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

Defence of London v. Defence of the Empire

Defence of London v. Defence of the Empire

There are in England at the present moment two distinct schools of thought upon Defence—one that advocates a policy of concentrating all our military resources to safeguard the British Isles as the heart of the Empire, and the other that believes there should be no policy of defence which does not consider the defence except from the point of view of the Empire as a whole. This latter view brings automatically with it the problems of the defence of the Suez Canal and Singapore.

It is perhaps not beside the point to note that the further away one is from England the less one believes in invasion. In the Middle East itself few responsible people, if any, regard the invasion of the United page 342 Kingdom as a serious proposition. That was my own opinion when I arrived in England a month ago, and I still look upon it as a desperate action with little chance of success.

I believe the Defence of London School to be a dangerous one, and in the same category as the view held by many during the last few years who argued that it was not necessary to mechanise our Army or to send troops to France, and who inferred therefore that everything necessary could be done by the Air Force and the Royal Navy. The Defence of London School now hold that no equipment should leave England until the danger of an invasion is over, and that when the bad weather comes here it will be time enough to reinforce the Middle East.

In the same way people not connected with the Middle East are prone to minimise the risk there. Those of us, however, who have been stationed in the Middle East know the true picture. We have watched the position deteriorate during the last eight months until the present deplorable state has been reached. We have seen our sea communications cut off both north and south, and with France, our Ally, out of the war, we are now facing single-handed the large armies on either frontier.

The Axis Powers now have the initiative and we face possible attacks in two theatres, in the United Kingdom and in Egypt. The present war has become one of material. There is no shortage of manpower. Since Dunkirk the rival demands for equipment of the various theatres of war cannot be fulfilled. It is natural that the claims of Home Defence should have a high order of preference, but they should not be enforced to the total exclusion of the needs of Egypt.