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

395 — The Prime Minister to General Freyberg

page 361

The Prime Minister to General Freyberg

21 September 1944

The Prime Minister proposes to make a statement in Parliament tonight in the following terms:

As a result of the Quebec Conference1, and of advice just received from Mr. Churchill,2 it is now possible to come to decisions regarding the role of our armed forces in the remaining phases of the war against Germany and in the war against Japan, and for a decision to be made regarding the disposition of New Zealand land forces overseas. War Cabinet have had this question under continual examination, and it has also been the subject of discussions with both the British and American Chiefs of Staff, as well as with Mr. Churchill.

Since the beginning of the year, it has been agreed that New Zealand cannot maintain two divisions overseas, a large Air Force, and its naval contribution, and, at the same time, increase production of foodstuffs and raw materials, which are so urgently needed and are so essential for the United Kingdom and for the Allied forces in the Pacific.

In the light of the Quebec decisions, and in view of the developments in Europe and the Pacific, it has been decided, therefore, that New Zealand land forces, at the present time, can be of the greatest use in Italy, and that the 2nd Division should remain overseas until the conclusion of the Italian campaign, after which its future role will again be examined.

It may be necessary at a later stage to give consideration to the question of making New Zealand land forces available in the war against Japan. Meanwhile, however, the personnel of the 3rd Division now in camp, and those who are due to return to camp on the expiration of their leave, will be drafted to District Mobilisation Camps, where the men will become available for posting to the 2nd Division.

Because of the developments and decisions to which I have referred, it is now possible to make arrangements for the introduction of a scheme for the replacement of long-service personnel in the 2nd Division. I discussed this question with General Freyberg while I was in Italy, and it has since been thoroughly examined and details are being worked out. The object of this scheme is progressively to relieve the men who have been overseas for three years, or more, by others who have not so far had an opportunity to serve and by those who have had a short period of service overseas.

The replacement drafts from New Zealand will comprise, in the first place, men still remaining in the 3rd Division who are fit and of the required page 362 age and domestic status, and Grade A men held on appeal, as soon as they can be released, and all others liable for military service, including men from the 3rd Division temporarily released to industry earlier in the year and who remain liable to be called up for overseas service.

The policy of replacement will take the place of the furlough scheme in future, and as men become available for sending overseas the various reinforcements will be returned in succession, and also the men of the First, Second, and Third Echelons who returned to the Middle East at the conclusion of their furlough.

It must be made clear that, under the replacement scheme, men who return to New Zealand will be released from military service and directed into essential industry. This direction is necessary so long as the war lasts for two reasons, firstly, to enable a scheme of industrial replacement to be carried out, namely, the substitution of men in essential industry now held back from military service by those of similar skill who return from overseas, and, secondly, to enable New Zealand to continue to produce the foodstuffs and raw materials which are so essential a contribution to our own and the United Nations' war effort.

1 The second Quebec Conference between Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt took place from 11–16 Sep.

2 A summary of the major operational decisions reached at the Quebec Conference was sent by Mr. Churchill to Mr. Fraser on 18 Sep. Under the heading Italy the telegram read:

General Alexander's offensive into the Po Valley and beyond is to be pressed with the utmost vigour. It has been agreed that no major units shall be withdrawn from Italy until the outcome of these operations is known. It has also been agreed that sufficient assault and landing craft shall be retained in the Mediterranean for a considerable amphibious operation in the Adriatic.

For complete text of this telegram see Volume III, Proposals for Participation in Operations against Japan.