British Empire Article

Sir Cosmo Parkinson

Sir Cosmo Parkinson piloted the Colonial Office through the dark days of 1940-42, covering the spread of the war to Africa and the loss of British Somaliland, and the loss of Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, and the Borneo Territories--military defeats which, however, the contemporary press widely attributed to deficiencies in colonial administration. Parkinson's calmness and comradeship did much to sustain morale during this difficult period of blitz at home and losses abroad.

In 1942 Sir George Gater returned to the Colonial Office and Parkinson was seconded for special duties, being 'made available to visit colonies from time to time as opportunity offers, to discuss local problems with Governors as the Secretary of State's personal representative'. There was admittedly a case for such an appointment, since personal contacts had perforce been disrupted by the war. But many people felt that others could have filled it equally well, and questioned the wisdom and equity of again displacing such an experienced administrator.

Parkinson himself accepted his new duties with dignity and threw himself into them wholeheartedly. He visited the Caribbean and Bermuda in 1942-3; the Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Mauritius, Seychelles, Aden, and British Somaliland in 1943; and Ceylon and Gibraltar in 1944. He retired at the end of 1944, but was re-employed during 1945 as adviser on the post-war reorganization of the colonial service. In that capacity he visited Fiji and the other Pacific colonies. He had been promoted GCMG in 1942. He published The Colonial Office from within in 1947. Image courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery

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