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

456 — General Freyberg to the acting Prime Minister

General Freyberg to the acting Prime Minister

3 July 1945

Your telegram of 30 June.

The incident of the trades union cables appears to be part of a general Yugoslav press and radio campaign at present being carried out with the object of discrediting the Allied Military Government in the occupation zone of Venezia Giulia. On 24 June Headquarters Eighth Army ordered simultaneous parades throughout the Army area of all Partisan forces, who were publicly thanked and informed that as their task was done they were to be officially disbanded and would be required to hand in their arms forthwith. In Trieste there was an armed Partisan organisation known as the Difesa Popolare,1 whose members consisted of imported Yugoslav sympathisers, local Slovenes, and political prisoners released from the local prisons by the Yugoslav forces after their arrival in May. As far as is known, the Difesa Popolare is not officially associated with the local trades unions, which have come to light only since May but which contain a proportion of Slovene working men. This Difesa Popolare had, since the departure of the regular Yugoslav Army on 12 June, taken up a very truculent and anti-Allied attitude, had been responsible for considerable looting and intimidation, and was proving a serious embarrassment to the Allied Military Government authorities. The strength of the organisation in Trieste was estimated at from two to three thousand. It was suspected that there might be a poor attendance of the Difesa Popolare on the 24 June parade, and that a plan might have been made to conceal at least a portion of their arms and munitions. Military guards were accordingly posted on the buildings known to be occupied by the Difesa Popolare and these buildings were searched by British, American, and New Zealand military police who confiscated any arms and munitions found therein. This search was carried out while the parade was actually being held. In fact, the parade was well attended by some 1420 individuals who, in the main, page 426 appeared only too glad to hand in their arms. There were no incidents or disorders of any kind and at no stage was any military action in support of the police necessary. From the parade and from the search of the buildings a quantity of arms and munitions totalling approximately eighteen 3–ton lorry loads was removed. The so-called Slovene Home of Culture was, in fact, the former Italian Fascist headquarters in Trieste and is now in use as Allied Military Government offices. It was one of the buildings searched without incident by the Allied military police on 24 June.

In these difficult and often aggravating circumstances the conduct of the New Zealand troops was at all times exemplary.

1 Translated as ‘Popular Defence’ or ‘People's Defence’.