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

442 — The Hon. W. Nash to the Rt. Hon. P. Fraser (London)2

The Hon. W. Nash to the Rt. Hon. P. Fraser (London)2

7 April 1945

1. Government and War Cabinets discussed yesterday the question of the contribution we might make, on the conclusion of hostilities in Europe, in the provision of land, naval and air forces for the war against Japan.

page 465

2. We are agreed, in view of our position as a Pacific nation, on the need for maintaining our relations with the United States of America on the friendliest terms and firmest basis, and on the declarations made in the Canberra Agreement1 that we should, having regard to our other essential commitments and present manpower resources, make our full contribution of armed forces in the war against Japan.

3. It is clear that we cannot maintain our present military commitments after the end of this year. The general conclusion reached yesterday was that, having regard to our potential and our commitments for the production of essential goods, advice should be sought on the strength and balance of our forces, particularly Army and Air. The Combined Chiefs of Staff are the logical authorities to consider this since they have full information of all resources and all requirements. But the United Kingdom authorities and Chiefs of Staff should be able to offer some helpful advice.

4. Notwithstanding the limited information available to us we did attempt some assessment of the form that our contribution in armed forces might take, and on the assumption that hostilities in Europe end this year, the possibilities appeared to be as follows:


5. On the assumption that our air effort is maintained at nineteen squadrons (but see paragraph 14) and the naval contribution continues, we consider that New Zealand could provide, and maintain during 1946 and possibly also 1947, a land force 15,000 strong. This envisages a division of not more than two brigades, plus ancillaries. Such a force must of course retain New Zealand identity and command.

6. The force of 15,000 men can be secured as follows:


From the remaining 11th to 14th Reinforcement personnel, which at present total 11,500 but, allowing 2500 for wastage this year, will be reduced to 9000.


From the 15th and 16th Reinforcements 6500, with wastage 500, making a total at the end of this year of 15,000.

7. It is considered that only men in the present categories for Army service overseas should serve with the force, and that none over 35 years or with more than two children should be employed. The general opinion expressed is that the force should, with the exceptions mentioned, be built up from personnel who have served not more than two years overseas, and that the present rule of return to New Zealand on completion of three years' overseas service should be maintained.

8. The estimated annual reinforcement for this force is 5000. There is no difficulty in finding this number for 1946. But if the replacement scheme is to continue, as we feel it should, and of which we have page 466 taken account by including only the 11th and subsequent reinforcement drafts in the new force, then some difficulty will be felt in 1947.

9. Puttick has emphasised the disadvantages of a two-brigade force. It is suggested that the United Kingdom might find an additional brigade to bring it to a full division. The possibility of attaching the Fiji Brigade has not been overlooked.

10. The theatre of employment was discussed. Our preference is that the force function under British command in South-East Asia or with the Australians.

11. No final conclusion was reached regarding the place where the force should be reorganised. There are advantages and disadvantages in the case of both the Middle East and New Zealand.


12. The present annual naval commitment is 770 men, but the Navy ask, and we are disposed to agree, that this be increased to 1100 to permit the replacement of men with four or more years' service.


13. The present annual intake is 5400 men, of whom 2700 come from Army overseas categories. This is on the basis of continuing the present nineteen squadron plan. In the case of New Zealand personnel serving with the Royal Air Force, we are considering a proposal that all aircrew remain at the disposal of the Royal Air Force until after the completion of two tours of operations, or until eligible for repatriation under the existing policy of completion of three years' service overseas, or until they can be released by the Royal Air Force within the period of three years. It is intended that the existing provision remain in force that New Zealand personnel serving with the Royal Air Force are not posted to South-East Asia Command unless they have at least twelve months' service to complete a total of three years.

14. Reference is made in paragraph 3 to the balance between Army and Air. If the Air commitment were reduced there would be little if any direct advantage accruing to the land force, although the skilled ground personnel should increase the capacity of the engineering trades in New Zealand and contribute to the release of Grade A men held on appeal.

15. It is suggested, if you agree with the proposals outlined above, that the position be discussed with the United Kingdom authorities and that you might then inform us of your own and their views. It may be considered that we could better help in other directions, and we could of course consider any other adjustment of personnel attached to the three Services. But the total number given appears to be the limit of the manpower that we can make available.

16. Please see succeeding message on general political issues.

2 Mr Fraser was in London en route to the United Nations Conference at San Francisco, which opened on 25 April.

1 An agreement on Pacific security and regional collaboration between Australia and New Zealand was signed at Canberra on 21 Jan 1944.