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

316 — Letter from the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom (Wellington) to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

Letter from the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom (Wellington) to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

12 September 1940

My Dear Prime Minister,

In a letter of 17 May2 you were good enough to detail the excavating machinery in the possession of the Public Works Department which might be suitable for military purposes. The Minister of Public Works later gave me some further information as to the machinery which could be made available immediately, page 229 if necessary, and I understand that, in response to a request from the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, some machinery has already been shipped. The readiness of His Majesty's Government in New Zealand to make this plant available has been warmly appreciated.

I have now received a telegram to say that both machinery and operators to work it could be usefully employed in the Middle East, and the United Kingdom military authorities have suggested that the most convenient course would be to form a New Zealand Mechanical [Equipment] Company, Royal Engineers.

Such a company consists of a Headquarters …1 of seven officers and forty-one other ranks, plus a variable number of mechanical equipment sections of Royal Engineers2 each comprising one officer and forty-nine other ranks. District Headquarters contains administrative personnel and a small repair section of engineer artificers, fitters, and welders.

Each section operates from ten to fourteen machines, according to type, either tractors or excavators or mixed, and containing mostly drivers. Sections are empolyed on constructional works which require the use of heavy machinery in co-operation with normal enineer personnel and unskilled labour.

The number of sections in this case would depend upon requirements in the Middle East and upon what New Zealand could provide-In Practice it has been found that Headquarters can control up to a total of nine sections if necessary.

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have asked me to inquire whether the New Zealand Government would be prepared to raise and to provide equipment for such a unit. If the suggestion is acceptable, the War Office would submit detailed recommendations for the training, lasting some two months, which the personnel should undergo.

I have been asked, in putting the suggestion to you, to say that the provision of such a unit would constitute a very valuable form of fresh co-operation on the part of New Zealand in the Empire war effort, and the United Kingdom Government much hope that it may be practicable.

Yours, &c.,

H. F. Batterbee

2 Not published.

1 The War Establishment reference has been omitted.

2 War Establishment omitted.