The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

No. 3979

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s despatch No. 3752 of January 6, 1938,24 enclosing copies of a White Paper containing the terms of reference of the technical commission which is to visit Palestine and study the question of partition.

Yesterday in the House of Commons the Colonial Secretary gave the names of three of the four members of commission, which, he said, would start work in England about the middle of March and would leave for Palestine about one month later. The questions and Mr. Ormsby-Gore’s answers are transcribed below:

“Sir Percy Harris asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now in a position to give the names of the new Palestine special commissioners; what are their terms of reference; and when they are likely to leave England?

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Ormsby-Gore): Yes, Sir. The personnel of the Palestine Commission will be as follows:

  • Sir John Woodhead, K. C. S. I., C. I. E. (Chairman)
  • Sir Alison Russell, K. C.
  • Mr. A. P. Waterfield, C. B.

The appointment of a fourth member is still under consideration.25 The secretary will be Mr. S. E. V. Luke, of the Colonial Office.

Sir John Woodhead entered the Indian Civil Service in 1904; he was appointed Secretary of the Commerce Department of the Government of India in 1929, and was Finance Member of the Government of Bengal from 1932 to 1937. After service as Attorney-General in Cyprus, Sir Alison Russell was appointed Chief Justice of the Tanganyika Territory in 1924. He retired in 1929, and was subsequently appointed Legal Adviser to the Government of Malta, and he was Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry into the disturbances in the copper-belt of Northern Rhodesia. Mr. Waterfield is a Principal Assistant Secretary in His Majesty’s Treasury, which he entered in 1911.

The terms of reference of the Commission were announced in the White Paper on Policy in Palestine (Cmd. 5634). The Commission will start work in England about the middle of March, and it is probable that they will leave for Palestine about a month later, in order to arrive in Palestine as soon as possible after the close of the Easter ceremonies in Jerusalem.

[Page 903]

Sir P. Harris: Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long it is likely to take the Commission to carry out its task? Does he anticipate any particular period of time for their work?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore: Certainly not; it is entirely a matter for them. There is a lot of complicated and detailed work to be done.” (Hansard, cols. 739–740.)26

Respectfully yours,

Herschel V. Johnson
  1. Not printed.
  2. The fourth member appointed was Thomas Reid, formerly of the Ceylon Civil Service, and Chairman of the League of Nations Commission for the supervision of elections in the Sanjak of Alexandretta.
  3. United Kingdom, Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th ser. vol. 332, pp. 739–740.