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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II

269 — The Prime Minister to General Freyberg

The Prime Minister to General Freyberg

25 May 1943

Your telegram of 22 May (No. 263) was not received until some hours after the despatch of my message to you of 23 May (No. 265), and owing to my absence and that of other members of War Cabinet from Wellington yesterday, it was not possible to give consideration to your further representations in support of the suggestion for the smaller draft.

Your willingness, as always, to make every effort to comply with the wishes of the Government, as expressed in your telegram of 23 May (No. 266) is warmly appreciated, but War Cabinet would be most reluctant to lay down any policy which you would regard as having a too detrimental effect on the efficiency of the Division. Accordingly, the situation to which you draw attention in your message of 22 May (No. 263) has today been given very full and careful re-examination.

While War Cabinet are anxious to get the 6000 men of the first three echelons back to New Zealand by the Nieuw Amsterdam, and have given this definite undertaking to Parliament, they do not page 245 wish by any of their instructions to compel you to take such action as will seriously impair the battle-worthiness of the Division through over-depletion of tried and experienced soldiers, thus unduly endangering the lives of new arrivals. If, on full examination of all the factors, you still consider that the withdrawal of 6000 will make it impossible for the Division to reach the required efficiency by October, when it is estimated that the Armoured Brigade will be equipped, War Cabinet will agree to your using discretion in arranging numbers in respect of the first three echelons so long as every endeavour is exercised to make up a reasonable minimum reduction in their number from other units, possibly non-divisional, if this should prove practicable. I will appreciate your further help in this difficult situation, and would ask that the maximum number which it is practicable to send should be returned.

The general outline of policy contained in your telegram of 22 May is in accord with the wishes of the Government. Since this message was drafted I have received your telegram of 24 May (No. 268). Your proposals concerning the non-divisional units are accepted and you should advise General Headquarters. War Office will be notified accordingly.