Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
25 — 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
Having had the opportunity, which they warmly appreciate, of perusing your telegram of 8 September (No. 24) to the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in New Zealand, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have the following observations to offer on the course which they propose to take to enable them to play their full part in the war.
NAVY: They note with appreciation that HMS Leander will be retained on this station and, on her return from Fanning Island on 13 September, she will be ready to take up her duties before the end of this week.
It is believed that very few trained naval reserves surplus to New Zealand requirements could be made available for the Royal Navy. Steps are being taken immediately to ascertain the number, which it is not expected will exceed fifty or sixty.
It is considered that no trained civil pilots could be made available for service in the Fleet Air Arm, their services being required here to facilitate the programme referred to by you in the section on the Air Force.
Inquiries are being made for yachtsmen and former Mercantile Marine officers suitable for Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve commissions. It is anticipated that a substantial number could be made available and a further communication on this subject will be sent in due course.
Inquiries are being made as to telegraphists and signalmen, artificers, scientists (electrical and wireless telegraphy), and skilled electrical workmen, and the number available surplus to local requirements will be notified in due course. It is not considered that many will be available, but the possibilities of increasing the number of such trained personnel are being investigated.
His Majesty's Government in New Zealand accept the responsibility for fitting out and manning one armed merchant cruiser, the provision of a second ship being left for subsequent consideration, and they propose that they should assume liability for the Monowai1 when the necessary instructions have been received from the Admiralty.
1 Union Steam Ship Company, 10,852 tons.
Inquiries are being made as to the possibility of building whale-catchers and trawlers, and the result will be communicated to you later. A few existing boats, which are now being inspected, may be available, but it is not felt that local facilities will be adequate for any material production under this head.
ARMY: As indicated in my telegram of 9 September,1 the steps already being taken are entirely appropriate as the preliminary steps required to meet the position under either of the alternative hypotheses (a) and (b) in your telegram to the High Commissioner. The training of the first echelon2 will commence on 3 October next. After the first echelon has done two months' training, it is proposed to call up a second echelon consisting of 5000 officers and men and a third echelon of 5000 two months later, i.e., four months after the beginning of the training of the first echelon. This will complete the personnel (officers and other ranks) for one infantry division.
Under hypothesis (a) it is considered, subject to the receipt of adequate equipment for training in mechanised warfare (or alternatively, subject to an opportunity being afforded for such training after departure from New Zealand) and provided always of course that safe and adequate means of transport is available, that a fully trained division could leave the Dominion for service in France, or any theatre of war which at the time might be indicated as more appropriate, within a period of eight months from today. Within the limits specified in this paragraph, troops sufficiently trained for garrison duty could be made available within a period of two months from today up to a strength of 6000, within four months up to a strength of 11,000, and within six months up to a strength of 16,000.
2 The term ‘echelon’ was first officially used in an Army Headquarters memorandum of 29 Aug 1939. The term was displaced by ‘contingent’ in the Middle East (2nd NZEF Routine Order No. 7, 23 Sep 1940), but by the decision of the Adjutant-General ‘echelon’ remained in use in New Zealand (Defence 300/1/33, 8 Dec 1940). Throughout this series the more familiar term ‘echelon’ is retained.
His Majesty's Government in New Zealand will take an early opportunity of pointing out the inadvisability of individuals attempting themselves to proceed to the United Kingdom to enlist in the infantry or the artillery, and they will take immediate steps to ascertain the number of technical personnel, particularly electricians, mechanical workmen, mechanics, motor transport drivers, also officers with similar qualifications, and medical officers, who are surplus to necessary requirements here and available for service in the United Kingdom. A further communication on this matter will be forwarded in due course.
Under hypothesis (b) the New Zealand Government will be guided by circumstances and by the advice of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and within the limits of the programme laid down they will hold formations ready at short notice to reinforce Singapore, Fiji, and British and French islands in the South-Western Pacific.
AIR FORCE: Every possible step will be taken to press on with the agreed training scheme. It is noted that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will supply aircraft as soon as possible, and in the meantime every possible use will be made of civil aviation reserves available here as and when those reserves can be brought into effective use.
His Majesty's Government in New Zealand are deeply grateful for the helpful and carefully reasoned appreciation of the steps which they might take, as set out in your telegram to the High Commissioner, and at no time will they fail to make every effort to comply with the suggestions in that telegram and with any further suggestions that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom may make.