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

112 — Memorandum from the Naval Secretary to the Permanent Head, Prime Minister's Department (Wellington) — OCEAN ESCORT FOR TROOP CONVOY

Memorandum from the Naval Secretary to the Permanent Head, Prime Minister's Department (Wellington)

19 April 1940


Perhaps you will be good enough to inform the Honourable Prime Minister that a telegram has been received from the Admiralty, addressed to the Australian and New Zealand Naval Boards, stating that in consequence of the present uncertainty as to the attitude of Italy, the French Admiralty are effecting a strong concentration of their naval forces in the Mediterranean and urgently desire the very early return of the French 8-inch cruiser Suffren.

The Admiralty state that the best arrangement which can now be made for the ocean escort, to enable the wishes of the French Government to be met, is to provide HMAS Sydney2 in place of the Suffren from Cocos Islands3 ot the destination.

The effect of this will be that from Cocos Islands the escort will consist of one 8-inch cruiser and two 6-inch cruisers.

In making this proposal the Admiralty state:

As German naval forces are fully occupied in North Sea operations4 and as both pocket battleships were located in German waters on 6 April, Admiralty considers escort force composed of Kent, Sydney, and Leander from Cocos Islands to Aden for US 3 page 90 is adequate and therefore propose complying with the French suggestion. The convoy situation with reference to the attitude of Italy will be kept under constant review.

The Australian Naval Board have communicated their concurrence in these proposals to the Admiralty and to the New Zealand Naval Board.

If the Prime Minister approves, it is proposed to signify the concurrence of the New Zealand Naval Board.

N. T. P. Cooper,

Naval Secretary

2 HMAS Sydney, 6-inch cruiser, 6830 tons; lost with all hands after destroying the German raider Kormoran in Indian Ocean, 19 Nov 1941.

3 Approximately midway between Fremantle and Colombo, and the site of a strategically important cable station.

4 Germany had invaded Norway on 9 Apr. The two battles of Narvik had taken place on 10 and 13 Apr, and the British Expeditionary Force had been landed at Namsos and Narvik between 15 and 18 Apr 1940.