Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
Appendix III — Visit of Ministers from Dominions and of a Representative from India — ANNEX
Visit of Ministers from Dominions and of a Representative from India
Note of Mr Fraser's Views
New Zealand's concern regarding possible developments in the Far East, is, we believe, very much the same as that of Australia. The matter was discussed in considerable detail at the Pacific Defence Conference1 in Wellington this year and the general conclusion arrived at was that the most probable scale of attack in any likely contingency would be that of sporadic raids. At the same time a saving clause was unanimously agreed upon that, while this would appear to be the most probable scale of attack, Australia and New Zealand would be well advised to consider preparations against a greater scale of attack.
The present situation as it has in fact now developed is much more favourable than the worst contingencies contemplated in Wellington. To that extent, and from the narrower point of view of the defence of New Zealand and Australia, the problem is at the moment simpler than it might have been. In the light of present circumstances and of Paper No. DMV (39) 32 we have no immediate fear of serious delay or difficulty in despatching a substantial British fleet to Singapore, should hostilities develop in the Far East, nor indeed have we any immediate fear of any such hostilities in the Far East. It is for this reason that the New Zealand Government have decided (of course in the absence of any serious deterioration in the meantime) to despatch by mid-January the first echelon, consisting of some 6700 men, of the contemplated Division. This decision was taken in the light of the present situation, after consideration of the information supplied to the Honourable Mr Fraser during his present visit to this country, and in the light of the considerations set out in the British Government's summary of the situation on the outbreak of war, in which, it will be remembered, the possibility of despatch of forces from New Zealand was considered under two headings (a) Japan definitely not hostile, and (b) Japan either hostile or adopting an attitude of reserve.3
3 See Vol. I, Negotiations regarding Participation of New Zealand's Armed Forces, No. 24.
Richmond Terrace, SW 1,20 November 1939