Brooke-Popham, Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert, 1878-1953

Brooke-Popham retired from active service in 1939 but was recalled to unify and oversee the command of GHQ Far East. A break-down in communications led the War Office in London to believe, incorrectly, that the defenses of Malaya were more than adequate. However the truth was that although many airfields had been built there were not enough aircraft to protect them. The Army had a contingency plan which involved fore-stalling a Japanese invasion by invading Siam—Operation Matador—which had it been successful would have prevented the collapse of Malaya’s defenses. Brooke-Popham was all too aware of these weaknesses and made repeated demands to invade Siam, a neutral country, in November 1941 but the order came too late—the Japanese had already landed in Siam and land forces were caught on the hop. Putting into effect Operation Matador was no longer relevant. The Cabinet in London had already decided to replace Brooke- Popham and his replacement arrived in Singapore on 23 December 1941, too late to save the situation.

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