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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II

273 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

27 May 1943

With reference to New Zealand non-divisional units with the Middle East Forces.

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will be aware from earlier messages that this Dominion is facing serious difficulties through the exhaustion of its manpower, both in respect of fulfilling its overseas military commitments and the needs of essential industry. page 247 In particular, certain key industries with depleted staffs, such as transport, engineering, and construction, are becoming overtaxed in their efforts to cope with the demands of the United States Forces in this area.

Therefore it has been found necessary to re-examine the strength and composition of New Zealand's forces overseas, particularly in the Middle East, with two objects in view: first, to ascertain whether it would be possible, in view of the Government's decision to suspend reinforcements for the 2nd NZEF, to draw upon ancillary units for future reinforcements; and second, to effect a transfer of technicians back to New Zealand for essential industry.

We have discussed the matter fully with the GOC 2nd NZEF, and in accordance with the instructions issued by this Government, he has already advised General Headquarters, Middle East, of the proposal to transfer technicians in some of the non-divisional units in the Middle East back to New Zealand as part of the relief scheme, and to absorb the remaining men from such units into appropriate divisional formations.

His Majesty's Government in New Zealand would be grateful if you would advise the War Office of the position and inform them of the necessity for the gradual disappearance and ultimate withdrawal of the following non-divisional units, which up to the present have been under the control of General Headquarters:

  • Railway Construction and Maintenance Group

  • Railway Operating Group

  • 18th and 19th Army Troops Companies

  • 21st Mechanical Equipment Company

Because of the very heavy demands for timber construction work for the United States Forces in New Zealand and the Pacific, consideration is also being given to the withdrawal of one or more of the New Zealand Forestry companies, which since 1940 have been stationed in the United Kingdom. This matter will be the subject of a later message.1

Please give Mr. Jones a copy of this message.

1 Not published.