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

303 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

page 274

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

27 October 1943

Today, on the anniversary of the Battle of Alamein, I have to report that after two and a half years the Division has returned to the Continent of Europe. We have rejoined Eighth Army in Italy and have received a very warm welcome from General Montgomery and his staff.

The journey across the Mediterranean, now dominated by the Allied navies and air forces, was uneventful, and a smooth voyage in ideal conditions was greatly enjoyed by all ranks. We are now bivouacked in pleasant surroundings amongst olive groves and stone-walled fields. The men are in excellent health and very fit. Footballs have appeared. Everyone is feeling the benefit of the more bracing climate and enjoying seeing new country.

Arrangements for Advanced Base are well in hand. We have now taken over a new modern building and a small restaurant in the city1 as a New Zealand Forces Club for men on leave. A management team from Cairo has arrived and supplies of New Zealand goods are on the way.

Great advances have been made since Alamein, and now that the final phase of the war against Germany appears to be in sight there is a feeling of exhilaration in the air. After their rest in Egypt and a period of training, all ranks are ready for the next role, whatever it may be.2

2 At General Alexander's request, publication of this message was delayed for some weeks for operational reasons. The New Zealand Government was anxious that the news of the arrival of the Division in Italy should first be announced in New Zealand before being broadcast from the BBC or published in the overseas press, and also that the initial announcement should not be to the effect that the Division was taking part in an engagement. Several telegrams dealing with the release of this announcement were exchanged but have not been reproduced. A statement by the Deputy Prime Minister (Hon. W. Nash) that the Division had rejoined Eighth Army in Italy was published in the New Zealand press on 23 Nov.