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

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

page 213

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

28 November 1940

Following from my Prime Minister for Prime Minister:

From time to time His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have been in communication with His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in an endeavour to obtain early delivery of aeroplanes suitable for the coastal defence of New Zealand, and though at one time it appeared that a certain number of Hudsons could be spared for that purpose, it has not up to the present been possible to make any progress. His Majesty's Government in New Zealand fully realise the paramount importance of ensuring that adequate numbers of aircraft should be constantly available for the defence of the United Kingdom and for the Middle East, but their desire to obtain some deliveries in New Zealand has been materially increased, firstly, by the recommendation of the Singapore Conference,1 and secondly, by repeated approaches to these shores of raiders which, if long-range aircraft were available here, might it is felt have been disposed of.

Yesterday a New Zealand ship, the Rangitane,2 with a valuable cargo and precious lives, was attacked and presumably sunk some 400 miles from the New Zealand coast. The only aircraft available for reconnaissance at such a distance are the two flying boats, and as it happened one of these boats was on the slip and the other on passage from Sydney. As a result it was not until eight hours after the warning was received that the first boat was despatched (and she could in any case have done nothing more than report) and what chances there were of destroying the raider were accordingly lost before the search commenced. We should be most grateful if you would personally look into this matter and, if it is at all possible, arrange for us to receive at any rate a limited number of Hudsons or other suitable aircraft in order to remedy our helplessness in such circumstances.

1 This conference, held in October 1940, was attended by service representatives from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

2 MV Rangitane, 16,712 tons, New Zealand Shipping Company. Sunk by the German raiders Orion and Komet on 27 Nov 1940, about 300 miles eastward of East Cape.