Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I
209 — The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs [Extract]
The Prime Minister of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs [Extract]
1 Not published. This telegram from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Minister of New Zealand dealt with the question whether the inter-governmental messages only should be published (see Nos. 203 and 204) or whether the public announcement should include reference to the arrival of the Australian and New Zealand troops at their destination. The telegram added that it was proposed to consult the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, on the question whether there would be any objection to such an announcement.
Naturally there is considerable discussion and a certain amount of disappointment amongst the New Zealand public that our troops have not shared to any major degree in the recent successful actions in the Middle East, more particularly since some detachments have been under training there for over twelve months. The Government have endeavoured to make it clear that one of the principal reasons why the troops were not used was the fact that the Division was incomplete and was therefore not likely to be engaged in the theatre of war until after the arrival from the United Kingdom of the Second Echelon. It has been known always that the journey via the Cape would have to be undertaken, and considerable anxiety on the part of relatives and others will be allayed by the announcement of the safe arrival of the troops. Moreover, it is felt that the fact that the Division is now complete will be a source of great stimulation to the morale of the people of the Dominion.
If the press announcement were to be confined merely to the publication of the inter-governmental messages which refer only to the departure from the United Kingdom, as His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom propose, such an incomplete announcement must inevitably give rise to rumours of a most unsettling character. It was partly to avoid giving cause for anxiety in the minds of relatives and others, as well as the desire to run no risk of giving information to the enemy, that His Majesty's Government in New Zealand were unwilling to publish these messages on the date suggested by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. If that same announcement were made at this juncture and not followed shortly by the further statement that the troops had arrived, it would result in the state of public opinion which His Majesty's Government in New Zealand were most anxious to avoid….1
Although ready to defer to the considered wishes and opinions of the responsible military authorities His Majesty's Government in New Zealand are deeply conscious of the necessity of maintaining the morale of their people and feel most strongly that the course they propose should be adopted. They would be grateful if His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would consult the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, on the lines set out in your telegram.