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198 Shedden to Curtin

Minute 26 May 1943,


As stated verbally, I entirely agree with your note of comments to the High
Commissioner for New Zealand on 17th May, relative to the
considerations which make it highly desirable that the New Zealand
division in the Middle East should return to the Pacific to play
its part in the war against Japan. [1]

2. The agreement of the New Zealand Parliament and Government to
the retention of their division in the Middle East is another
manifestation of that acquiescent attitude to United Kingdom
Policy rather than the development of a National Dominion Policy,
which has brought them so much applause as the 'curly headed boys
of the Empire'. Insofar as the Pacific is concerned, it has always
been left to Australia to place the emphasis in Imperial Defence
policy on the strategical needs of the Pacific and to give the
lead in the development of Dominion forces and resources as a
component of this policy. This has been exemplified by the
development of the Royal Australian Navy as part of the scheme of
Pacific Naval defence which centred around Singapore with a
capital ship fleet based thereon. Another illustration has been
the development of a policy of National self-sufficiency in
secondary industries and the establishment of a munitions,
aircraft and shipbuilding industry in Australia. By way of
contrast, mention need only be made to New Zealand's tardy
development of secondary industries, with the consequence that she
has not hesitated to call heavily upon us for coal, fabricated
materials, manufactured products and munitions essential to the
maintenance of her National economy and war effort.

3. It will be recalled that on the request for the return of the
Ninth Division, we communicated our intentions to the New Zealand
Government which immediately entered a caveat for the return of
their own forces, with the result that the return of the Ninth
Division was almost prejudiced. [2] Joseph Harsch of the
'Christian Science Monitor' recently criticised the effects of our
action on the shipping position and the flow of forces for the
North African campaign. It was evident that he had received his
particulars from an inspired source, because they were suppressed
in the later editions of his paper.

4. When reluctant approval was ultimately given by the President
and Mr. Churchill to the return of the Ninth Division, we were
informed that their equipment could not be forwarded with them,
owing to the demands on shipping space. [3] Yet we are now faced
with the spectacle of the New Zealand division being returned to
New Zealand for furlough in quotas, the first one being 6,000 men.

5. In discussing the question of co-operation the other day with
the High Commissioner for New Zealand, I referred to the division
that exists between the South-West Pacific and the South Pacific
Areas. Mr. Berendsen deplored that this set up had been necessary
owing to American Naval opinion. He added to my surprise, however,
that Mr. Nash, the New Zealand Minister to Washington, had been a
keen advocate of this division. It will be recalled that Mr. Nash,
who holds himself out as the spokesman of the Pacific War Council,
recently referred to early offensive blows to be taken against
Japan, which inferred that considerable striking power had been
marshalled, whereas, at the time, the case for increased forces
was being pressed by the Commander-in-Chief and yourself.

6. I frankly feel either that New Zealand is less co-operative
towards Australia than to the United Kingdom, notwithstanding our
common interests in the Pacific, or that they feel they are
overshadowed by Australia and show up better by playing a lone
hand, even if it is really prejudicial to their vital interests.

It will be recalled that when the 6th Division A.I.F. went
overseas, the Australian Government proposed to the New Zealand
Government that we should re-form the Anzac Corps of the last war,
but no reply was furnished to the proposal. The Conference
suggested by Mr. Fraser to his High Commissioner would have been
much better if it had been held before the decision relating to
this Division had been taken.

7. I recall the Directing Staff at the Imperial Defence College
appealing for a virile and critical Dominion viewpoint in the
development of an Empire Defence Policy. They said they did not
want just echoes of what they said. A Dominion will never find its
destiny as a Pacific Power if it is not prepared to think for
itself as to what are its true interests and stick out for them.

It may bring criticism from those abroad who do not get their own
way or from a section of our own people who look for their
leadership overseas, but it is the only way to build a nation with
a strong national sentiment.


1 See Curtin's aide-memoire of 17 May on file Defence: MP1217, box
295, Retention of New Zealand division in the Middle East.

Berendsen transmitted the text of the aide-memoire to his own
govt, commenting that Curtin 'obviously felt strongly on this
matter as indicated by incidental remarks during the discussion.

For example QUOTE That is precisely the line that Churchill took
with me and if I had listened to them we would have lost New
Guinea END QUOTE and QUOTE It is tough that we should be asked to
supply munitions to New Zealand while New Zealand troops are still
in the Middle East END QUOTE.' See cablegram 34 of 17 May on the
file cited above in this note.

2 A copy of cablegram 461 (Document 62) requesting the return of
the 9th Division was repeated to the N.Z. Prime Minister on 20
November 1942. Curtin's fears that the return of the 9th Division
would be delayed or prejudiced by the N.Z. Govt's actions were
forcefully communicated to Bruce on 24 November 1942 (see
cablegram 10746 on file AA:A4763).

3 See Document 84.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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