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The Pacific

Appendix II

page 328

Appendix II

Appeals for Assistance

Cable message from the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Peter Fraser, to the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, care of the British Embassy, Washington, despatched from Wellington on 24 December 1941:

The New Zealand Government have from time to time called attention to the strategic importance of Fiji, not only to New Zealand but to the British Commonwealth and its Allies. In accordance with the responsibility which we accepted for the defence of that territory we have, as you perhaps know, had a Brigade Group of New Zealand troops stationed there for a lengthy period, and we have done what lay in our power to strengthen the defences of the territory. Recent events in the Pacific, including the crippling of the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour, the loss of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, the violent and successful attacks by the Japanese upon Malaya, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Guam, and Wake Island have, in our opinion, increased both the probability of an attack on Fiji and its importance to the general scheme of Allied defence in a degree that can scarcely be exaggerated. If, as indicated by Mr. Duff Cooper in his telegrams conveying the recommendations of the recent Singapore Conference (which have now been approved by the Chiefs of Staff and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom) and as indicated in the recent Chiefs of Staff appreciation of the general situation, it has become essential to reinforce the Far East from America, then the retention of Fiji becomes, in our opinion, absolutely essential, especially as regards reinforcements by air which, at the moment, would appear to be completely impracticable without that base.

As you may perhaps know also, the New Zealand Government, at the suggestion and with the co-operation of the United States, are hastening to the utmost of their power the extension of Nandi aerodrome in Fiji which is, of course, intended as an essential landing ground for air reinforcements crossing the Pacific from the United States. This aerodrome; unless properly defended, becomes not an asset but a distinct liability, and while the New Zealand Government can and will despatch immediately to Fiji another Brigade Group of troops, they would regard this reinforcement as inadequate for the task while they themselves are quite unable to send more. Further, with conditions as they are, the New Zealand Government would be quite unable to equip the troops that they can send. We have already despatched a substantial proportion of our very exiguous air defences to Fiji. We have sent the only (four) heavy AA guns and the only (four) Bofors guns which we possess, and we have denuded ourselves, to a degree which causes us the gravest concern for the safety of this Dominion, of such artillery and other equipments as are required in Fiji, but this, despite the risk to the Dominion, is also quite inadequate. A list of the Army deficiencies in New Zealand itself, the supply of which is urgently required, is set out in my immediately following telegram. page 329 Lists of Naval and Air deficiencies will follow as soon as possible. In two further telegrams addressed to-day to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, repeated to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, to the Governor of Fiji, and to the New Zealand Naval Liaison Officer at Washington for the information of the Joint Staff Mission, and to you, a list of what we consider to be the minimum requirements at Fiji has been set out. While I do hesitate to trouble you in the midst of your many preoccupations, I would most strongly urge you to impress upon President Roosevelt the extreme importance of Fiji, not solely or primarily as an outpost of the defence of New Zealand, but as an essential link with the United States in the general Allied scheme of operations in the Pacific and the Far East, and to request him to provide as quickly and as completely as possible the deficiencies set out in the list, as well as the list of New Zealand deficiencies.

Early offensive action by the substantial United States Pacific Fleet still available would, of course, immediately assist the general situation, but until the British and United States Fleets are in a position to reassert naval supremacy in the Pacific we are definitely up against a tough proposition in this area. No one here is dismayed and we will overcome our present difficulties, but this matter of equipment both for Fiji and New Zealand we regard as, in the strongest sense of the word, vital, and I do urge you to give it your personal and immediate consideration.

Another telegram to Mr. Churchill, setting out the equipment required for the New Zealand Military Forces, followed the same day and asked for the following:

List of equipment required by New Zealand Military Forces:
ArmyHome Guard
Light MGs2,067627
Vickers MGs24310
3-inch Mortars11832
2-[inch] [Mortars]476
Field and light artillery guns3935
Heavy AA guns20
Light [AA] [guns]70
Coast artillery, 6-inch and above9
Coast artillery, 4-inch2
Armed Motor Torpedo Boats8
Coast Artillery Searchlights10
Field Signal cable5,599 miles
Wireless sets818
page 330
On 25 December Fraser despatched another signal to London detailing this list of equipment required for Fiji:
Light MGs142
Vickers MGs36
3-inch Mortars18
2-[inch] [Mortars]24
Thompson Sub-MGs98
6-inch Howitzers2
Anti-tank guns12
[Anti-tank] rifles120
Heavy AA Guns24
Light [AA] [Guns]24
6-inch Coast Artillery gun2
AA Searchlights24
Coast Artillery Searchlights4
Field Signal cable31 miles
Wireless sets23
Sea mines300
Patrol boats, fully equipped4
Minelayer, small1
Two reconnaissance bomber squadrons each of 18 aircraft
27 Fighters
4 Radio Direction Finding sets.

On 27 December a further signal was sent to Mr. Churchill containing deficiencies in Naval and Air equipment, and asking that 171 light tanks be added to the list of Army deficiencies sent on 24 December. The more important parts of this message read:

Naval requirements:

A detailed list of deficiencies in vessels (which include 13 port minesweepers, 15 port anti-submarine vessels, 12 Fairmile motor launches, and 7 ocean convoy anti-submarine vessels) and Naval equipment is being despatched to the Admiralty (repeated to New Zealand Naval Liaison Officer, Washington). Attention is, however, drawn to the urgent necessity for the completion of all orders for RDF (Naval) equipment placed with the New Zealand Supply Mission, and particularly of motor generators.

