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

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

page 83

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

3 February 1940

With regard to the escort proposed for the Second Echelon of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have had the opportunity of perusing the correspondence which has passed by telegraph between the Admiralty and the New Zealand Naval Board.1

They fully appreciate the difficulties in the way of again despatching HMS Ramillies to New Zealand, but they cannot bring themselves willingly to accept as adequate on this occasion an escort of strength less than that considered necessary in January. However remote the danger may be and however strong the proposed escort in comparison with any attack that can reasonably be contemplated, they feel that they, and indeed the Admiralty, would be in an indefensible position if any untoward development was to take place with a weaker escort than in January when the circumstances were certainly not more threatening.

Therefore, quite apart from the desirability of showing a battleship in these waters as frequently as possible, they feel that they cannot consent to the arrangements proposed and must ask for HMS Ramillies to be sent to New Zealand as previously, even if this means a delay of a few days in the convoy's departure.

1 During the voyage of the First Echelon to Egypt reports were received from HMS Ramillies that the very large distances being steamed, sometimes at high speed, were bringing strain on her boilers and machinery and engine-room personnel. Unless the Australian and New Zealand Naval Boards considered battleship escort for the Second Echelon convoy across the Tasman Sea necessary, the Admiralty proposed that the Ramillies should rest and refit at Sydney. In a message to the Admiralty dated 25 Jan 1940 the New Zealand Government expressed the hope that the Ramillies, for reasons of morale, would come to New Zealand. The Admiralty replied that in view of the very large amount of steaming done by the Ramillies in recent months it was essential that she should have a short refit, which could best be arranged at Sydney, but should a change in the naval situation in New Zealand waters make it essential for a battleship escort to be provided, the sailing date of the convoy would be adjusted accordingly.