Commonwealth Government to Cranborne

Cablegram 199 CANBERRA, 24 July 1945


Your Despatch D. No. 58 dated 11th April, 1945, forwarding copy of statement of Civil Affairs Policy of His Majesty’s Government in British Borneo. [1] Paragraph 5 of Statement advised that, in order to assist the Allied Commander-in-Chief (or the Military Commander designated by him) to carry out the military administration of British Borneo in accordance with the policy of His Majesty’s Government, a Chief Civil Affairs Officer, British Borneo [2], with a nucleus staff of British officers, had been made available and plans had been made for additions to the staff as may be required.

2. After arrival in Australia early in 1945 of nucleus No. 50 Civil Affairs Units, the Borneo operation became an Australian commitment, not a United States commitment as originally intended.

Instructions were issued by the Commander-in-Chief, Allied Land Forces, with concurrence of War Office, for creation of a British Borneo Civil Affairs Unit on Australian Order of Battle, to meet the responsibilities which devolved upon Australian Commander by reason of his instructions from Theatre Commander. Commonwealth Government agreed that raising of unit should be proceeded with, it being estimated that Australia would have to supply up to about 400 personnel of all ranks, all of whom will be required during the operational phase.

3. While this commitment regarded as an operational requirement of the Australian Forces is accepted by Commonwealth, attention is drawn to following aspects:-

(a) Administration of the territories in question after the suspension of military government is a United Kingdom responsibility;

(b) Australia has already agreed (as you have no doubt been advised by the United Kingdom High Commissioner) to permit up to 50 officers serving with Australian units to apply for appointments to British Civil Affairs administrations in the Far East;

(c) It is assumed that the staff which would presumably have been provided from United Kingdom sources or planned for by United Kingdom authorities (see paragraph 5 of statement attached to Despatch D. No. 58) had the operation been undertaken by other than Australian Forces, is in fact available;

(d) The extremely difficult manpower position here, of which you were advised in my cablegram 113 of 23rd May [3] relating to the basing of Royal Navy Forces on Australia, must again be emphasized.

4. In view of the above, Commonwealth Government desires that the United Kingdom should arrange for the replacement of Australian personnel in the unit at the earliest possible date. [4]


1 On file AA : A816, 101/302/6.

2 Brigadier C.F.C. Macaskie.

3 Presumably cablegram 133 (Document 92).

4 See also Document 94. War Cabinet deferred further consideration of an Australian role in BBCAU at a meeting on 18 August, pending clarification of future military commitments as set out in Document 194. The matter does not appear to have been resubmitted to War Cabinet. It had been intended that British forces would relieve Australian units in Borneo soon after the Japanese surrender, but the demands placed upon the resources of South-East Asia Command precluded this. British Borneo was transferred formally to SEAC on 10 January 1946, the Australian 9th Division being replaced by units of the Indian Army.


[AA : A5954, Box 603]