This thesis examines the role of the New Zealand Railway Group and its associated problems during the North African Desert Campaign (1940-1943). It also assesses the Group's contribution to the defeat of the Axis forces in this theatre of the war and why it disbanded and returned to New Zealand in 1943. The specialist Railway Group was formed at the behest of the British Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, Anthony Eden, on 19 November 1939
, Letter from The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the Governor-General of New Zealand, Documents, Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939-45, Volume I, Wellington: War History Branch, 1949, p.212. following New Zealand's offer of assistance to Britain after the declaration of war against Nazi Germany. Britain requested New Zealand to form the following railway companies: one Headquarters Maintenance and Construction Group, one Railway Survey company and four Railway Construction companies, all of which were to be attached to the Royal Engineers
. Ibid. The New Zealand Government responded positively, but only promised one construction company, and not four as asked. However, New Zealand eventually provided seven railway companies. The first three were 9 Railway Survey Company, comprised of seven officers and 66 other ranks; 10 and 13 Railway Construction and Maintenance Company, comprised of six officers and 273 other ranks respectively; and Headquarters, Railway Construction and Maintenance Group, comprised of three officers and 22 other ranks. These three companies were later joined by 16 and 17 Railway Operating Companies, comprised of seven officers and 355 other ranks respectively; and Headquarters Company, Railway Operating Group, comprised of four officers and 24 other ranks. The Railway Group's complement was 40 officers and 1,368 other ranks; 1,408 men in all.