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

198 — 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

14 February 1942

Your telegram of 4 February. Following for Prime Minister from Prime Minister:

We are in full sympathy and agreement with the sense of your telegram [No. 197]. The proposal to provide you with thirty-six fighters, either half from British sources and half from American, or failing an American allotment, all from British sources, was made before receipt of your telegram of 30 January [No. 195]. Anxious as we are to help, the provision of four complete fighter squadrons presents a difficult problem. Shipping limitations alone would prevent us despatching complete units from this country at present. The only means of providing for the fighter defence of New Zealand without long delay would be for a request to be made to the United States of America to despatch two complete pursuit squadrons to New Zealand. These squadrons have an initial equipment of twenty-four aircraft each. If the Americans are unable to meet this request in addition to their other commitments, we would agree that two such squadrons should be diverted to you from the United States of America fighter force destined for Northern Ireland in existing United States plans.1

2. This arrangement would have the advantage not only of saving shipping and time but also that it would not be at the expense of the forces now en route and earmarked for the ABDA area, North

1 After discussions with General Marshall, Mr Nash advised on 9 April that these squadrons would not be available to New Zealand.

page 223 Australia, and the lines of communication to these areas. You will, I am sure, be in agreement that these areas should have first priority.

3. If you concur in the above proposal, I would suggest that the New Zealand Government should forward an immediate request, which we will transmit to Washington, supported in the manner you have suggested.

4. With regard to your request for long-range fighters, we are, I regret, not in a position to offer you more than the total of eighteen Beaufighters and cannot convert these in time for despatch earlier than April.

5. Reference anti-aircraft equipment, will you let us know the numbers of guns, both heavy and light, you now require in addition to those we have already promised.

6. The Pacific War Council has instructed the Joint Staffs here, which include a New Zealand representative,1 to review the immediate situation in the Pacific in the light of a telegraphic memorandum which General Wavell has referred to us.2 Mr Jordan has of course been given a copy of this telegram—when we have cleared the air on the immediate situation we can look further ahead.

7. Please send the list of requirements for all your three Services, as you suggest in the last paragraph of your telegram. We will do our best to help in consultation with the Americans.

1 Brigadier R. S. Park.

2 Not published. In this message to the Chiefs of Staff in London and in Washington General Wavell warned that the unexpectedly rapid advance of the enemy in Singapore and the approach of an enemy convoy towards southern Sumatra might necessitate serious changes in Allied plans for the defence and reinforcement of the Netherlands East Indies.