Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
299 — The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs
The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs
Immediate consideration has been given by His Majesty's Government in New Zealand to your telegram of 6 July (No. 298). They fully realise the extreme desirability of the troops concerned reaching the United Kingdom at the earliest possible moment, and indeed it is for this reason that they have proceeded with the utmost rapidity in raising the force and in carrying almost to completion the arrangements for the Awatea to be made ready to accommodate them. However, as has been explained to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in the past, they feel that they cannot divest themselves of their share of responsibility for the safe transport of these troops, and with the utmost regret they feel themselves unable to accept the proposal that the troops should proceed unescorted to the United Kingdom. However small the risk, they feel that they cannot take it, and indeed that if an attack were made on the ship in such circumstances the effect might well be to nullify to a very important extent the war effort of this Dominion. Holding these views they feel that there are only two possible alternatives, either: (a) that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom on further reflection find it possible to provide an adequate escort, and in this connection His Majesty's Government in New Zealand feel bound to say that in the present circumstances they would be most reluctant to agree to the removal of HMS Achilles from New Zealand waters for any appreciable period, or (b) that the departure of the troops be deferred until it is possible for them to join convoy US 4. In the latter event, if Forestry units are urgently required, they would point out that in the ranks of the Second Echelon of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at present in the United Kingdom, and no doubt also amongst Australian troops in the United Kingdom, there must be large numbers of competent forestry men who, if required, could rapidly be made available.1
As the Awatea is available for despatch on 12 July and the troops are in camp and ready to depart, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand will be grateful for the immediate comments of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in order that should it still be found impossible to provide an escort appropriate arrangements may be made for the disposal of the ship.