, but also be calm and collected when entering high pressure situations.
When given the role Robert was made responsible for training and operations of ground and air forces from Burma to Hong Kong and coordinating plans.
(L to R) Air Force Marshall Conway Pullford, Major Gen. Arthur E. Percival, Air Chief Marshall Sir Robert Brooke-Popham and Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton discussing manuevers in late 1941
Even though he was given the nickname of “Old Pop-Off”, by fellow colleagues during his time as Commander In Chief for his age and the fact he was prone to fall asleep during meetings, he was known to be “hard and methodical” in the field.
He was said to be “at the bottom of everyone’s priority list” as he received little, as in experienced and well-trained troops or modern equipment, which led to him being unable to be fully prepared to provide adequate defence of Malaya against Japanese troops invasion.
Another factor of the equation that resulted in the Fall of Singapore was Robert’s tainted relationship with Duff Cooper who arrived in Singapore with Cabinet Status, the disagreements between these two men of high stature would not have helped any issues that were already occurring during a disastrous operation.
Robert issued a communique, or statement, that began; “We are ready. We have had plenty of warning and our preparations are made and tested” This message intended to place a reassuring effect on the public , presumably everyone in Singapore believed it.
These words were taken from an order of the day of Sir Robert Brooke-Popham whose “...dithering and complacency contributed significantly to the shambles which Churchill (Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England), later described as ‘the worst disaster and capitulation in British history’.