• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


The Colonial Office

Page history last edited by Michael 1 year, 11 months ago

back to the Index


     The Secretary of State for the Colonies (aka the Colonial Secretary) is a member of the Cabinet, a member of Parliament (in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords), and the political head of the Colonial Office and the Colonial Service. He is also the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. In the Pulp period (1932-1938), the following persons hold this office:


  • 1931 to 1935:  Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister

  • 1935:   Malcolm MacDonald

  • 1935 to 1936:  James Henry Thomas

  • 1936 to 1938:  William Ormsby-Gore


     There is also the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, the only other political appointee in the Colonial Office. He is a menber of whichever house (Commons or Lords) that the Colonial Secretary is NOT a member of.

     There are usually several Private Secretaries to the Colonial Secretary -- one "in general", one for military matters, a couple for appointments, and a parliamentary private secretary (which is pretty much the conduit between the Colonial Secretary and his political party).

     At the head of the civil service of the Colonial Office is the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. In the Pulp period, this is:


  • 1925 to 1933:  Brigadier-General Sir Samuel H. Wilson, G.C.M.G.,K.C.B.,K.B.E.

  • 1933 to 1937:  Sir John Loader Maffey, GCMG, KCB, KCVO, CSI, CIE (later he becomes Lord Rugby). He was previously Governor-General of the Sudan.


     Some other members of the Colonial Office in London:


     Deputy Under-Secretary of State:


  • Sir John E. Shuckburgh, K.C.M.G., C.B.


     Assistant Under-Secretaries of State. Before the early Twenties, the fourth one was in charge of Dominion affairs, before the separate Dominions Office was created. By the Thirties, the fourth one was in charge of a segment of Middle Eastern affairs relating to the League of Nations:


  • Sir William Cecil Bottomley, K.C.M.G., C.B., O.B.E.

  • Sir George J.F. Tomlinson, K.C.M.G., C.B.E.

  • Sir Cosmo Parkinson, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., O.B.E.

  • Sir Clive White, C.B., C.M.G. -- for Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Trans-Jordan (this is in an alternate 1935 version of history)


     Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for the Colonies:


  • Edmund B. Boyd, C.M.G., C.V.O


     Legal Advisor:


  • Sir H. Grattan Bushe, K.C.M.G., C.B.


     Heads of Departments:


  • Middle East:  Sir William F. Gowers, K.C.M.G.

  • West Indies:   Harold Beckett, C.M.G.

  • West Africa:  Alexander Fiddia

  • East Africa:  Harold T. Allen, C.M.G.

  • Tanganyika and Somaliland:  Sir John A. Calder, K.C.M.G.

  • Pacific and Mediterranean:  E. Rowland Darnle (to 1933); John E.W. Flood, C.M.G. (to 1934); Harold T. Allen, C.M.G.

  • Far Eastern Department:   H. Russell Cowell, C.M.G.

  • General Department:  Roland V. Vernon, C.B.

    • this includes the Library, the Registry, the telegraph section, despatch and messengers, and the printing branch

  • Economic Department:  Sir Gerard L. M. Clauson, K.C.M.G., O.B.E.

  • Personnel, Recruitment and Training:  Major Sir Ralph D. Furse, K.C.M.G., D.S.O.


     There are lots of Advisers, Archivists, Establishment Officers, Inspectors-General, Staff Officers, a Press Officer, so-and-so Assistants, etc. in London. Four "Resident Clerks" live on the premises, to attend to night-time business and communications. The total staff of the Colonial Office in London is 220 persons -- note that the staff below the rank of Assistant Under-Secretary of State were interchangeable between the Colonial Office and the Dominions Office.

     About a hundred colonial Governors, Lieutenant-Governors, Administrators, Residents, High Commissioners, Chief Commissioners, etc. are "on the scene" at various colonies, protectorates, mandated territories, etc.

