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

480 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister

9 October 1945

My work as your Force Commander is now nearly finished. I am to report that all major decisions have now been made for getting the 2nd NZEF back to New Zealand. The Division is in winter quarters in Florence and Siena with good amenities. The United page 445 Kingdom leave scheme is about to begin and 105 all ranks per day are going to the United Kingdom by motor transport, with the women's services going by train through Switzerland. The new club staff has arrived in London, where I understand the Club will be opened shortly. The United Kingdom leave scheme is popular.1

Jayforce is coming into being on or about 15 October and it will be built up and organised in the course of two months.2 We are having to detail a number of key men and most of the officers from reinforcements earlier than the 13ths. In view of your desire for leave to England for Jayforce personnel,3 we are arranging to send about 100 officers and men of all earlier reinforcement drafts posted to Jayforce with the first leave party. They will return before the force leaves for Japan.

We have now completed arrangements for handing in equipment. This is going ahead smoothly and will be completed in the course of a few weeks.

The general condition of the troops is good but there is a certain degree of restlessness. Provided we can keep the constant flow of men to New Zealand at a reasonable rate there should be no trouble. I wish it were possible to know when all will be back in New Zealand. A rough statement of the position is as follows:

Present total strength in Egypt 6,300
Present total strength in Italy 16,200
Grand total 22,500
SS Mooltan to New Zealand, early November 3,100
Jayforce to Japan, December 4,000
Possible further ship to New Zealand, December 4,000
Total to go from Egypt and Italy in last quarter of 1945 11,100

The position at the end of the year in the Mediterranean theatre, taking the above forecast, will be:

Strength in Egypt 2,500
Strength in Italy 8,900
Total 11,400

If we get subsequent ships nearly every month, plus one more lift by the hospital ship Oranje4 taking 800, all New Zealand troops should have left the Mediterranean in March 1946. This, of course, is only an estimate.

2 See Volume III, Participation in Occupation of Japan.

4 Nederland N.V. Stoomvaart Maatschappij, 20,017 tons.

page 446

As far as I can see, there should now be no further need for me to stay on after I have attended the memorial services and said goodbye. My movements are as follows:

  • 12 October—attend memorial services at the Sangro

  • 14 October—attend memorial services at Cassino

  • 20 October—arrive in United Kingdom for Oxford Degree1

  • 29 October—return to Italy

  • 9 November—attend memorial service at Alamein

About 13 November—return to Italy and say goodbye and thank the people in Bari, Rome, and Florence; also hand over the command of the 2nd NZEF and leave Italy for the United Kingdom.

It now remains for you to choose my successor. I realise that this is a matter for the New Zealand Government. As I expect you would ask my opinion in such a matter affecting the 2nd NZEF, I should advise that Brigadier Stevens be chosen. He is the senior Brigadier and has been in charge of the Base and Force administration during the whole of the war. He knows the history of our financial agreements.

Whoever does the clearing up here should for all reasons be given the rank of Major-General. The special and financial powers which the New Zealand Government gave me have borne the test of five and a half years of war and peace.2 I feel there is no reason to alter these powers except to suggest a reduction and rearrangement of the entertainment allowance. In a following cable3 I shall send a memorandum summarising the powers which were delegated to me.

To sum up, I should be greatly assisted in my final work here if I could be informed:


Of your agreement to my handing over command of the NZEF when I think it advisable (about 13 November).


The name of my successor.


Whether you agree to his being made a Major-General.


Of your views on the special and financial powers to be delegated to my relief as GOC 2nd NZEF.

1 DCL (Oxford).

2 See Volume I, Appointment of Commander, 2nd NZEF (Nos. 39 and 40).

3 Not published.