Mr M.J. Savage, N.Z. Prime Minister, to Mr R.G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered WELLINGTON, 23 November 1939, 3 a.m.


Your secret telegram of 21st November [1]: The questions raised by you concerning the despatch of an overseas force have been considered by my colleagues and myself Acting on advice received from the United Kingdom Government and from our delegate at the Ministerial Conference in London [2], we have decided to send the first echelon of our special force overseas, and on the day before your telegram was received had so informed the United Kingdom Government. I had intended to inform you and the other Dominion Prime Ministers of our action today as soon as the time of publication between the United Kingdom and ourselves had been arranged.

I fully appreciate the difficulties with which you are faced in Australia. Our particular problems are, I think, of a different nature. On account of our limited training facilities and lack of modem equipment it is not possible for us to train more than one echelon at a time. We decided to send the first body overseas as soon after their elementary training is completed as transport and naval escort facilities are available in order to make room for the next body and also to enable the men to complete their training on modem equipment which we do not possess. Moreover, we feel that the retention of our voluntary system of recruiting is to some extent dependent on the knowledge and the fact that the men win serve overseas.

I regret that your telegram did not come earlier to enable discussions to take place, but I had assumed that the matter was one of common arrangement with our Ministers in London. [3] I would be greatly obliged if you would keep this information secret until advised by us of the date of publication.

May I assure you that no troops will leave New Zealand until we are completely satisfied that any possible danger of attack by any force is eliminated, and our communications to the United Kingdom have strongly emphasised this condition. [4]



1 Document 378.

2 Peter Fraser, N.Z. Minister for Education, Health, Marine and Police.

3 Fraser and R.G. Casey, Minister for Supply and Development.

4 In an unnumbered cablegram dispatched from Wellington at 11.39 a.m. on 23 November 1939 Savage advised Menzies that the decision to send New Zealand troops overseas would be announced at 2 p.m.

the same afternoon. See AA: A981, New Zealand 1.


[AA: CP 290/6, ITEM 35]