Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II
332 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence
General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence
In view of BBC broadcasts concerning the heavy fighting on the Eighth Army front, I feel that you would wish to know the present position here as it affects your Division. The fortunes of the battle have fluctuated but at no time have we looked like breaking through. As you know, the original plan to break the Gothic Line involved attacking due north from Florence across to Bologna. This meant attacking positions running along very steep hills comparable in strength to Cassino. As there was no element of surprise, the chances of a quick and cheap success were not great. I personally was strongly against it at this stage, and in my opinion the plan to attack on the Adriatic front, which was eventually adopted, had a greater chance of success. The initial attack of the Eighth Army drove the enemy off his main defences, but no gap was made and the advantage of surprise has gone. I feel that the enemy will now endeavour to hold on in the hope that bad weather will intervene as it did last autumn. When wet weather comes in October the Po Valley will no longer be possible for armour. If the operations at present in progress do not result in a break-through, I do not think any quick or decisive success in this theatre can be expected. There is, however, a chance that events in the Balkans and elsewhere will cause the enemy to fall back behind the Po sooner than we can force him back by attacking here.
We have opened a luxury hotel in Florence in which other ranks have 95 per cent of the bedroom accommodation.
I am writing this from hospital, where I am making satisfactory progress.1