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

208 — 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

10 March 1942

Following for Prime Minister from Prime Minister:

1. In response to the various suggestions and requests which I made to the President for the common conduct of the war against Japan I have received a message containing the following passage:

‘We concur in your estimate of the importance of the Indian and Middle East areas and agree that reinforcements are required. We also agree that the Australian and New Zealand divisions now in that region should remain. The 41st Division is leaving the United States by the 18th of this month, reaching Australia about 10 April. As a replacement for Australian and New Zealand divisions allotted to the Middle East and India, the United States is prepared to despatch two additional divisions, one to Australia and one to New Zealand. A convoy of one-half a division could leave about 15 April and the remainder of this division about 15 May. Another United States division can also leave for the South-West Pacific about 15 May. It should be understood that our willingness to despatch these two divisions over and above the 41st, which is already set up to go, is based on the necessity for economising in shipping and the continuing security of the Middle East, India and Ceylon. It is therefore dependent upon the retention of a similar number of Australian and New Zealand divisions in those theatres. The above movements in the South-West Pacific can be accomplished provided that some twenty-five cargo ships are withdrawn for one voyage from those engaged in transport of Lend-Lease material to the Red Sea and to China and scheduled to sail in April and May.’

page 236

2. Our 5th British Division is about to sail from the United Kingdom. The President has also promised to give me the shipping to move two additional British divisions (40,000 men) in April and May and we are sending other British divisions during the next few months in our own shipping. How these divisions will be disposed between the Middle East and India must depend upon how things are going when they have rounded the Cape. We have also postponed for an indefinite period the completion of the movement of various United States divisions into Northern Ireland and Iceland, on which we had counted, in order to facilitate all the above movement of troops to the East and the Far East.

3. It is certain, in view of the shipping position, that an American division can reach New Zealand sooner than the New Zealand Division can be withdrawn from the Middle East, and that a more economical use can be made of our resources and a more rapid deployment against the enemy. Moreover, you may be sure that the presence of considerable United States forces in the Anzac area will emphasise to the United States the importance of protecting that area by its main sea power and also of accelerating the equipment of existing New Zealand forces, for which I am pressing.

4. You have never asked for the withdrawal of your Division and we have admired the constancy of spirit and devotion to the cause which has animated your Government and people.1 All the more do I feel this promised aid from the United States will be gratifying. I hope, therefore, you will empower me to accept the offer and to thank the President on your behalf. It would of course be very good if you care to cable him yourself.

1 See also Vol. II, Reinforcement of 2nd NZEF, 1940–42, No. 57 ff.