Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
88 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1 to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1 to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
The despatch of reinforcements in personnel and equipment to the various theatres outside the United Kingdom has been given active consideration here. During the first eight months of the war, the greater part of the Army's effort was devoted to building up the British Expeditionary Force in France, and since the evacuation from Dunkirk it has been necessary to allot most of the current armaments production to home defence. In consequence, the forces overseas have received very little reinforcing of men or of material since the outbreak of the war. The present position is that the French collapse has greatly increased the scale of the attack in the Middle East, and our interests in the Far East are also threatened by Japanese hostility. If the British Empire is to retain its position in these areas, substantial reinforcements of men and equipment must be despatched. The bulk of the equipment must be obtained from the United Kingdom.
We have still much to do before all requirements for the defence of the United Kingdom have been met, but the equipment of our forces here and the strength and organisation of our defences have already made considerable progress. Furthermore, as winter approaches, the practicability of an invasion will decrease because of weather conditions. It has therefore been decided to allocate from now onwards a considerably larger proportion of United Kingdom resources in men, and approximately 50 per cent of future production of equipment, to reinforcements for other theatres and to the provision of equipment for their garrisons and reserves. The corresponding slowing up in the completion of the defence arrangements of the United Kingdom will be accepted.
1 Rt. Hon. Viscount Caldecote.
Urgent steps are also being taken to provide the equipment required (including the equipment for the reinforcement of the Special Service units) in all items essential to enable them to fight, and to provide the necessary reserves of weapons and equipment. Although equipment will not be issued exclusively to each theatre in turn, military priority will be given to the Middle East. To meet the most urgent requirements in this theatre, 48 anti-tank guns, 20 Bofors anti-aircraft guns, 48 25-pounder guns, 500 Bren guns, 250 antitank rifles, with ammunition for all the above, 1,000,000 rounds of tracer small-arms ammunition, and 50,000 anti-tank mines have been recently despatched and a further large consignment will leave shortly. In addition, a separate allotment of weapons and equipment is being sent shortly to East Africa.
It has been proposed that the forces in Malaya should shortly be reinforced by one Australian division, and the defence of Fiji increased by a brigade group from New Zealand.1 Consideration is also being given to the provision from other sources of anti-aircraft artillery reinforcements. It is intended that the forces in the Far East should be equipped in all items essential to enable them to fight and to provide 180 days' reserve of all essential weapons and equipment as soon as possible.
Additional African infantry brigade groups are being raised in East Africa and West Africa for employment in these theatres. The detailed composition of the garrisons which will eventually be required is under consideration. Certain additional anti-aircraft batteries are required to reinforce the (Aden?) land garrison, and will be provided, together with thirty days' reserves, as soon as possible. In India the British garrison has been depleted by eight battalions since the outbreak of war. Replacements for these battalions will have to be sent from the United Kingdom as soon as they can be spared.
1 8th New Zealand Brigade Group.
The above proposals also involve heavy shipping and naval escort problems, and these are receiving urgent consideration.