Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II
479 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister
General Freyberg to the Prime Minister
Reference your telegram of 17 September.1
My previous statement has been corrected in accordance with your proposed amendments, and I agree that no statement should be made in Italy before yours has been made in New Zealand. I suggest that Saturday, 22 September, would be a suitable date.
While I agree that our efforts to get suitable shipping allocated should be stressed to all ranks, it is not easy for me to suggest here that we should have better treatment than United Kingdom troops. I feel that the situation could be dealt with better at a conference than as an official statement, and I propose to do so at my conference on Saturday when the whole matter will be dealt with.
Dealing with the scale of accommodation, I do not think we have had any trouble over accommodation standards on board returning troopships. Although it would be good to press this matter on the United Kingdom Government, I feel that to emphasise that there is a possibility of bad accommodation to the troops would be unwise. Further, our men do not expect the same standards as in 1940 to apply in 1945, at the end of a long war when passenger shipping losses have been heavy. The general feeling here is that the troops are prepared to accept the conditions obtaining on board transports, provided that by doing so they will be enabled to return at the earliest date. Such trouble as we have knowledge of in the past has in nearly page 444 every case been attributable to the despatch of troops in hastily assembled drafts whose officers and NCOs were without previous knowledge of their men. All possible steps will be taken to avoid this happening.
Our main object in initiating the proposition for leave to the United Kingdom was to alleviate the long period of waiting among those troops who would otherwise be forced to remain in Italy until the spring of next year. If we attempt to despatch men on leave to the United Kingdom out of their correct reinforcement drafts, as we should if we send the occupational force, not only should we cause resentment among the old hands but we would complicate the leave scheme for the remainder of the troops in Italy to such an extent that the scheme would not be workable. Our own problems in concentrating and training the occupational force are not easy and can only be carried out with careful arrangement. It is to be pointed out that half of the occupational force is still in Egypt with the 15th Reinforcements, and that they will require considerable reorganisation and training before being despatched to Japan. I do not see how the occupational force can be concentrated in Italy and fully trained before the end of November. Should leave be granted to them it would delay their despatch for at least two months.
To sum up, I feel that if a clear statement of policy is made during the next few days, all will go smoothly according to plan:
The occupational force could be assembled quickly from the single men of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Reinforcements and shipped East direct from Italy; and,
the 8th, 9th, and 10th Reinforcements would leave in succession for home; and,
meanwhile the United Kingdom leave scheme would start to operate for personnel awaiting return to New Zealand. In my opinion, there would be little disappointment or trouble.
1 On 13 Sep General Freyberg had submitted for the Government's approval the draft of a statement on the return of personnel to New Zealand, the provision of an occupation force for Japan, and the United Kingdom leave scheme. This statement was approved on 17 Sep by the Prime Minister, who suggested, however, that more emphasis should be given in it to the efforts being made to obtain the best possible shipping facilities for the voyage home, and further, that the troops selected to garrison Japan should also be given leave in the United Kingdom.