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

186 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand

16 October 1940

Circular telegram.

1. As you will be aware, we have recently been devoting special attention to questions connected with the production and distribution of warlike stores in relation to the needs of Dominion land forces. As regards the requirements which form part of our programme of purchases in the United States, certain proposals were communicated to your High Commissioner here on 29 August, following some special study of this aspect of the matter by the North American Supply Committee of Cabinet. We are grateful for the observations on these proposals received through your High Commissioner, and have reason to hope that the procedure agreed upon will secure the results desired.

2. Constant contact is maintained with Dominion Liaison Officers in London and New York on questions affecting special items of equipment, but we should like you to know in general terms what progress is being made in regard to supplies from the common war effort, and in particular when your own demands are likely to be met. The anxiety of Dominion Governments that their troops serving abroad should be fully provided with modern equipment, and that their demands for army equipment shall be met as soon as possible, is fully appreciated and shared by the United Kingdom Government. As you no doubt realise, however, the loss of equipment for ten divisions and corps and general headquarters troops, together with a large quantity of the reserves of the BEF in France, completely upset the original programme. Since then every effort has been made to expedite production in this country and to secure equipment from every available source throughout the world.

3. Priority of allotment must be determined from time to time in accordance with operational needs, and although the production situation has improved and is improving, production of all standard weapons has not come forward equally quickly, and interference by enemy air action may conceivably tend further to unbalance production. In these circumstances production in Canada and the United States assumes added page 210 importance to us. It is clear that in many of the major items of equipment supply will be considerably below requirements for some time to come.

4. While these deficiencies are being overtaken the requirements of the Dominion forces stationed within the Dominions, other than for coast defence, must be assigned a low degree of operational priority, and the United Kingdom Government trust that the Dominion Governments agree with the soundness of that decision, even though their deficiencies in this respect are great. The great importance of Dominion schools of instruction and training establishments being in possession of some modern equipment is realised and a reorganisation is now being carried out as to the extent to which a limited issue from the United Kingdom can be made to meet this need. Dominion Defence Departments will be communicated with direct as soon as the examination has been completed.

5. The War Office, with the assistance of the Dominion representatives, are now completing an exhaustive review of outstanding orders from the Dominions for equipment, and it is hoped that by the end of this month the tabulation of these outstanding demands will be completed and handed to Dominion representatives. Thereafter the War Office propose to render a monthly report to each Dominion representative showing the total stores demanded, the quantity issued to date, and (as far as possible) the probable date of release of the remainder. In the meantime they are making interim issues of such ‘non-controlled’ stores as are immediately available and are taking special steps to secure the rapid release of essential models, i.e., equipments required as specimens to guide your own manufacture. It is hoped that this procedure will enable Dominion representatives to be kept advised of the position as regards supplies for the Dominion on any date and will expedite delivery of such equipment as is available. The Dominions will realise, however, that no improvement in procedure will make possible any considerable release of ‘controlled’ stores, i.e., major weapons [? group mutilated] etc., in the near future, and that the bulk of their requirements of ‘controlled’ stores cannot be supplied until after June 1941, unless there is a development in the strategic situation which renders more probable the employment in an operational role of forces serving within the Dominions themselves.

6. Steps are being taken to see that stores allotted to Dominions from production or releases in North America are shipped direct from North American ports rather than that the allocation of release should be deferred until after shipment to the United Kingdom has been made. The Ministry of Supply have placed large orders in North America which should ultimately facilitate such direct release.