Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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

21st Mechanical Equipment Company, New Zealand Engineers

21st Mechanical Equipment Company, New Zealand Engineers

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.

page 230

Letter from the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom to the Prime Minister

30 October 1940

My Dear Prime Minister,

With reference to my letter of 12 September regarding mechanical equipment, Mr. Semple1 will no doubt have told you of the conversation which I had with him earlier this month. As a result of that conversation I sent a telegram to London explaining that a survey of all machinery available in New Zealand was being made with a view to considering what could be spared, but that in their consideration of the matter the New Zealand Government felt bound to take account of the Far Eastern situation.

I have now received a telegram from the Secretary of State saying that the United Kingdom Government appreciate the reasons for the New Zealand Government's hesitation to release machinery for a Mechanical Equipment Company. In the circumstances, steps are being taken in the United Kingdom to purchase machinery, but the problem of providing men is not an easy one. As you are aware, there is not in the United Kingdom the same experience in the use of earth-moving machinery as there is in New Zealand. The telegram states that a Mechanical Equipment Company is most urgently required in the Middle East and that it would be of the greatest assistance if New Zealand could provide the personnel only for such a company. Details of the composition of a Mechanical Equipment Company are explained in the third paragraph of my letter of 12 September. It is suggested that the financial arrangements would appropriately be the same as those agreed upon in the case of the Forestry and Transportation units.

Having regard to the serious situation now developing in the Middle East, the United Kingdom Government desire me to express the strong hope that this suggestion may receive most early and sympathetic consideration. Such a from a co-operation would be of the utmost possible value at the present time.

Yours, &c.,

H. F. Batterbee

1 Hon. Robert Semple, Minister of Public Works, 1935–41; Minister of Works, 1943–49.

page 231

The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

11 November 1940

Arrangements are being made for the preparation and despatch of personnel for a Mechanical Equipment Company, consisting of headquarters and four sections totalling 263 all ranks, in accordance with the request conveyed to His Majesty's Government in New Zealand by the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in New Zealand. These troops will go into camp during the present week and will be despatched early next month with the reinforcements due to leave for the Middle East.1

1 When the shipping position prevented the despatch of the full complement of the 4th Reinforcements, General Freyberg asked that the despatch of the 21st Mechanical Equipment Company be delayed and their places taken by infantry. As a result, the company left New Zealand with the third section of the 4th Reinforcements in the Nieuw Amsterdam on 1 Feb 1941. With the other reinforcements they had a period in India at Deolali Camp before leaving Bombay in the Empress of Australia on 11 Mar 1941; they arrived at Port Tewfik on 23 Mar.

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand

18 November 1940

Your telegram of 11 November (No. 318).

The ready response of His Majesty's Government in New Zealand to the request of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom for personnel for a Mechanical Equipment Company is greatly appreciated. The Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, has been advised.