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

343 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

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

2 March 1941

Your telegram of 26 February (No. 339). The question of the size of the force has been most carefully considered in all its aspects by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. They agree that judging by continental standards it cannot but appear relatively small, and they would not wish to suggest that the plan is without hazard. However, having taken into account the forces at present available from the Middle East, the size of the Greek Army and the plans for its employment, and the likely scale of German attack having regard to the difficulties of terrain, our advisers at present in the Middle East have recommended the enterprise. Every care has been taken to ensure that in formulating their recommendations they should not feel subject to pressure in any way to report in favour of the enterprise rather than against it. In fact, they were specifically requested to report accordingly if they considered ‘no good plan could be made.’

With regard to the arrangements for support, it will in any case be some weeks before the whole force can arrive. Thereafter we have in mind the despatch of a United Kingdom division, which is already in the Middle East, this possibly to be followed by another if shipping is available; in addition, as soon as the situation in Italian East Africa has been cleared up further forces will become available to support the enterprise.

It will be recognised also by His Majesty's Government in New Zealand that the enterprise carries with it not only the retention in page 246 active operation of eighteen Greek divisions now in the field against the Italians, but also the possibility that we shall receive the armed support of twenty-five Turkish divisions in Thrace and the area of the Straits. A combination of the latter with our own would constitute a substantial force compared with any which the Germans could put into the field against us for several months. The possibility of Yugoslav assistance to us must also not be ruled out.

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom unhesitatingly repeat their assurance to His Majesty's Government in New Zealand that their troops will not be despatched unless and until they are equipped to establishment in all essentials. Specific instructions on this point will be issued to the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East.

The spirit animating the New Zealand Government's communications on this subject is again highly appreciated by the United Kingdom Government.