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

245 — 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

17 January 1941

Circular telegram.

We have had under consideration the question of providing some form of fixed defence for relatively isolated ports throughout the Empire which are of some commercial or other importance, but for which it has not hitherto been possible to provide defences and which have not been included in the category of defended ports. It is thought that a certain number of such places may form attractive targets for enemy raiders for the destruction of trade facilities or of shipping found in port. With our present lack of cruisers we cannot hold out any hopes of German surface raiders which are known to be operating at the moment being rounded up in their entirety in the near future, while the greater becomes the efficiency of our measures for the protection of shipping at sea the greater also becomes the temptation for raiders to attack our trade ports.

It is moreover considered that, to a raider far from its nearest base, a relatively low scale of defence should prove an effective deterrent. On the other hand, our available resources of guns which could be mounted for the purpose are very limited, and we have to take into full account in assessing the claims of individual ports overseas the necessity for maintaining the highest possible scale of defence against the threat of German invasion of the United Kingdom.

As the Dominion Governments are aware, the programme for the modernisation of defended ports overseas is under constant review, and the claims of each major port are taken into careful account and are page 276 being met as production permits. It should be emphasised that the present review is confined to minor ports for which no fixed defences have yet been provided at all. It is, however, suggested that the Dominion Governments should [group mutilated – consider?] whether in their own defence areas there are any such places which appear to them to be in urgent need of defence, and whether, if guns were provided, arrangements for mounting could be made and personnel be found and trained to man them. Any recommendations which may result would be taken into most careful consideration though, so far as the supply of guns from United Kingdom supplies is concerned, we should have to bear in mind the claims of other places in the Empire, including, moreover, the defence of the United Kingdom itself.