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

303 — The High Commissioner for the Western Pacific2 to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

The High Commissioner for the Western Pacific2 to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

16 June 1942

The following telegram has been received from the Agent and Consul, Tonga:

‘The General Officer Commanding has received a telegram from New Zealand indicating the likelihood of the withdrawal of New Zealand army personnel, arms and equipment. The local Defence Force has a definite part in and is essential to the defence of Tonga. page 331 The Government of Tonga and I most strongly urge that the Defence Force, including the artillery unit, should be maintained at the highest level of efficiency and equipment, particularly in view of the likelihood of the United States Forces being transferred when the actual theatre of war becomes more restricted. The withdrawal of New Zealand personnel would mean the dissolution of the Defence Force and would be strongly resented by all Tongans. The most serious aspect is that such a withdrawal would create the impression that Dominion Government political control of the Kingdom might be abandoned to the United States. Rumours to this effect are already current, though definitely quashed by the General Officer Commanding and myself.’

While I fully realise that the recent arrangements for the defence of the Pacific area may involve the withdrawal from Tonga of New Zealand forces, I should be grateful for any action that might be possible to avoid disturbance of the organisation and equipment of the local Defence Force, and offer the suggestion that the question be discussed by the New Zealand Commanding Officer in Tonga with the Agent and Consul with a view to devising some mutually satisfactory arrangement.

2 On 16 June Maj-Gen Sir Philip Mitchell, KCMG, MC, succeeded Sir Harry Luke as Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner for the Western Pacific.