Air requirements:

A: Equipment required for Fiji (as recommended in my telegram dated 25 December) which might be procured from American sources:

Bomber reconnaissance squadrons 2; Fighter squadron 1; Catalina squadron 1; RDF sets 4.

These squadrons to be fully equipped to the normal operational scale, plus appropriate reserves of aircraft and engines, all necessary maintenance page 331 and handling equipment, including transport and arms for personnel. (The arrival of the above bombers will permit the return to New Zealand of 12 Hudsons out of the aircraft stationed in Fiji.) Bombs and ammunition for the above squadrons to appropriate scale. (Details of the above must depend upon aircraft types to be provided and the aircraft strengths of squadrons.)

B: Equipment urgently required and already on order to complete original 1942 programme for New Zealand:

Hudson III 34; Ansons 14; Catalinas 6; Tanker trailers, 900-gallon, 14; rifles 5000; revolvers ·38, 700; RDF sets 7.

C: Additional equipment urgently required to bring New Zealand air strength up to four GR squadrons and one flying boat squadron, plus reserves. (This strength is regarded as the minimum necessary to deal with enemy raids but not invasion.):

Hudson III 32, Catalinas 6; tanker trailers 7; and RDF sets 4.

D: Equipment required to enable pilots in future to be operationally trained in New Zealand as requested by Commander-in-Chief Far East, and also to provide: (i) emergency fighter support for land operations in New Zealand, and (ii) additional bomber effort in such operations:

Hurricane I, or similar American fighter type, 36; Hudson III, or other fairly modern medium bomber type, 24.

By February information had been received from London that a considerable quantity of defence material had been diverted to New Zealand, but on 19 February Fraser despatched a signal to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs; for Churchill, setting out the immediate defence requirements for New Zealand, pointing out that these were related to the defence of New Zealand against a division of Japanese troops supported by warships and four aircraft carriers. This was an immensely long signal of eight typewritten pages, from which the following are the principal items: [Figures are what New Zealand required, in addition to what she already had or were on the way]

Hudson 39 (59 on hand or on way)
Ansons 14
Kittyhawks 72
Beaufighters 48
Medium or torpedo bombers 48
Army Co-operation dive-bombers 24
Catalinas 12
RDF sets 21
900-gallon tanker trailers 28
Bombs: ranging from 500-pounders to 20-pounders 13,375 page 332
Heavy equipment and earth-moving plant for construction of aerodromes, etc.:
D8 tractors & carryalls 72
5-ton capacity dump trucks 180
4-ton [capacity] flat top trucks 40
5-seater Sedan cars 12
½ to ¾-ton utility trucks 28
Ditching machines, to cut 24 ins wide 4
Power shovels 8
Road graders 16
Concrete mixers 16
Field lighting sets 32
Electric welding sets 8
Electric field cable 50 miles
Communication Equipment:
Telephone wire 1000 miles
Five pair leaded cable 200 [miles]
Telephone exchange 20 and 50 connections 18
Army: Artillery:
Coast defence artillery
9.2-inch guns 9
6-[inch] [guns] 17 (24 in hand)
Fire units for armed motor torpedo boats 6
Searchlights 6 (45 in hand)
Field Artillery
25- or 18-pounder 23 (101 in hand)
Anti-tank guns 91
Spare barrels 24
Artillery & anti-tank tractors (3 types) 172 (120 in hand)
Theodolites 37
Anti-aircraft Artillery
Heavy guns 138 (4 in hand)
Light [guns] 252 (4 in hand)
AA Searchlights 189
Predictors Nos. 1, 2, and 3 158 (15 in hand)
Tractors, light and heavy 376 (8 in hand)
3-ton lorries 183 (15 in hand)
Air compressors trailer type 28 (3 in hand)
Assault boats 80
Recce [boats] 40
Folding dinghies 10
Lighting sets 18
Pumping [sets] 23
Welding plants 14
Tubular scaffolding sets (3-inch, 10 and 20 ft each) 25
Dynamo exploders 84
Electric cable 17 miles
Anti-tank Contact Mines 100,000page 333
Signals Equipment:
Electric cable 3,130 miles
Cable-laying apparatus 105
Mechanical cable-layers 68
Switchboards 6- and 10-line 251
Telephone sets (3 types) 1,344 (650 in hand)
Wireless sets 569
Charging sets 61
Army Tank Brigade:
Armoured Command vehicles 1
Cruiser tanks 2
Valentine [tanks] 26 (30 in hand)
Close-support tanks 18
Carriers (3 types) 48
Scout cars 47
Light tanks for Armoured Regiment 171
Carriers 99
Rifles 96,270
Bren guns 2,924
Vickers MGs 157
Thompson Sub-MGs 973
Anti-tank rifles 1,398
3-inch Mortars 8
2-[inch] [Mortars] 710
Steel helmets 46,500
Gas respirators 90,900
.303 rifle 64,000,000 rounds.
Armour-piercing 2,496,700 [rounds.]
Tracer 2,484,000 [rounds.]
Anti-tank 1,560,500 [rounds.]
Thompson Sub-MG 5,500,000 [rounds.]
7 vessels for anti-submarine escort.
8 port anti-submarine vessels.
13 port minesweepers.
2 anti-submarine vessels for Fiji.
2 sweepers for Fiji.
20 harbour defence motor launches.
100 Oerlikon gun emplacements.
500 pistols.
20 depth-charge throwers.
2 boom defence Asdics.
Victualling and medical stores for 14 trawlers and 12 Fairmile motor launches constructed in New Zealand.
8 control stations, 42 mine loops, loop minelayer, 11 guard loops, 3 observation stations, 80 observation mines, and 1350 independent mines.