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

Munition Workers

Munition Workers

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

6 June 1940

In view of the acute strain now being placed on the British armament industry, because of the enormous losses of war material resulting from the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand desire to know whether the services of experienced and skilled mechanical engineers and operatives from this Dominion could be availed of by the authorities in the United Kingdom. Should this suggestion prove acceptable, my Ministers would be glad to receive early advice as to the conditions and the arrangements they should make to give effect to this proposal, after which a call could be made for volunteers.

page 237

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand [Extract]

13 June 1940

….1 We have also under close examination the New Zealand Government's telegram of 6 June (No. 330) in regard to the possible despatch to this country of engineers and operatives for munition work. A reply will be sent as soon as possible. We are very grateful for this helpful suggestion.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to General Freyberg

14 November 1940

The following telegram has been received from Jordan:

The United Kingdom Government have written me with reference to the possible release from the Dominion forces in the United Kingdom of skilled men for service in industry, particularly munition making. Such an arrangement is already in operation for the release of skilled men from the United Kingdom Forces. I understand that the transfer would be voluntary. Please advise if you agree.

Would you let me have your comments please.

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister [Extract]

15 November 1940

While I sympathise with the Minister of Supply, I am strongly against the proposal contained in your message of 14 November (No. 332) as we shall want all our trained personnel in the Middle East next spring. Already New Zealand is supplying skilled non-divisional units to the total of 2600 all ranks divided between Army Troops companies, Forestry companies, Transportation units, and page 238 now a new Mechanical Equipment Company. After the infantry of the Division these form the second strongest body of troops in the New Zealand Forces.

As has been indicated in recent telegrams, there is to be a marked increase in units and size of the Division.1 The years 1941 and 1942 may see very heavy fighting. If you will forgive me for giving my opinion unasked, I feel that caution should be exercised before agreeing to the formation of any similar units or any weakening of our present strength. We are counting numbers very carefully in view of the possible role of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the spring. I would like to have your decision on the above question….2

1 See Volume II, Formation of New Zealand Armoured Brigade.

2 A reference to the arrival of Brigadier N. S. Falla from the United Kingdom has been omitted.

The Prime Minister to General Freyberg

18 November 1940

We are largely agreed with the views in your telegram of 15 November (No. 333) concerning the transfer of New Zealand forces to industry, but in view of the importance of munitions we are reluctant to refuse the request entirely and accordingly would consider limited assistance in the special circumstances of the United Kingdom.3 Therefore the following message has been sent to the High Commissioner, London:

Your telegram of 12 November, regarding the withdrawal of troops for industry.4 We do not wish the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to be seriously depleted, but are prepared to consider the voluntary transfer of a limited number of highly-skilled personnel from the Forces. Would you please indicate the number contemplated and all details of the proposals, including conditions of transfer and employment, and consult Hargest.

Your views regarding the formation of additional units are fully appreciated. We have no present intention of agreeing to additional units, and in any case will consult you before committing ourselves further.

3 No munition workers were, in fact, provided from the New Zealand Military Forces.

4 See telegram in No. 332.