Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II
150 — The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the Prime Minister of New Zealand
Already fresh fame has been brought to New Zealand's arms at this vital keypoint of the war by the Division which you consented to leave in the Middle East.3 It is doing splendid work in the Western Desert.
Four months ago I obtained from President Roosevelt the shipping to carry an additional 40,000 men to the East without deciding on their destination till they rounded the Cape. This was very fortunate as without these the reinforcements now proved so needful by the hazards of war could not have been at hand.
When in Washington I obtained from the President 300 Shermans, the latest and finest tanks in the American Army. They were taken from the very hands of the American troops who eagerly awaited them, and were sent by special convoy direct to Suez. One hundred 105-millimetre self-propelled guns, which definitely outmatch the 88-millimetre, went with them, the whole being accompanied by a large number of American key men. These should arrive early in September.
Apart from the 8th Armoured Division, and in addition to the two armoured and one army tank brigades now in action forward, we have in the Delta the personnel of four armoured brigades awaiting re-equipment. About half these men are desert trained in tanks. Therefore, we should be able to bring into action incomparably the most powerful and best-trained armoured division yet seen in the Middle East or indeed anywhere. But I hope the issue will be decided in our favour earlier. This is especially desirable because of the dangers that may develop, though I do not say they will, on the northern approaches to Egypt.
1 The Halverson Project (abbreviated Halpro) was the name given to the first attack on the Ploesti oilfields by United States heavy bombers on 12 Jun 1942. The force was commanded by Colonel H. A. Halverson, United States Air Force.
Besides this, every preparation has been made to defend the Delta if the battles in the desert should go against us. Here we have very large numbers of men, all of whom have been ordered to take part in the defence of Egypt exactly as if it was England that was invaded. The cultivation and irrigation of the Delta have made it literally the worst ground in the world for armoured vehicles, and armour as a factor would lose a great deal of its predominance. All ideas of evacuation have been repressed, the intention being to fight to the end for every yard of ground. However, as I have said, I do not think this situation will arise.
We are having a great struggle to carry supplies to Russia. One-fifth of the June convoy was sunk and I fear less than half the July convoy got through. The difficulties and dangers of this route, especially during the season of perpetual daylight, are enormous. This is serious as it is almost the only thing we can do for our valiant ally who is taking such a heavy toll of Hitler's armies and will, I am confident, endure to the end. To show you what a good comrade Premier Stalin is proving himself, the Russians have offered us three divisions of partly equipped Poles for the Levant-Caspian theatre and have transferred to Egypt forty Boston fighter-bombers which were on the way to them through Basra. In this last matter the President was my intermediary.
In these difficult days, as it did in the struggle against Napoleon, the House of Commons has proved a rock, and I have also been greatly encouraged by the goodwill of your Government and people. Even though the struggle will be long and we must not relax for an instant, I have never felt more sure that complete ultimate victory will be ours.
We are looking forward to welcoming Mr. Nash.2
1 USS Ranger, light aircraft carrier, 14,500 tons, eight 5-inch guns.