Supreme Allied Commander SE Asia

Mountbatten - Chief of Combined Operations in 1943


Mountbatten -

Chief of Combined Operations in 1943

On 19th August 1942, a disastrous sea-borne raid was launched by Allied forces on the German-occupied French port of Dieppe.  Mountbatten had personally pushed through the Dieppe Raid (Operation Jubilee) but it was unsuccessful resulting in thousands being killed, mostly from Canada.  Virtually none of these objectives were met - Allied fire support was grossly inadequate and the raiding force was largely trapped on the beach by obstacles and German fire.  Mountbatten said that lessons learnt were necessary for the successful planning of the D-Day Normandy invasion in June 1944.  The Prime Minister [Churchill] said - "my impression of 'Jubilee' is that the results fully justified the heavy cost…  it was a Canadian contribution of the greatest significance to final victory."

Mountbatten had been promoted to the rank of Commodore in 1941 and was moved to Combined Operations.  He was given orders to prepare for a large scale raid and subsequently for an Allied permanent re-entry into the Continent of Europe.   In March 1942, Mountbatten was appointed Chief of Combined Operations and a Member of the Chief of Staff's Committee with the rank of acting Vice-Admiral.  At just 41yrs it was noted that he had attained this rank two years before the illustrious hero of Trafalgar - Vice-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (1758-1805).  He was also awarded the honorary rank of Lieutenant-General and Air Marshal, the first time ever that an actual serving non-Royal officer had held ranks in all three Services.  Mountbatten was given the tasks to develop a programme of Commando raids along the North Sea and Atlantic coastlines of enemy held territory increasing in intensity and designed to tie up German resources that might otherwise be used on other fronts and to plan and prepare for the re-invasion of Europe (his over-riding priority).

The insignia of Combined Operations ​


The insignia of

Combined Operations


(left to right) - the insignia of a Vice-Admiral,
Lieutenant-General & Air Marshal

Vice Admiral
Air Marshal
The Casablanca Conference - Prime Minister Winston Churchill (left) with Mountbatten, who was then Chief of Combined Operations ​


The Casablanca Conference - Prime Minister Winston Churchill (left)

with Mountbatten, who was then Chief of Combined Operations

In January 1943, the Allies met in Casablanca, French Morocco where they discussed tactics for the next stage of World War II (including the invasion of Sicily) and confirmed that they would only accept 'unconditional surrender' from the Axis powers.  Mountbatten, along with the other Chiefs of Staff accompanied Churchill to the conference. The role of Combined Operations grew and Mountbatten's personal influence increased.  He received high praise from his cousin - King George VI (1895(1936-1952) who wrote - "I do congratulate you so very much on the success you have made of C.O. despite all the obstacles you have met and the heavy opposition you have fought both on the administrative side and in active operations!  ... you have shown that it can, will and does work when properly organised."


Despite the subsequent successes in the role of Chief of Combined Operations, Mountbatten was keen to return to the sea and once again take command of a ship.  However, in August 1943 at the Allied Conference in Quebec, Canada, Mountbatten was offered the job of Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia.  Mountbatten accepted the position of 'Supremo' only when he knew that he had full authority and support of all the Allied senior commanders including President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), the President of the USA.  Mountbatten was raised to the rank of an acting Admiral and knew that this new job was not going to be easy – but in typical spirit, he knew that success would come both personally and for the Allies. Despite the horrendous climate of the monsoon seasonal rain and the priority given to defeat Nazi Germany, Mountbatten set to recapture the British colony of Burma, which Japan had invaded in 1942.

The Potsdam Conference - Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Harry Truman & Marshal Joseph Stalin


ABOVE: The insignia of SE Asia Command

(the pheonix rising from the fire -

said to signify the Allied might rising

from the ashes of the Japanese occupied territories)

LEFT: The Potsdam Conference - (left to right)

Prime Minister Winston Churchill (UK),

President Harry Truman (USA)

& Marshal Joseph Stalin (USSR)


At the Potsdam Conference (held in July-August 1945) representatives from the UK, USA and the USSR (now the Russian Federation) met to discuss how they would administer the defeated Nazi Germany.  It was reported that Mountbatten used the event to try to convince Marshal Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) to invite him to visit Russia, using his close family ties with the former Imperial Russian Royal Family in an effort to impress the Russian leader.  Mountbatten's tactics fell flat and no invitation was forthcoming.  Despite the surrender of the Germans in May 1945, the War with Japan still continued.  Once most of Burma was re-captured, the command turned its attention towards its next major operational objective – Malaya, however the use of atomic bombs on the Japanese mainland brought World War II to an abrupt end.