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

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

page 179

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

14 August 1940

Your telegram of 12 August (No. 231).

The observations of His Majesty's Government in New Zealand with regard to the escort arrangements for US 4 have been considered by the United Kingdom Government.

As regards the passage between New Zealand and Bass Strait, it is observed from your telegram of 13 August (No. 232) that the New Zealand Government are now agreeable to accepting HMS Achilles as the sole escort provided that HMAS Perth is held immediately available if necessary. The New Zealand Government will, it is assumed, make any necessary arrangements regarding HMAS Perth with the Commonwealth Government. However, the Admiralty have no reason to suppose that any enemy surface warship is at large, and they therefore consider that HMS Achilles will afford fully adequate protection for the passage across the Tasman Sea against any disguised merchant ship raider which, in their opinion, is the only type of enemy vessel which might be operating in these waters.

With regard to the passage from Fremantle to Colombo, the Admiralty have no reason to suspect the presence of an enemy submarine in the Indian Ocean and believe that the only three Italian submarines now outside the Mediterranean are in the vicinity of their base at Massawa, where they were successfully attacked on 4 August by British aircraft. The New Zealand Government may wish to know that even in the North Atlantic, where occasionally submarines are known to be operating, the Admiralty do not consider provision for anti-submarine escorts necessary for troop or other convoys when outside what are regarded as the normal zones in which concentrated submarine activity is to be expected, viz., an area extending about 500 miles from the British Isles and in the close approaches to the Straits of Gibraltar. Therefore, it is not visualised that in these circumstances anti-submarine measures will become necessary in the broad expanse of the Indian Ocean, and the Admiralty regard HMAS Canberra as affording fully adequate protection for US 4.

As regards the onus of passage from Colombo,1 it is now proposed that four ships of US 4 should proceed to Bombay, the troops being there trans-shipped into smaller vessels for the Red Sea passage. From Colombo to Bombay an escort by ‘C’ class cruisers may be

1 ‘onward passage from Colombo’ is probably intended.

page 180 arranged by the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, who will also make escort arrangements for the onward passage from Bombay to Suez. It is regretted that it is not possible for him to settle details of this latter escort until nearer the date of sailing. However, the New Zealand troops will be included in convoys containing British troops en route to the Middle East, and the Admiralty are satisfied that the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, will afford adequate protection. During the passage of the Red Sea, and, as necessary, in the Gulf of Aden, special escorts, including anti-submarine vessels, will be provided.1

It is hoped that the New Zealand Government will feel satisfied with these arrangements and will be prepared, as arranged, to despatch New Zealand troops in US 4.

1 The New Zealand troops in the Mauretania and Orcades were trans-shipped at Bombay as these two ships were proceeding to the United Kingdom. The New Zealand Forestry Companies bound for the United Kingdom were trans-shipped at Bombay from the Empress of Japan to the Orcades. The Third Echelon continued the voyage to the Middle East in the Empress of Japan, Ormonde (Orient Line, 14,982 tons), and Orion (Orient Line, 23,371 tons).