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

219 — The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs [Extract]

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

24 July 1940

Close attention has again been directed by His Majesty's Government in New Zealand to the future programme for the despatch page 165 abroad of New Zealand troops on which their tentative and preliminary views were expressed in my telegram of 27 June (No. 213). They have noted the intention of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, as expressed in your telegram of 2 July (No. 215), to consider the questions raised in my telegram and as soon as possible to supply a full appreciation of the position with the comments of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom on the points raised by the New Zealand Government. It is now clear from your telegram of 13 July (No. 218) to the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in New Zealand, that it is contemplated that reinforcements for despatch to the Middle East should be prepared as far as possible in accordance with the timetable already given by the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments, and that it is hoped to concentrate in the Middle East by the autumn or early winter of this year the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the Australian Expeditionary [Imperial] Force.

Messages which have been repeated to the New Zealand Naval Board from the Admiralty and the Director of Sea Transport1 now indicate the allocation of certain vessels for the transport of New Zealand troops and the intention to despatch convoy US 4 on or about 23 August from Sydney, involving, of course, the departure of troops from New Zealand at an earlier date. His Majesty's Government in New Zealand are still very much in doubt as to the position, and they find themselves forced to make a very early decision on the matter in order that all necessary and timely preparations can be made if this date is adhered to. They would therefore be grateful to receive an immediate indication of the views of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom on the following aspects of the matter:

If it is proposed that the Third Echelon should proceed to the Middle East, as is apparently the case, they would be glad of an indication of the route to be followed and the escort proposed. In this connection they feel bound to point out that at the moment they see no material difference between the risk involved in respect of the Second Echelon, which led to its diversion to the United Kingdom, and the risk likely to be involved next month. If the situation has altered, or if it is likely to alter, they would be glad to learn in what respect.

The possibility of providing the necessary equipment has also in their opinion a direct bearing on the question. They gather that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom hope to provide equipment at the same time as the divisions are concentrated. They would be grateful if an intimation could be given as to whether it

1 Not published.

page 166 is the intention to despatch the Second Echelon from the United Kingdom to the Middle East to arrive on or about the same time as the Third Echelon, and of an assurance that the necessary equipment will be provided for all New Zealand troops in the Middle East, including all requisite mobilisation equipment, on arrival, and all further equipment within a reasonable time thereafter to enable them to fight effectively if necessary.

A factor which they feel must not be ignored is the possibility of the despatch of a brigade group to Fiji. Should it be decided with the concurrence of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to despatch such a force it will be realised that it may be necessary to reduce proportionately the reinforcements to be forwarded with the Third Echelon….1

Having regard to the urgency of this matter His Majesty's Government in New Zealand would be most grateful if a reply could be despatched to reach here by the morning of 26 July.