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

184 — The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1 — [Extract]

page 206

The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1

15 June 1940

Following for Prime Minister from my Prime Minister:

1. There is one aspect of your most secret telegram Circular Z.106 of 14 June2 to the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in New Zealand to which His Majesty's Government in New Zealand wish especially to refer. In this telegram a departure is made from the understanding, reinforced by repeated and most explicit assurances, that a strong British fleet would be available to, and would, proceed to Singapore should the circumstances so require, even if this involved the abandonment of British interests in the Mediterranean.3 His Majesty's Government in New Zealand do not in any way demur to this decision (which they have always regarded as a possibility) if, as they assume, it is necessary in order to safeguard the position in the central and critical theatre of war, and they are quite prepared to accept the risks which they recognise are inevitable if the most effective use is to be made of Commonwealth naval forces. At the same time His Majesty's Government in New Zealand must observe that the undertaking to despatch an adequate fleet to Singapore, if required, formed the basis of the whole of this Dominion's defence preparations. They assume that this undertaking will again be made operative as soon as

1 Viscount Caldecote.

2 Not published. This telegram contained for the Prime Minister's information a provisional review of the situation in the event of the collapse of French resistance. The review was framed on the basis that Britain would continue to fight, with or without United States assistance. Paragraph 8, dealing with the Pacific, read:

‘In the unlikely event of Japan, in spite of the restraining influence of the United States of America, taking the opportunity to alter the status quo in the Far East, we should be faced with a naval situation in which, without the assistance of France, we should not have sufficient forces to meet the combined German and Italian navies in European waters and the Japanese fleet in the Far East. In the circumstances envisaged, it is most improbable that we could send adequate reinforcements to the Far East. We should therefore have to rely on the United States of America to safeguard our interests there.’

page 207 circumstances may allow, and they would most earnestly request that the whole situation should be reviewed if the position in the Far East should become threatening….1

1 Text omitted contained a proposal by the New Zealand Government ‘to send to Washington a Minister of the Crown on special mission’. This proposal led eventually to the establishment of a New Zealand Legation in Washington and of a United States Legation in Wellington.