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

61 — The Hon. P. Fraser to the Prime Minister — [Extract]

page 50

The Hon. P. Fraser to the Prime Minister

30 November 1939

With reference to your telegram of 29 November (No. 59). While I much regret the apparent misapprehension in Australia, and although we should encourage all possible discussions and exchange of information, I have no doubt whatever about the correctness of the decision of the New Zealand Government to despatch the First Echelon overseas, nor do I feel that there can be any suggestion of want of frankness with Australia. Negotiations for the despatch of the Australian forces have been proceeding here simultaneously with those for the despatch of the New Zealand forces, and indeed, after receipt of your telegram of 11 November (No. 47), I stated on 16 November at a meeting with War Cabinet, in the presence of Casey, our intention to despatch the force. Neither then nor at any other time did Casey give me any indication that Australia was [not?] taking the same course, and, while at that meeting and subsequently Casey asked for further assurances with reference to the Far East situation and naval protection for Australian (territory?), he left no doubt as to the intention of Australia to despatch the force. I have at all times made it plain, as have you, that even the First Echelon will not be despatched without adequate naval escort nor should circumstances at the time not warrant it. You should note also that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have emphasised in the strongest possible terms the great importance they attach from the moral and psychological point of view to the association of Dominion troops with those of the Mother country.

The question of co-ordinating shipping has been dealt with in my telegram of 29 November (No. 60). I understand that the Australian Government have not yet accepted the proposed dates.

I expect to leave London on Wednesday next with Berendsen and Waugh1 and to catch the Niagara at Sydney on 21 December.

Your telegram of 28 November (No. 55). Freyberg feels that he must accept the recommendations of military advisers in New Zealand but considers that all over 40 years of age should submit to careful medical examination by a cardiologist. He suggests also, and I concur, that all appointments be subject to confirmation after Divisional training in Egypt….2

1 John Thomson Waugh, private secretary to the Prime Minister; later joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force and lost his life in an aircraft presumed to have crashed into the sea en route from Fiji to New Zealand on 20 Aug 1944.