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

92 — The acting Prime Minister of New Zealand1 to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

The acting Prime Minister of New Zealand1 to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

9 September 1942

It has now been decided to despatch a total of 5500 reinforcements to the Middle East, including one battalion of the Army Tank Brigade which has been formed in this Dominion. General Freyberg has been advised to this effect, and he informs us that he will use this battalion as a nucleus for the formation of an armoured brigade, the 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade being used for the purpose. Having regard to the very critical position which still obtains in the Pacific, it will be appreciated that it was with some reluctance that we decided to despatch the tank battalion, but we are doing this because we wish to increase the measure of protection for the Division in action and at the same time enhance its value as a striking force. We are of course quite willing to send with the tank battalion its complement of Valentines, should this be considered essential, and page 68 we understand that General Headquarters, Middle East, would be very glad to have them, but we desire to point out that they are in no way a match for the tanks now being used by the enemy in the Middle East theatre. We are very concerned, therefore, to ensure that the battalion, and ultimately the Armoured Brigade when formed, are equipped with the most modern tanks available so that in action they may be in all respects equal, if not superior, in their striking power to the forces against which they will be engaged. If our armoured force can be equipped with the best tanks available, as we hope may be the case, then we would not propose to send the Valentine tanks from New Zealand unless you consider it essential.

1 Hon. D. G. Sullivan, Minister of Industries and Commerce, was acting Prime Minister during the absence of Mr. Fraser in the United States and Canada. The Prime Minister left New Zealand on 21 Aug and arrived back on 16 Sep. During the visit, which was made at the invitation of President Roosevelt, Mr. Fraser had discussions with the President and attended meetings of the Pacific War Council. He also visited the Prime Minister of Canada, the Rt. Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King.