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


page 346


1. We should push on with all speed with the Lagos-Cairo air-route. I came through this a month ago. It is, at the moment, most dangerous. The landing-grounds are too small, and very rough. There is no Directional Wireless, and no spare parts or ground service available. All these deficiencies require immediate attention if it is to be used in air reinforcement of Egypt. The opening of this route would save three weeks by enabling aircraft to be flown the last lap to Cairo, and this saving in time is most important. It still remains necessary to have a fast route, i.e., through the Mediterranean or some other route, to provide for the transit of the essential ground organisation, personnel and stores in Egypt.

2. We should send, with all despatch, sufficient fighters to give the Royal Air Force in Egypt a reasonable chance of defeating a possible combined German and Italian Army and Air Force operating offensively from Libya against Egypt.

3. It is unfortunate that there is not a single completely-equipped Division in Egypt. The Armoured Division is not properly equipped; the Fourth Indian Division has only two Brigades; the New Zealand and Australian Imperial Forces are incomplete both in numbers, and even the equipment for the existing personnel is inadequate. It is recommended that full equipment be sent by fast convoy for the whole of the Divisions, especially for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

4. As war in the Middle East depends almost entirely upon Administration, we should examine and provide all means of transportation so that when we take the offensive in the near future we shall be able to reap the full advantage of any local success we may achieve.

I recommend—


That all the Railway Construction and Railway Survey Units not wanted at home be sent out to the Middle East.


That a thousand miles of broad gauge railway tracks be accumulated in Suez or Alexandria area.


That the question of concentrating load-carrying aircraft in Egypt to support and supply Desert mobile columns be examined.


That as the Royal Navy are now too busy to undertake sea transport the Army should organise and man a sea-borne transport service which would be prepared to carry and supply raiding-parties or even an Army operating along the Mediterranean coast. In this respect, I am certain I could get a Corps of yachtsmen and seamen from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who are trained and competent, and there are innumerable barges and similar small craft suitable for fitting with outboard motors, or small engines. Parent-ships could be supplied for these from captured enemy merchant vessels.

5. Finally, I am certain that the first move towards defeating the Germans is to ensure the defences of Egypt, and then a real start can be made by chasing the Italians out of Libya.