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

123 — 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

30 April 1940

Before the receipt of the telegrams dated 30 April from the Australian and New Zealand Governments (Nos. 118 and 119) page 94 the question of the safety of your convoys was already under consideration. Unless the situation improves, the Admiralty consider that it would be undesirable to pass convoys US 2 and US 3 through the Red Sea.

The alternative of the troops proceeding by the overland route to Egypt, via Basra, is considered impracticable by the War Office for climatic and administrative reasons. Moreover, if war with Italy were to break out subsequent to the arrival of the contingents in Egypt, there might be considerable difficulties in equipping them, as the necessary material has to come from United Kingdom resources. In the circumstances it has been necessary to consider the advisability of the diversion of both convoys.

Since better training facilities exist in the United Kingdom than in other possible destinations and since the equipment must be supplied from this country, it is suggested that the best course would be to divert these contingents to the United Kingdom. It would, of course, give us great pleasure to welcome Australian and New Zealand troops here, and the Admiralty are confident that adequate security can be afforded for convoys moving by the Cape of Good Hope route to the United Kingdom.

We should be grateful if we could be informed as soon as possible whether this would be agreeable to the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments.

In that event, unless the situation shows marked improvement, we shall order convoy US 2 to be diverted before it enters the Gulf of Aden.

With reference to convoy US 3, we hope that the arrangements for embarkation as previously contemplated will be completed. Convoy US 3 would be diverted on the same date as US 2 if diversion proves to be necessary. The War Office are explaining to Freyberg the position as set out above.