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

133 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

2 February 1942

Following for Prime Minister from Prime Minister:

As stated in my telegram of 27 January [No. 130], I put your views and those of Curtin about the formation of a Pacific War Council in Washington to the President. I have now received the following most secret and personal answer from him. You will understand that this must on no account be quoted publicly, but I thought that you would like to see the actual text.

‘The Staff have been giving consideration to the matter of including the Australians, the Dutch and the New Zealanders in the Joint Staff conferences. While they have not given me a final answer, I think I can say that their general feeling, with which I concur, is that all political and Government matters concerning New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands East Indies should continue to be handled in London, and that military matters be resolved here. However, to have all of these countries represented each by three men on the Joint Staff page 146 considering ABDA problems would provide for an altogether unwieldy body. We are all strongly of the opinion that the present working organisation is functioning very efficiently for the collaboration of British and United States affairs, which will constitute the major portion of the matters to be handled. We think it should remain as at present but with this important supplementary arrangement to meet the special complications of the ABDA area: that in cases in which the Dutch, the Australians and the New Zealanders are concerned the Combined Staff will invite their participation in discussion of such matters as involve their national interest and collaboration. It is essential, however, that in those cases where immediate action is required the individual advice of the officers concerned be given without waiting for formal word from their respective Governments. We will undertake here to work out a close and intimate working relationship with the three military missions of Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and make sure that their advice is in no sense perfunctory but will be considered important and essential in determining the general policies of the war in the ABDA area. This seems to be our Joint Staff opinion here.’

We have not yet considered the matter further here, and in the meantime I should be glad to know at your convenience whether the arrangement proposed by the President is satisfactory to you. I am making a similar inquiry of Curtin.

I am having repeated to you in the following telegrams the text of replies received from Canada and South Africa about the question of Dominion representation on the War Cabinet.1

1 Not published. The Prime Ministers of both South Africa and Canada expressed satisfaction with the existing machinery for consultation between the Government of Great Britain and that of their own countries.