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

201 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs2

The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs2

19 February 1942

Following for Prime Minister:

Reference my telegram of 17 February [No. 199]. In your telegram of 14 February [No. 198] you referred to our urgent requirements for fighters in New Zealand and offered to make certain future allocations to us to meet a proportion of our requirements. You were good enough to suggest that you would be willing for your part to agree to the two United States pursuit squadrons destined for Northern Ireland to be diverted to New Zealand. I need hardly say that my colleagues and I are more than ready to accept this suggestion, and I shall be most grateful to you if you will represent to the President of the United States that it would be more advantageous at the present time to divert the two pursuit squadrons to New Zealand.

You are aware that we have at the present time no fighters whatever in New Zealand, and that our expectation of receiving fighters is not as high as we consider necessary. Unless complete units can be page 230 diverted to us the position will remain most unsatisfactory. You have already arranged to ship from British orders in the United States eighteen Kittyhawk fighters, and you were in hopes that a further eighteen might be made available from United States orders. These we propose to use immediately they arrive for the operational training of our pilots, and we shall be in a position to maintain an output of trained fighter pilots to maintain the strength of the fighter squadrons that may be located in New Zealand. But we are not in a position immediately to organise and operate complete fighter units with all their ancillary details, and it is for this reason particularly that I welcome the possibility of the arrival of complete pursuit units from the United States.

You are aware that apart from the necessity for protecting our very limited bomber forces proceeding to the attack of enemy aircraft carriers or other ships, and apart from the necessity for employing fighters over the zone of operations in the event of invasion, we have the permanent necessity for providing fighter protection over our main ports and cities, which at any time are liable to air attack.

While, therefore, two pursuit squadrons will be of the greatest assistance and will afford considerable protection for certain purposes, there will remain an urgent need for a substantial increase in our fighter defences, and I sincerely hope that the squadrons destined for this part of the world may be duly apportioned to cover this urgent requirement as far as possible and as soon as possible.

2 Repeated to the New Zealand Minister, Washington.