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

Section III

Section III

11. It is not possible to make a satisfactory statement of immediate and ultimate air requirements for the defence of New Zealand and Fiji. These must be related to a central strategic plan. We cannot intelligently state requirements without knowing strategic intentions. So far we have been requested to prepare for the reception in New Zealand of two hundred heavy bombers and invited to consider preparing for nearly four hundred naval aircraft. These proposals are evidently parts of a plan related to the South-West Pacific. A plan on such a scale is considered essential, and within that plan we estimate that very large air forces would be based in New Zealand and Fiji.

12. The following roles fall to air forces countering enemy invasion:


Reconnaissance of sea areas of approach for which we will be responsible to locate enemy carriers, warships and transports.


To strike at enemy transports during their approach.


To destroy enemy aircraft carriers and otherwise to obtain air ascendancy over enemy carrier-borne aircraft in the area of operations.


To give bomber and reconnaissance support to the Army.


To provide fighter protection over important targets, main ports and aerodromes.

13. The following secondary roles fall to the Air Force in the protection of New Zealand and Fiji against raiders:


Reconnaissance of sea areas other than invasion approach areas.


Escort of shipping convoys.

14. The air forces required for all the above purposes are in excess of available aerodrome accommodation. Numerous excellent aerodromes exist in New Zealand, but these mostly require extension and concreting and the preparation of protected dispersal positions.

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15. As regards land aircraft, the first essential is to supply large quantities of aerodrome construction machinery. We have, you know, sent very large proportions of our construction machinery to the Middle East, Far East and Fiji, and there is now an acute shortage of machinery in New Zealand. Our immediate requirements are given in our telegram of 19 February [No. 200] and have been sanctioned for release from United Kingdom allotments in the USA.

16. If Fiji and New Zealand are to be held and are to become important base areas in future offensive operations, we estimate that we require the following as soon as possible….1

17. Not knowing what might be made available we cannot state our preferences for priority. We desire that we may be informed of the Combined Chiefs of Staffs' intentions and requirements as regards New Zealand and Fiji, and we will immediately recommend what we can undertake and what we require to give effect to these intentions and requirements.

18. At the present time we are prepared to receive and operate in New Zealand and Fiji any number of squadrons which can conceivably be sent here within the next three months. Our immediate requirements to counter an invasion operation were stated in paragraph 3 of my telegram of 19 February 1942. We are prepared to disrupt our Empire Air Training organisation to any extent required for the purpose of accommodating operational squadrons while new aerodromes are being prepared….2

20. We possess at the present time in New Zealand and Fiji 30 Hudsons and 24 Airacobras. Otherwise we have no modern aircraft, although we can and would put into the air four squadrons of ‘Vincents’, seven squadrons of ‘Oxfords’, ‘Harvards’ and ‘Moths’ armed to bomb and fight. But recent experience has shown that obsolete aircraft can achieve very little result in the presence of strong enemy air forces. We have eight air warning sets, four of which are unsuitable for detecting the approach of low-flying aircraft.

21. We recognise that our future success in the Pacific must depend upon regaining control of sea communications, and that when this has been achieved the danger to New Zealand will recede and its importance as a base for offensive operations will increase. In present and in future circumstances we must be powerfully equipped with air forces, but the planning of those air forces must be left to the Combined Chiefs of Staffs and to a Supreme Commander.

1 The Air Force units, aircraft assembly plant and airfield defence equipment required are omitted.

2 Details of the aircraft and equipment which New Zealand was prepared to accept and operate within the next three months are omitted.

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22. All service squadrons in New Zealand and Fiji are in constant readiness. All auxiliary squadrons are available at a few hours' notice….1

1 Paragraphs 23–27 inclusive have been omitted. They discussed air requirements. In Paragraph 27 it was suggested that the major part of the air training done in New Zealand could in future be done in Canada. This would save shipping space, and fewer tankers would be required to carry fuel to New Zealand.