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

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

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

24 November 1942

The following is a repetition of my telegram to Mr. Curtin:

We recognise, of course, that the withdrawal of the 9th Australian Division from the Mediterranean theatre rests with the Commonwealth Government. However, the United States Forces are now heavily engaged both in helping to defend Australia and in mastering French North Africa as a prelude to further action in Europe. Therefore, they are entitled to have the opportunity of considering the position as a whole and of making any representations to you which may appear to them desirable.

It appears probable that the Eastern Mediterranean will be the scene of large-scale action in the early spring, and the position of Turkey is therefore of peculiar interest. Should the 9th Australian Division be withdrawn to Australia, it will, of course, have to be replaced in time either by British or American forces. The present acute and aggravated shipping stringency makes it necessary to save tonnage as much as possible. For instance, it might be most economical to move one of the American divisions in Australia or destined for the Pacific direct to Suez, where the 9th Australian page 146 Division could be picked up on the return journey. There might be no other way of maintaining the necessary strength in the Middle East. On the other hand, it might be possible to transport the Australians from the Middle East as an isolated shipping operation. This again would necessarily be at the expense of our general power to move troops about the world, and would have to be considered in its relation to the dominating military exigencies. The matter is one on which the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Washington, who alone have the central point of view, should advise in the first instance.

So far as we are concerned, your wishes, of course, will not be opposed, although we greatly regret the departure from the Middle East theatre of a division which has rendered distinguished service. The object should be to bring the greatest number of United Nations' divisions into contact with the enemy, and certainly it would appear more helpful to the common cause if fresh troops were moved from the United States into the Pacific and into action against Japan, rather than that troops already engaged with the enemy in another part of the world should be withdrawn.

I feel bound to put these points before you as I know the great importance which you have always attached to American opinion, and also how much you value the substantial aid the United States has given to the defence of Australia.