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

250 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand1

page 281

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand1

14 October 1941

Your telegram of 28 August [No. 249], and subsequent telegrams regarding the defence of Fiji and Tonga.2

1. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom much appreciate the study which His Majesty's Government in New Zealand and their service advisers have given this question, the measures already adopted by New Zealand for the defence of British territories in the Pacific, and the offer of the New Zealand Government to assume further responsibilities in relation thereto. Proposals have been carefully considered with the desire to ensure the most efficient co-operation in defence by all the Governments concerned.

2. With this object we are prepared to agree in principle that, for the duration of the war, New Zealand should be responsible for deciding upon and carrying out all general defence measures which they consider necessary in Fiji and Tonga.

3. We feel, however, that the Governor and High Commissioner should remain responsible in matters of civil administration to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, who have obligations to the peoples of the islands in question and are in turn answerable to Parliament. We think it essential, therefore, that the responsibility of the Governor or High Commissioner (and of the Government of Tonga) in local matters should continue to be fully recognised, and that he should accordingly be informed in advance of all measures proposed so that he may have an opportunity of considering whether they might raise political issues or affect civil administration, e.g., in questions of native affairs or public utility services. If he thinks they might, we should like his approval to be given before they are carried out.

4. In the event of Fiji or Tonga becoming a theatre of active hostilities, the closest possible collaboration between the civil power and service authorities would be particularly necessary, and no doubt the New Zealand authorities will discuss with the Governor and High Commissioner with a view to ensuring that in such an event the necessity of reference to the civil power would be reduced to an absolute minimum, and that the maximum possible assistance would be rendered by the civil power to service authorities.

1 Repeated by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Governor of Fiji.

2 These messages were largely concerned with detailed requirements (including financial arrangements) for the defence of Fiji and Tonga and have not been reproduced in this volume.

page 282

5. We think that detailed arrangements and the most expeditious channels of communication to give effect to the arrangements in paragraphs 3 and 4 above could best be worked out on the spot. The Secretary of State for the Colonies1 is communicating with the Governor and High Commissioner to this effect.

6. The Governments of Fiji and Tonga should in our opinion remain responsible for raising, organising and administering local forces (military and naval) and for requisitioning any property required for these forces, but in matters affecting local forces the Governor and High Commissioner would regard the New Zealand authorities as his advisers and would submit any proposals requiring consultation to them instead of to the United Kingdom authorities. The New Zealand authorities would be responsible for training and the operational command of local forces. The scale of equipment would be settled between the Governor and High Commissioner and the New Zealand authorities, and it would seem convenient that the requirements of the local forces should be aggregated with New Zealand requirements as suggested in the Governor's telegram to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, No. 285, of 29 September.2 So far as possible all such matters as those in your telegram to the High Commissioner of 3 September, No. 80,3 and your telegrams to me, No. 368 of 4 September and No. 369 of 3 September,4 and any similar future proposals, would be settled direct between the New Zealand authorities and the Governor or High Commissioner, who would not normally need to refer to the Secretary of State for the Colonies decisions on measures to be adopted locally. His Majesty's Government in New Zealand will, however, appreciate that the Governor and High Commissioner should remain entitled to refer to the Secretary of State any matters of importance on which there is a difference of opinion or which, in his view, is one of policy with which His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are concerned.

7. The points in paragraph 3 (d) and (e) of your telegram of 18 September, No. 394,5 regarding local forces are covered by the foregoing paragraph.

1 Lord Moyne succeeded Lord Lloyd as Colonial Secretary on the latter's death on 4 Feb 1941.

2 Not published.

3 Not published. Reported the arrangements made by the New Zealand Government with Mr Armstrong, Agent and Consul at Tonga, in recent discussions in New Zealand. These covered various aspects of the assistance to be given by New Zealand in the defence of Tonga and in the training and equipping of the Tongan Defence Force.

4 Telegrams 368 and 369 are not published. The first advised that the New Zealand Government had decided to strengthen the defences and garrisons of Fiji and Tonga in accordance with the recommendations of General Sir Guy Williams, and listed deficiencies in the equipment of both garrisons. The second summarised the General's report on the defences of Fiji.

5 Not published. Paragraph 3 (d) concerned channel of communication on minor policy matters; in paragraph 3 (e) the New Zealand Government recommended that the local control of the Governor of Fiji over promotions, etc., be continued.

page 283

8. With reference to paragraph 3 (f) of your telegram No. 394, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom agree that the present procedure for the acquisition of private land for defence purposes should be continued.

9. We ourselves see no reason why arrangements on these lines should not work smoothly and eliminate delays which might otherwise be involved by reference to London, and we trust they will be acceptable to His Majesty's Government in New Zealand.

10. We shall be glad to be kept informed as proposed in paragraph 5 of your telegram No. 394, and suggest that methods of doing so be arranged in consultation with the Governor and High Commissioner. His Majesty's Government in New Zealand will no doubt keep in touch with His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia on proposals affecting Pacific defence generally, such as for the construction of additional landing grounds and seaplane bases (recommendation (k), No. 369).1

11. We have not yet received General Williams's report summarised in your telegram No. 369, and any comments on detail might require modifications when the full text is available. Subject to this reservation, and without necessarily being committed to the acceptance of all requests for equipment, etc., in this and in connected telegrams, we concur generally in unrestricted defence proposals. The extent to which they can be executed, however, necessarily depends on the availability of material in relation to the general supply position and requirements elsewhere, and it is thought that allocation of, e.g., coast defence and anti-aircraft equipment, should continue to be settled in London, where the relative priorities of all actual and potential coastal areas can be co-ordinated.

12. The request for equipment in paragraph 4 of your telegram of 4 September, No. 368,2 has been considered by the War Office and is being taken up by them with the New Zealand Military Liaison Officer. In connection with recommendation (j) of your telegram No. 369 as to the provision of PBYs and Hudsons, see my telegram No. 375 of 20 September.3

13. We have given preliminary consideration to the financial proposal in your telegrams Nos. [249], 394, and 396 to me and your telegram No. 804 to the High Commissioner. We are now awaiting the observation of the Governor and High Commissioner and will telegraph on this aspect as soon as possible. In principle, whatever arrangements may ultimately be agreed on, we favour the suggestion of fixed annual contributions in future by Fiji and the Western Pacific Governments concerned.

1 Not published.

3 Not published.

4 Telegrams 394, 396 and 80 are not published. See p. 282, notes 3 and 5.