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

350 — War Cabinet Minute — [Extract]

War Cabinet Minute

Minister of Defence

1. That Mr Coates will raise with comsopac the question of the replacement by American troops of the anti-aircraft units in Fiji and the coast defence and anti-aircraft units in Noumea, the general intention being that when released these troops should be attached to the 3rd Division.

2. That subject to final consideration at a later date, War Cabinet are generally disposed to agree with General Barrowclough's requests set out in his communication to General Puttick, 1/1/G of 17 January [No. 348]. If Mr Coates' conference with comsopac is to take place early, War Cabinet will await its result before making a decision, but if the conference is delayed, they will make a decision at an early date irrespective of the conference.

3. That the battalion in Norfolk Island be replaced (either by Grade II men or otherwise as War Cabinet may subsequently determine) and then rejoin the 3rd Division. Total New Zealand establishment in Norfolk Island approximately 1500 all ranks.

4. (a) That New Zealand assume the responsibility for the defence of Tonga….1

6. That the Scottish and the Ruahine Battalions in New Caledonia be retained there notwithstanding the arrival of the battalions from Tonga and Norfolk.

7. That the minimum age limit for troops for Fiji, Tonga and Norfolk be reduced to 20 years in the case of any soldier who volunteers for garrison duty with the written consent of his parents.

1 Decisions on a number of points of detail relating to the defence of Tonga and Fiji have been omitted. Admiral Halsey had suggested, in a memorandum to General Puttick on 4 Dec 1942, that New Zealand should relieve the United States of the responsibility for the defence of Tonga.

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8. That volunteers be accepted for Fiji, Tonga and Norfolk from men of Grade I or Grade II medical category who have passed their 41st birthday.

9. That the Maori Members of Parliament be consulted with reference to the use in the Islands of a Maori Battalion, and that the Army make unofficial enquiries on this matter from General Barrowclough and Colonel Barry.1

In War Cabinet, 4 February 1943. Approved.

1 Lt-Col J. W. Barry, MBE; CO 36 Bn Dec 1941–Jun 1943; Commander N Force (Norfolk Island) Sep 1942–Apr 1943; Area Commander, Wanganui, Sep 1943–Apr 1947.