Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II
258 — War Office (London) to Army Headquarters (Wellington)
War Office (London) to Army Headquarters (Wellington)
Pending a decision by the New Zealand Government regarding the retention in the Middle East of the 2nd New Zealand Division, we must consider the provision of shipping for reinforcements and for the replacement of long-service men.
General Alexander has consulted General Freyberg, who agrees that it would be advisable to send back 20 per cent of his total strength and that 6000 replacements will be required. As 3500 reinforcements are due in the Middle East in the middle of June, we understand that a further 5000 will be required by 1 August if the Division is to be available for operations after 1 September.
The only means of shipping this number in time is by the Nieuw Amsterdam (capacity 6500), due at Suez on 10 June. This ship could leave Suez four days later with returning personnel for New Zealand, if available, and pick up reinforcements at Wellington between 7–12 July and be due at Suez again on 4 August. All dates are approximate. The Admiralty state that provision of escorts would be difficult. Because of her speed, this ship is included in the class permitted to run filled to capacity unescorted.
We would be grateful for the earliest information regarding the availability of the 5000 replacements on the date required and whether you would agree to a possible fast, unescorted sailing, as in the above paragraph.1
This telegram is purely exploratory as the proposals in the third paragraph are dependent on the New Zealand Government's decision regarding the retention of their Division in the Middle East and on the returning personnel arriving in the Middle East in time for the outward journey.2
1 See Proposed Withdrawal of 2nd New Zealand Division (April-May 1943), (No. 239). The New Zealand Government's request that the ship be escorted both from and to the Middle East was agreed to by Mr. Churchill (No. 241).