     The Colonial Service comprises (on the administrative side) the Provincial Commissioners, District Commissioners, District Officers, Assistant District Officers, Cadets. Fifteen other sub-services include medical, postal, police, education, customs, forestry, etc. Overseas positions in the Colonial Service (administrative and other sub-services) total about 2,500 persons. Military officers attached to the Colonial Office are not included in that total. Palestinian Police Force, the Royal West African Rifles, and the King's African Rifles are not included in that total.

     Military forces and militarized police agencies under the administration of the Colonial Office:


  • The Trans-Jordan Frontier Force (composed of six squadrons, headquartered at Zarga)

  • The Royal West African Rifles

  • The King's African Rifles

  • The Malay Regiment (a battalion-sized unit, headquartered at Port Kickson)

  • The Palestinian Police Force.


     Keep in mind that the Colonial Office has nothing to do with India (under the India Office) or a few special situations (such as Egypt and the Irish Free State, under the Foreign Office). Since 1925 there is a separate Dominions Office for Canada, the Union of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, Southern Rhodesia, Nauru, and the Irish Free State; and a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions.

     The administration of League of Nations mandates is complicated by the involvement of the Foreign Office. This is especially notable in Palestine -- the F.O. negotiates with the various states around Palestine regarding matters that bear directly on British administration of that territory.


The Colonial Office in London

     The London offices are in Whitehall, on King Charles Street; the building also houses the Foreign Office, Home Office, and the India Office. Downing Street is the opposite side of this building; St. James Park is to the west, and the Admiralty and Horse Guards are a block or two to the north. About 1200 people work there (among all four cabinet-level departments).

     The Map Room in the Colonial Office is sort of "clubby" for senior staff.


Appointment, Promotion and Advancement


     Unlike the War Office and the Army, there is some -- not much -- movement between the Colonial Office (almost entirely in London) and the Colonial Service (posted to the various colonies). Until a couple of years ago, almost all promotion and seniority was confined within the Departments, or even within a particular colony. Except for the Governors, the Colonial Service staff would arrive in a colony, and spend most of their career in that same colony.

     The Governor of each colony makes appointments for any office with a salary of £300 per annum or less, from among persons resident in his colony.

     For positions with a higher salary, the Colonial Secretary makes appointments; these may be anyone who can fulfill the Civil Service requirements.

     About one-quarter of the appointments as Governor are made with persons having no previous service in the Colonial Office or Colonial Service; and Governors-General have all been appointed from outside the Colonial Office. The Colonial Secretary makes all these appointments, of course.

     Within the Colonial Office there are two divisions of staff:  the "Upper", concerned with administration and decision-making, and the "Lower", of file clerks, typists, code clerks, accountants, messengers, etc. The Lower Division employs 60 persons (mostly in the Registry); the Upper Division, 160 persons.


Rewards for Service


     Meritorious service in, or for, the Colonies is recognised by honorific distinctions of various kinds -- usually by knighthood, or by admission into the Order of St. Michael and Saint George, the Order of the British Empire, and the Imperial Service Order. The last named is confined to civil servants at home or abroad; for the others, all British subjects are eligible, if qualified. Lists of honours are issued twice yearly -- on the Royal Birthday (currently June 3rd) and on New Year's Day; and so far as is practicable the Sovereign personally confers knighthoods.

     Eminent foreigners and princes are eligible for appointment to the SMG as Honorary Members. There are otherwise three regular classes of members:  Knights Grand Cross (G.C.M.G.), Knights Commander (K.C.M.G.), and Companions (C.M.G.). There is a limit to the number of members at each class. Membership is made by recommendation from either the Colonial Secretary or the Foreign Secretary, directly to the sovereign.

     The OBE and ISO are less often awarded to members of the Colonial Office or Colonial Service.




