Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II
285 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Ministe
The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Prime Ministe
When I received your telegram of 8 November (No. 282), I at once went into the matter personally as you asked. Since then I have also received your telegram of 23 November (No. 283). I am informed that arrangements were made to meet your original request for the embarkation of 5000 at the end of October, but that these arrangements had to be cancelled because their departure was postponed until the end of November.page 257
Information was received on 2 November from the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, that the numbers available to embark would then be 4000 only and that a further 1000 would follow later. The Mooltan, the largest ship available at the time, with a capacity of 4289, seemed suitable for the first part of this move. Unfortunately this ship has been delayed in India and is now scheduled to arrive at Wellington about 2 January, sailing about a week later and arriving at Suez about 11 February. She will be escorted throughout the voyage to the Middle East. Unfortunately no prospect of improving this programme can be seen and I am afraid that at this date no ship larger than the Mooltan is available. If there is a balance of 700 to 1000 to follow later, it is hoped that the opportunity will occur to move them from New Zealand to the Cape in late January or early February for subsequent passage on to the Middle East in February. As soon as these arrangements are confirmed I will send you further information. I am very sorry that it has not been possible to meet your wishes in the matter, but I give you my personal assurance that in the present extremely difficult shipping position the proposed arrangements are the best we can do.
As regards your telegram of 8 November, we are still exploring the possibility of making alternative arrangements which will meet the New Zealand Government's request that the men should proceed direct from the Middle East to New Zealand, and I hope to telegraph you again soon on this matter.