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

255 — The Prime Minister to General Freyberg3

The Prime Minister to General Freyberg3

22 April 1943

Thank you for your most helpful message of 18 April.4 I have now been advised by Mr. Jones that he is awaiting transport to Africa.

I am most reluctant to intrude matters upon you in the midst of the anxieties of battle, and I appreciate that it may be some days before you are able to receive this message. At the moment our chief desire and care is, I assure you, that every success will be achieved by the Division in this momentous battle without undue loss and strain.

3 This telegram was repeated to Mr. Jones in London.

page 227

The whole future role of the 2nd Division must now be decided by Parliament, and much depends upon Mr. Jones's report to me before the opening of the session on 19 May. He will inform you of his discussions with Mr. Churchill and the New Zealand Government, and the reasons for the decisions that have been taken.

I think you should know that there is a considerable difference of opinion in the country and in Parliament as to the future role of the 2nd Division. At the last session, called specially for the purpose of discussing the Government's policy in relation to the manpower needs of the armed forces and industry, approval was given to the reinforcement of both the 2nd and 3rd Divisions on the clear understanding that the number of Grade I men available would suffice for only another year. Parliament also understood, and I gave my pledge accordingly, that the retention of the 2nd Division for future operations, or its return to New Zealand, would be considered at the end of the Tunisian campaign, and that there would be no question of our men being used in any theatre other than North Africa without the prior knowledge and approval of the House.

There is strong feeling on the part of the people, Parliament, and the Government that those who have served in the 2nd NZEF longest should be brought back on furlough, even if the Division as a whole is not brought back. This matter has also been discussed by Mr. Jones with Mr. Churchill, who agreed to the suggestion that a proportion of the personnel of the Division should be relieved by fresh troops sent from New Zealand for this purpose. Mr. Churchill expressed the opinion that arrangements could be made for, say, 20 per cent to be relieved without impairing the efficiency of the Division.1 Our own War Cabinet, who have had the question under consideration for some time, are of the opinion that the following qualifications and conditions should be adopted in giving effect to any plan for returning long-service personnel from the 2nd NZEF to New Zealand:


First preference to be given to men who have had the longest and most meritorious service in active operations, with,


Special consideration to be given to married men with heaviest family responsibilities, and,


To only sons.

In addition, full weight should of course continue as at present to be given to the men's physical and mental condition.

It is appreciated that this is merely a statement of principles and that procedure must be left to your own discretion, and that, in any case, you would wish to discuss the whole matter with Mr. Jones. page 228 Our understanding of the arrangements is that 20 per cent relief would eventually affect the whole Division, but that it would be carried out in stages as your military requirements and available shipping might permit. As a first instalment towards replacement, Army Headquarters have been instructed to use the Dominion Monarch1 to the utmost capacity, and some 500 men are being sent with the 9th Reinforcements.2 Future drafts depend, of course, upon Parliament's decision as to the future role of the Division.

1 MV Dominion Monarch, Shaw Savill and Albion Co., Ltd., 27,155 tons.

2 The total strength of the 9th Reinforcements was 3500 all ranks.