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

148 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand

17 May 1940

The suggestion that it might be possible to complete the training of the troops in North-West India or the Union of South Africa has been considered and the following is the position as seen here:

INDIAAccommodation: There are not enough barracks suitable for white troops in any one neighbourhood to allow the concentration of the Australian and New Zealand troops. It is improbable that sufficient suitable barracks could be found even if the desirability of concentration was ignored. There are serious medical objections to white troops remaining under canvas during the hot weather or the rainy season, and this is the only alternative.

Training: It would be impracticable to carry out training, other than individual training, during the hot weather. The Australian and New Zealand troops have been under training for some three months at least and would require now to be carrying out more advanced training.

Equipment: Both full scale and training scale of equipment would have to be provided from the United Kingdom as neither could be supplied from India. This would entail a delay of some two months even in the most favourable shipping situation. At present, with some few exceptions, Australian and New Zealand troops are without any other equipment than rifles.

page 111

Role in India: The acceptance of Australian and New Zealand troops in order to reduce the British garrisons in India is not considered practicable because, firstly, these troops would have to be equipped before they could be employed in an active role, and, secondly, any removal of British troops would involve their eventual replacement later on the departure of the Australian and New Zealand troops, since no permanent reduction in the numbers of British troops in India could be accepted.

In addition to the points enumerated above, a diversion to India would delay in any case the date of readiness of the Australian and New Zealand troops for operations in European theatres of war.

SOUTH AFRICA—It would be for His Majesty's Government in South Africa to say whether suitable accommodation exists and could be made available, but the equipment situation would be the same as for India except that it could be provided with a little less delay. We greatly hope in these circumstances, as well as on general grounds, that His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia1 will be willing that the troops should proceed to this country.

1 This telegram was addressed to the Governments of Australia and South Africa as well as to New Zealand.