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

200 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1 — [Extract]

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs1

1 Repeated to the New Zealand Minister, Washington.

19 February 1942

Following for Prime Minister:

With reference to paragraph 1 of my telegram [No. 199], I now set out the immediate defence requirements for New Zealand. These page 228 requirements are not related to what the requirements will be if it is decided to constitute New Zealand as a main base area. They are related to the defence of New Zealand against a division of Japanese troops supported by warships and four aircraft carriers. The lists include only such resources as could be employed effectively by the time of their arrival if released in the near future.


2. The air defence forces of New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga at present comprise the following:

8 squadrons (3 in Fiji) comprising the following aircraft:

Airacobras (Pursuit) – 25 now erecting in Fiji, two of which are available.

Hudsons (Reconnaissance) – 32 (12 in Fiji)

Vincents (obsolete) (Reconnaissance) – 45 (9 in Fiji)

Hinds (obsolete) (Army Co-operation) – 21

Singapores (obsolete) (Flying Boats) – 3 (in Fiji)

In addition, the following aircraft in training schools are being equipped for operational use and organised into emergency squadrons to be employed in the event of invasion:

Oxfords 81
Harvards 54
Moths 108
Vincents 16
Gordons 15

We have also four air warning RDF sets (three in Fiji).

An organisation is now being prepared to command and operate existing squadrons, auxiliary squadrons, and new squadrons as they become available, in three groups—Northern, Central and Southern. These groups will also comprise the training schools.

3. Requirements. As I indicated in my telegram, I have the greatest difficulty in putting forward specific requirements for defence. This relates particularly to Air requirements. It is clear that the success of anti-invasion operations depends to the greatest extent on air superiority, without which our land forces and coast defences will be at the worst possible disadvantage. In our remoteness from sources of production it is, of course, essential to keep our Air Force to such a size that its maintenance against wastage will not place impossible demands on shipping. I recognise also that we must avoid tying up squadrons which might otherwise be actively engaged. But it is clear that unless squadrons are already in the Dominion in sufficient strength to be capable of defeating the enemy when he comes, there will be little prospect of restoring the situation after that event. I suggest that New Zealand is the final base area. On the information available to us I page 229 consider that New Zealand can be made relatively secure from the Air point of view for the time being if, in addition to the specified Army and anti-aircraft requirements, the following can be provided in the near future:

2 torpedo-bomber or medium bomber squadrons

2 long-range fighter squadrons

2 short-range fighter squadrons

1 Army co-operation or dive-bomber squadron

4 troop-carrying aircraft

These squadrons should be completely manned and equipped. The maintenance of such a force would normally require an Aircraft Depot but we could make do without. We are, of course, organising and contriving in every possible way to make the most of our resources and, in putting forward the above request for squadrons, I have taken full account of what we already have here. You will understand that a handful of Hudsons reinforced by numerous obsolete bombers and trainers will make an impression more for gallantry than for their execution….1

1 Detailed requirements of aircraft, bombs, airfield construction and communication equipment, coast-defence artillery, field and anti-aircraft artillery, engineer and signal equipment, tanks and armoured vehicles, infantry weapons and ammunition, anti-submarine vessels, minesweepers, mines, and naval weapons, stores and equipment (covering six typed foolscap sheets) have been omitted.