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

151 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

page 118

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

14 July 1942

As always your messages are encouraging and inspiring. I am particularly grateful for the information that you have been so kind as to forward and very much touched by your reference, both in your telegram of 12 July and in your recent speech, to the New Zealand troops and the attitude of this Dominion towards the war.1

It is certainly most heartening to us to learn of the large reinforcements that may be expected shortly in the Middle East, and indeed of the substantial forces and equipment that are already at the disposal of General Auchinleck. I am particularly encouraged to learn that reinforcements can be sent to Auchinleck in greater force than the Axis can supply them to Rommel. We had ourselves felt that unless Auchinleck could turn Rommel out of Egypt at a very early date, then the advantages of the situation to the enemy, with his sources of reinforcement so much nearer in point of time and distance and so much greater in potential strength, would progressively increase as the weeks and months passed.

The defence of Malta has been an inspiration to us, and we must all hope that it will be possible to retain this strongpoint without too grievous a cost to us in running supplies. The increasing success of enemy attacks on our convoys to Russia is of course a great disappointment to us, as it must be to you and to our Russian friends. The continued gravity of the Axis air and sea attacks on our shipping raises most weighty problems, especially in view of the lengthy and burdensome supply and reinforcement routes that we must maintain, and of the possibility that the Japanese may decide, as there are indications they will, to devote part of their submarine and surface strength to attacks on shipping, both in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific. The reason for our present increased shipping losses has never been fully understood by us. There was a period when the Battle of the Atlantic seemed to be going well on the whole. We can understand that the comparative unreadiness of the United States to meet the submarine menace in American waters must

1 In the course of a speech in the House of Commons on 2 Jul Mr. Churchill said:

Although I am not mentioning reinforcements, there is one reinforcement which has come, which has been in close contact with the enemy, and which he knows all about. I mean the New Zealand Division. The Government of New Zealand, themselves under potential menace of invasion, authorised the fullest use being made of their troops, whom they have not withdrawn or weakened in any way. They have sent them into the battle, where, under the command of the heroic Freyberg, again wounded, they have acquitted themselves in a manner equal to all their former records. They are fighting hard at the moment.

page 119 naturally lead to a temporary increase in sinkings in that part of the world, but this scarcely appears to account for the whole of the increase, and I wonder whether you can tell us what other factors, if any, are operating: for example, whether there have been substantial additions to the Axis submarine strength and how this has come about, or whether new and more effective methods have been evolved by them, or any other reasons that may account for the serious position which we are all facing today.

I am very reluctant indeed to bother you with such questions, but these thoughts have occurred to me as a result of your telegram and think it would be useful if I could be informed as fully as possible of the whole picture, good and bad, before my visit in the near future to the United States.1

With all good wishes.