     Every letter sent by the Colonial Office begins with, "I am directed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to ... "  The letterhead will have the usual royal emblem at the top:


probably should be a Tudor "King's crown", but I couldn't fine one of those for a stationery crest


     Except in odd circumstances, the "from" address will read:


Colonial Office

London, SW1


Colonial Service Rank


     There are five classes of civil servants within the Colonial Service who might wear a uniform:


     First-class civil servants:


  • Governor-General (only for the Dominions:  Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa)

  • Governor

  • High Commissioner (envoys appointed to manage protectorates or groups of territories not fully under the sovereignty of the British Crown -- Mandatory Palestine and Transjordan is an example)


     Second-class civil servants:


  • Colonial Secretary (acting governor in the governor's absence); in a few locations this is the Lieutenant-Governor or Deputy Governor


     Third-class civil servants:


  • Chief Secretary (the senior colonial official in regions which are internally self-governing)


     Fourth-class civil servants:


  • Resident Commissioner

  • Resident Magistrate


     Fifth-class civil servants:


  • Senior so-and-so Advisor or Officer (legal, intelligence, military, judicial, medical, financial, etc.)

  • so-and-so Advisor or Officer

  • heads of minor departments, chief assistants


  • Private Secretaries to the first, second, or third-class civil servants


     Clerical and supervisory staff (don't have a particular uniform):


  • Supervisor, Superintendent, Collector, Head Clerk, Chief Clerk, etc. (legal, medical, financial, etc.)

  • Assistant ditto

  • Principal Clerk, First Class Clerk, Second Class Clerk


     Governors, Governors-General, and High Commissioners have a special uniform of their own; all the others wear "civil uniform" the same as other members of government. There are, however, tropical white dress uniforms for some postings.

     A very few of the very highest levels of service within the Colonial Office (i.e., in London) are entitled to wear the appropriate civil service uniforms, pretty much only at major State occasions ... coronations, etc.


Subsidiary Organizations


The Crown Agency


     Commercial enterprises owned by the government in colonies are administered by the Crown Agency, which is separate from but parallel to the Colonial Office. There's a definite tension between the Crown Agents, operating in the colonies but not always working to the same ends as the Colonial Office. In London there is the Senior Crown Agent:


  • Sir William F. Gowers, K.C.M.G.: 1932-1938


     In each colony there is at most one Crown Agent, supervising a whole set of people with normal commercial titles.


The Colonial Audit Department

The Tropical Diseases Bureau


     Employs a Director, with a few editors; and issues some monthly and quarterly bulletins, contributed by medical specialists.


The Imperial Bureau of Entomology


     A Secretary and Assistant Secretary produce bulletins and fund research


The Imperial Bureau of Mycology


     Yes, they study fungi. Founded in 1918, this unit encourages and coordinates fungal research throughout the Empire. A member of the Colonial Office is the Secretary in charge; the Bureau publishes the Review of Applied Mycology every month, maintains a library, and provides travel and accommodations for researchers.  From 1930, it became part of the Imperial Agriculture Bureau, and was renamed the Imperial Mycological Institute.  


This outfit is Michael's candidate for hiding Spooky Government Stuff,

especially since funding for the Bureau comes entirely from non-Treasury sources

(the colonies, protectorates, Dominions, and India), and is largely

independent of Parliamentary review. Kew Gardens have all sorts of useful temples.


The Overseas Defence Committee


     Previously known as the Colonial Defence Committee, this is a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The chairman is the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the regular members are from the branches of the combatant forces, and from the military department of the India Office. Meetings are confidential.


     The following committees are mostly made up of various men and women in the front rank of their respective professions, serving in an honorary unpaid capacity.


The Colonial Survey Committee


The Colonial Research Committee


     Since 1919, this five-member committee administers various Parliamentary grants on "matters of economic importance". The Secretary and three other members are from the Colonial Office; the Chairman is not. There are various unofficial members, as well.


Committee for Research in the Falkland Islands


     Mostly to do with whaling. They use the RRS Discovery (of Captain Scott fame) for their investigations.


The Advisory Committee on Native Education in the British Tropical African Dependencies


The Colonial Advisory Medical and Sanitary Committee


     Members are heads of various Colonial Office departments, plus a Chairman, Secretary, and Assistant Secretary, and various unofficial advisers and honorary committee members.


The Tropical Diseases Research Fund


     Consists of an Advisory Committee, a Secretary, and several honorary committee members.




     The Dominions and Colonial Offices, by Sir George V. Fiddes, pub. 1926 by G.P. Putnam's Sons

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.