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

286 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister

10 December 1943

Please refer to my telegram of 9 December.

The balance of 700 to 1000 men due to return from New Zealand to the Middle East can, I understand, be transported to the Cape by the Nieuw Amsterdam, due to arrive at Wellington about 11 January. If this arrangement is acceptable to the New Zealand authorities, the necessary arrangements can be made to carry them at an early date from the Cape to the Middle East in an escorted convoy.

Because of her high speed the Nieuw Amsterdam is not normally escorted, but in view of your Government's request, the question page 258 of escort for the voyage from Wellington to the Cape has been carefully considered. It has now been found, however, that no escort vessel fast enough to keep pace with her is available at the time of sailing. There will not be another opportunity of moving this party for some considerable time. In the circumstances I shall be glad to learn whether or not you approve the employment of the Nieuw Amsterdam without escort, bearing in mind the small number of troops involved and the comparative safety of the southerly route to be taken.

With further reference to your telegram of 8 November (No. 282), I greatly regret that it has been found impossible to meet your request that the 2700 men requiring transport from the Middle East to New Zealand should be carried direct to Wellington without transhipment.

The ship which you suggest for this move, the Mooltan, has a capacity of 4289, so that its use to transport the New Zealand draft from the Middle East to New Zealand would mean that accommodation for about 1600 would be unoccupied for about ten weeks. Our shipping commitments in the first quarter of 1944 are so heavy that we shall be hard put to it to meet them in any case, and failure to use all the available capacity would not only be uneconomical but would also inevitably have an adverse effect on all our plans for personnel movement early next year. As it was known that a United States ship, which was available to carry out the move without affecting the movement of any other troops, was due to return almost empty from Bombay to the United States via New Zealand about the end of January, the best solution seemed to be to ship the New Zealand draft from the Middle East to Bombay and to transfer them to this United States ship.

The question was again raised with the United States authorities on receipt of your telegram of 8 November, when the request was made that a United States ship en route for the Pacific might be diverted to Suez to pick up the New Zealand party. However, the United States authorities have now replied that in view of the shortage of shipping they cannot accept the consequent delay. In the circumstances I hope that you will approve the arrangements set out in the fourth paragraph, particularly since there is no reason to fear that the New Zealand furlough draft will be delayed for any considerable period in India. Arrangements have already been made for the 2700 to be escorted from Suez to Bombay, and we also have in hand the provision of an escort for the rest of the voyage to New Zealand.