Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
220 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand
With regard to the route for the convoy, it is proposed that the ships should proceed to India in the first place and that transshipment should take place into smaller vessels for the passage through the Red Sea to Suez. As regards the escort, it is proposed that HMAS Canberra should be used for the ocean passage, and adequate anti-submarine and anti-aircraft escort would be provided for the passage through the Red Sea. The Naval Commander-in-Chief, East Indies,2 will arrange details in the light of the situation at the time. The destruction of 60 per cent of the Italian submarines in that area and, to a lesser extent, the reduced fuel stocks caused by our continual bombing of Italian air bases has reduced materially the risk of passage through the Red Sea. Two convoys have already passed through the Red Sea without loss, and before the passage of US 4 His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom themselves intend to pass about 27,000 further troops through the Red Sea in addition to regular supply convoys. Therefore, before the passage of US 4 the security of the route will have been fully tested.
His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom cannot yet state a firm date by which full equipment for the Third Echelon can be provided. At the best, however, it cannot reach the Middle East until some time after the arrival of the echelon sailing on 23 August. Personal anti-gas equipment should be available on the arrival of the echelon as it has already been despatched. In addition a modified scale of Bren guns, anti-tank rifles, mortars, &c., will be despatched by the fastest means possible. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom foresee the possibility of a situation developing in the Middle East in which white troops would play a valuable part in the security of the area, even with this modified scale of equipment. They therefore hope that His Majesty's Government in New Zealand will be prepared to send the forces as above proposed, notwithstanding the inevitable delay in the provision of full equipment.
2 Admiral Sir Ralph Leatham, KCB, Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, Apr 1939–Apr 1941; at time of reference, Vice-Admiral.
The possibility of the despatch of a brigade group to Fiji is now being considered by the Chiefs of Staff. The position in the Far East is at present considered to be less tense, but the Chiefs of Staff may recommend that His Majesty's Government in New Zealand should be asked to be prepared to undertake this measure. If such a recommendation were adopted, it is appreciated that it would be necessary to reduce proportionately the reinforcements to be forwarded with the Third Echelon. Within the next few days it is hoped to communicate further on this point….2
2 For text omitted see Special Units—Railway, Forestry, and Army Troops Companies (No. 305).