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

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

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

21 October 1940

Your telegram of 11 October (No. 199). The willingness of His Majesty's Government in New Zealand to leave to the United Kingdom authorities the date of departure of the New Zealand Second Echelon from the United Kingdom to the Middle East is greatly appreciated by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and they wish to assure the New Zealand Government again that it has always been, and is still, their policy to concentrate the New Zealand Division in the Middle East at the earliest possible date.

However, it has now become clear that the situation in the Middle East demands urgent reinforcements of armoured troops, artillery, and anti-aircraft units, and it is essential that priority should be given to the despatch of such troops. The next convoy for the Middle East from this country cannot contain more than 30,000 troops, and we greatly regret that, in these circumstances, it has been found impossible to arrange for the New Zealand troops in question to leave in that convoy.

Although, unfortunately, it is thus impossible for the New Zealand troops to be sent to the Middle East as soon as we had hoped, we feel sure that the New Zealand Government will appreciate the necessity for giving priority to the troops most urgently required in that theatre of war. All efforts will be made to include New Zealand troops in the following convoy which is due to leave in December, but we should find it very difficult at the present stage to give any undertaking that they will be included in that convoy, in view of the undesirability of deciding upon the units to be included until nearer the time of sailing, when the precise requirements of the Middle East in the light of the local situation then obtaining can be assessed in detail. However, as soon as the military situation permits, we can assure you that it is our intention that the New Zealand troops should leave for Egypt.