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

109 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of Australia1

page 110

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of Australia1

11 December 1941

Your telegram of 8 December, No. 778.2

We fully understand your wish to have a general review of the new war situation which has now developed, but things are moving so fast that a telegram drafted in the morning is often out of date by the evening. We are hard at work examining the position and considering what re-disposition of our naval forces should now be made and what and how reinforcements can be sent to the Far East.

2. We are of course in for an anxious time in the Pacific. Sir Earle Page,3 who attended a meeting of the War Cabinet yesterday evening, will no doubt tell you how we view the general situation confronting us. We must not forget that Germany, who is still the main enemy, is in serious and increasing difficulties both in Russia and in Libya.

3. It is not considered that there is any immediate large-scale threat to the territory of Australia and much less of New Zealand. There is the possibility of raids by enemy cruisers accompanied by seaborne aircraft, generally under conditions similar to those set out in paragraph 34 of the Far East appreciation contained in my telegram of 12 August 1940, Z.214,4 to the United Kingdom High Commissioner.

4. The potential threat to our sea routes in the Far Eastern area has of course greatly increased and the situation is largely that set out in paragraphs 30 to 33 of telegram Z.214 already referred to. Admiralty instructions with regard to convoying and routing are contained in Admiralty telegram 1915/10 to the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board and the New Zealand Naval Board.5

1 Repeated to the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

2 Not published. The Australian Government had asked for an up-to-date appreciation by the Chiefs of Staff on the situation in the Pacific now that war had broken out with Japan.

3 Rt. Hon. Sir Earle Page, PC, GCMG, CH; Special Australian Envoy to British War Cabinet, 1941–42; Member of Australian War Cabinet, 1942–43.

5 Not published.

page 111

5. As regards local Australian defence, until we know more of the Japanese intentions we do not recommend any changes in those dispositions decided on as a result of consideration given to the subject at the time of Mr Menzies' visit (see paragraphs 23 to 26 of our reply of 18 April).1

6. A further telegram will be sent to you as soon as the new situation has been fully examined.

1 Not published.