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

126 — The Prime Minister of Australia to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

The Prime Minister of Australia to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

1 May 1940

Thanks for your telegram. The following reply has been sent to the telegram of 30 April (No. 123) from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs:

Immediate consideration has been given your telegram of 30 April, but the Government feel some difficulty in arriving at a decision as to the ultimate destination of the convoy without additional information regarding the strategic considerations page 96 involved in Italy's possible entry into the war and the repercussions that this step may have in the Balkans, the Near East, the North-West frontier of India, and in the Far East.

Prior to answering your suggestion that the second and third convoys be diverted to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Government would like an appreciation by your Chiefs of Staff on the likely possibilities of the prospective situation, the measures required to counter probable enemy plans and to provide for security of our interests, and the zone in which an Imperial Force could co-operate most effectively. We can then see more clearly our part in the scheme of things. No doubt this information is readily available as the possibility of being confronted with an alliance of this nature has long been referred to in Committee of Imperial Defence documents.1

The Commonwealth Government is gravely concerned at the prospect of the 6th Division being split into parts located in Palestine and in the United Kingdom. Though this entails administrative handicaps there is also the possibility of difficulties in re-concentration from the operational point of view, and in our minds the latter is imperative. Furthermore, such a wide dispersion might contravene the fulfilment of the decision as to the theatre in which an Imperial Force should serve.

Pending the receipt of the appreciation and a decision, our view is that the second convoy should be held at Colombo for a few days, and in view of the urgency of the matter the Chief of the Naval Staff was asked to forward a signal to that effect to the Commander of the escort and the Admiralty.

In the appreciation of the Chiefs of Staff it is desired that they should traverse the considerations involved in equipping the division. As there are important local considerations which must be brought into the picture, the Australian Chiefs of Staff have also been asked to submit a similar review.

This telegram has been repeated to the New Zealand Government.

1 The Committee of Imperial Defence, in the United Kingdom, is in effect a committee of representatives of all those State Departments which may be concerned in any way with preparations for national defence. The committee has no executive function in itself. Its conclusions take the form of recommendations to Cabinet. The closest liaison is maintained with the other Governments of the British Commonwealth. Activities are directed by a central committee, of which the Prime Minister is the only permanent member, aided by such other Ministers or officials as he cares to summon.