Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
Negotiations Regarding Participation of New Zealand's Armed Forces
Negotiations Regarding Participation of New Zealand's Armed Forces
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom (Wellington)1
Your telegram of 4 September.2
The views of Defence authorities here on the forms of cooperation3 which would be most helpful are as follows:
NAVY: The following suggestions are based on the assumption that Japan will be neutral.
By placing HMS Achilles4 and two escort vessels under the orders of the Admiralty, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have made the maximum possible strategic contribution at sea under the present circumstances, since HMS Leander5 requires to be retained on the station to guard against the threat of attack on shipping by armed raiders. Previous suggestion of maintenance of a third cruiser cannot be considered as an immediate requirement.
As regards naval personnel, we should like to avail ourselves of the following:
Trained naval reserves surplus to New Zealand requirements to be made available for the Royal Navy.
Officers recruited from civil life, either trained civil pilots for service in the Fleet Air Arm or yachtsmen or former Mercantile Marine officers suitable for Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Commissions.
2 Not published. In this telegram the High Commissioner stated that the New Zealand Government would be glad to receive as soon as possible the United Kingdom Government's suggestions on the form of New Zealand's co-operation; he also transmitted the views of the acting Prime Minister on the channel of communication.
4 HMS Achilles, 6-inch cruiser, 7030 tons, subsequently to play an important part in the action against the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee off the River Plate, 13 Dec 1939. The Achilles had left New Zealand to join the West Indies Force on 29 Aug 1939.
5 HMS Leander, 6-inch cruiser, 7270 tons, badly damaged by a torpedo in night action off Kolombangara, 12–13 Jul 1943; she went to the United States for repairs and rearming and afterwards reverted to the Royal Navy.
Telegraphists and signalmen, artificers, scientists (electrical and wireless telegraphy), and skilled electrical workmen recruited from civil life.
It would be appreciated if the New Zealand Government could furnish the approximate numbers of personnel likely to be available under the above categories and could indicate capacity for increasing numbers of trained personnel which will become available as the war progresses.
New Zealand to accept responsibility for fitting out and manning one armed merchant cruiser, the provision of a second ship being left for subsequent consideration.
New Zealand to undertake the equipping of the most suitable ships available as fast liners and defensively equipped merchant ships. There are equipments for four fast liners and forty-two defensively equipped merchant ships at Auckland.
New Zealand to consider the provision of gun-layers (defensively equipped merchant ships) as these cannot be provided from United Kingdom resources. Defensively equipped merchant ships' instructional staffs to be provided if possible from local sources at Auckland and at any other New Zealand port which His Majesty's Government in New Zealand consider desirable.
Consideration to be given to the building of whale-catchers and trawlers for local defence in private yards. (Requirements of trawlers are large but the extent cannot be estimated.)
ARMY: The measures already taken by New Zealand to guard the cable station at Fanning Island1 are much appreciated. As regards other measures, it is thought desirable to consider the position under alternative hypotheses:
that Japan is neutral and is adopting a friendly attitude towards the democratic countries;
that Japan is neutral and is adopting an attitude of reserve towards the democratic countries.
As regards (a), while we hope that the war will be of short duration, we must prepare for a long war which will call for the employment of all our resources. We therefore hope that New Zealand will be able to exert her full national effort, including the preparation of her forces with a view to the despatch of an expeditionary force.
1 See Volume III. A force of two officers and 30 other ranks had embarked for Fanning Island in HMS Leander on 30 Aug 1939. This force was the first platoon of A Company, specially formed to garrison the island, the importance of which lay in its value as a cable station. Each of the company's three platoons served for six months on the island before being relieved by the next platoon for duty. In Apr 1942 the garrison was relieved by United States troops.
Should individuals from New Zealand wish to come here to enlist in United Kingdom units it should be pointed out that our policy is to avoid a rush of volunteers, such as occurred in the early days of the last war, and to expand by means of a controlled intake. At present we cannot therefore accept volunteers for the infantry and artillery, but we should welcome at once technical personnel and particularly electricians, instrument mechanics, fitters, mechanics, and motor transport drivers. Officers with similar qualifications and medical officers would also be of great value.
Under hypothesis (b) we feel that it would be unwise for New Zealand to despatch an expeditionary force overseas, but New Zealand could assist by holding formations ready at short notice for the reinforcement of Singapore and Fiji or of British and French islands in the South-West Pacific.
AIR FORCE: The generous offer made by New Zealand in placing at our disposal personnel and aircraft in the United Kingdom,1 and the action already being taken by New Zealand under the agreed training scheme,2 which we much appreciate, meets our own requirements, and we would only suggest that these be pressed on with all possible speed. We will supply aircraft as soon as possible.
In order to speed up and expand the agreed organisation, we assume that the fullest possible use will be made of civil aviation resources.
1 On 26 Aug 1939 His Majesty's Government in New Zealand had offered to place at the disposal of the Royal Air Force the New Zealand Squadron personnel and aircraft at Marham and New Zealand Air Force personnel in the United Kingdom on interchange or attachment.
2 In a telegram on 4 Sep 1939 to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, the New Zealand Government had announced its intention of modifying the existing Air Force training scheme for war training purposes. The organisation would utilise to the full the aircraft in or expected in the Dominion within the next three months, but emphasis was placed on the necessity for the supply at the earliest possible date of obsolete aircraft from the Royal Air Force to enable the increased output of trained aircrews to be maintained.
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.