Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II
179 — 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
Your telegram of 19 November (No. 176).
The following is the text of a further telegram I have sent to Mr. Curtin about the return of the 9th Australian Division:
My professional advisers and I are very sorry that you continue to press for the move of the 9th Australian Division, which we do not consider is in accordance with the general strategic interests of the United Nations.
Nevertheless, to meet your wishes I shall recommend to the President that the 9th Australian Division returns to Australia as soon as shipping can be provided. This will probably be early page 147 in the New Year. I may say that a loss to us in personnel shipping-lift of 10,000 men in the WS1 convoys and 20,000 in the trans-Atlantic build-up for the invasion of the Continent will result from this move.
We very much regret that we cannot arrange for the equipment of your division to be returned to Australia. The cost to our offensive operations of the cargo and MT2 shipping necessary for this movement could not be faced.
You will like to know that, in response to an urgent request by the Americans for naval help in the Pacific, we are proposing to offer them the two modern armoured aircraft carriers Victorious3 and Illustrious4, under the command of a British Admiral, for service under American orders in the Pacific. These are among the most vital units we possess, and we have only four of this class. In exchange we are asking for the Ranger from the Atlantic. I hope that an additional and important re-insurance for the safety of Australia will result from this movement.
The fact that we are losing the Australian Division makes the retention of the New Zealand Division in the Middle East more necessary for us though your difficulties are understood. The return of the New Zealand Division would involve a further loss in shipping-lift of 10,000 men in WS convoys and 40,000 in the trans-Atlantic build-up for the invasion of the Continent. The reason for the loss of lift for the move of the New Zealand Division being greater than that for the move of the Australian Division is that the big personnel ships happen to be arriving at Suez at a convenient time for the move of the latter. To move the New Zealand Division they would have to return to Egypt from Australia. I could not, therefore, commit myself to any definite date for the shipping.
1 WS were the letters used by the Admiralty to designate convoys outward bound from the United Kingdom, as distinct from inward-bound, or US, convoys.
2 Mechanical transport.
3 HMS Victorious, Fleet aircraft carrier, 23,000 tons, 16 4.5-inch guns.
4 HMS Illustrious, Fleet aircraft carrier, 23,000 tons, 16 4.5-inch guns.