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

183 — 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

6 December 1942

We are deeply grateful to you and to the Government and people of New Zealand for the most generous manner in which you have responded to our appeal to allow the glorious New Zealand Division to represent the Dominion on the African battlefield. Naturally you are free to reconsider your decision at any time, especially if your own situation deteriorates. I am sure that our feelings of admiration for New Zealand and all she stands for will be shared by the President of the United States.

It looks as if Rommel will not stand at Agheila, and by the time this reaches you he may well be taking another big bound backwards. We shall follow hotfoot on his heels. The haunting anxiety that the fortress of Malta would be starved out, which we have endured for so many months and for the sake of which we have made such heavy sacrifices both in warships and supply vessels, has been swept away by the arrival there of a second British convoy from Alexandria. In Tunisia our vanguards have been sharply checked and it will be necessary to go over to the defensive for a week or more while air and armour come up from the main body. While the going was page 151 good it was quite right to go on pell-mell, and thereby we have gained an immense amount of territory, including seaports from which we can strike with our surface craft at enemy convoys. Everything will be done to drive the Axis out of Tunisia at the earliest moment. The war in that theatre is very costly for them because of the immense toll we shall levy on their reinforcements.

The United States have preferred to have only one British armoured carrier1 and to keep their own Ranger instead of sending us the Ranger and taking two armoured carriers from us. The latter plan would have been preferred by us as it would have given us more say in the tasks we will be set. Still, as a result of the moves there will be two more carriers in the Pacific. All good wishes and kindest regards.

1 HMS Victorious joined the United States Pacific Fleet in March 1943.