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Political and External Affairs

CHAPTER 20 — Food or Fighting Men?

page 277

Food or Fighting Men?

IN November 1942 the New Zealand Government realised, and told Churchill, that the Dominion had not the manpower to maintain two divisions overseas and still keep up production.1 In November 1943 she had 76,000 men overseas2 and the need for her products and services was greater than ever. At intervals during the year the fact was frankly stressed that the position was impossible; yet the arguments against withdrawing either division or cutting production seemed unanswerable. Nevertheless, that which is impossible cannot continue indefinitely. War Cabinet well understood that a drastic decision had to be taken early in 1944, and set about ensuring that it should be, so far as possible, on lines approved by New Zealand's British and American friends.

In late 1943 and early 1944 there is perceptible a change in the British estimate of the best way in which New Zealand could help the Allied cause: from the British point of view there was less need for soldiers and more need for food than ever before. The mobilisation and training of the new American armies made the presence or absence of any one division, even a very good one, of less moment than formerly. Moreover, the character of the war in the Mediterranean area had changed. A slow advance up the Italian peninsula was replacing the desert war, where the New Zealand Division's specialised experience as a mobile force had given it an importance out of all proportion to its size. In August 1943, before the Division moved to Italy, General Freyberg told the Minister of Defence that ‘There are now many divisions trained to carry out the initial landings, but we are the only British division equipped, trained and experienced for outflanking operations3.’ But the opportunity for such operations did not present itself in Italy, and in January 1944 Churchill could write: ‘I have always wanted the New Zealand Division to take part in the Battle of Rome, more as a symbol than because we cannot find other troops4.’ This change in the military situation explains the difficulty which the New Zealand Government experienced at the beginning of 1944 (in contrast with

1 Above, Chapter 18; Documents, II, p. 142.

2 See A to J, 1948, H-19B, for detailed figures.

3 Documents, II, p. 265.

4 Churchill, Vol. V, p. 601.

page 278 1942 and 1943) in getting a definite answer from the British and the Americans as to which division they should withdraw. The British Chiefs of Staff, later in 1944, were obviously extremely loth to part with 2 Division, but their arguments were not so compulsive.

As the need for New Zealand's army somewhat decreased, her primary industries faced demands which they were in no condition to meet. During 1942 not only had farming been handicapped by shortages of manpower and material but it had been ‘found necessary to plan production not on what could be produced or what Britain desired to be produced, but on what could be shipped within any given period1.’ The dairying industry was further harassed by changes of target. In the early stages the British Government asked for more cheese and less butter. Great efforts were made to comply with this request, and in the 1941–42 season cheese production was up to 157,400 tons and butter down to 135,900 tons as compared with corresponding figures of 122,400 tons and 167,000 tons for the previous season.2 In June 1942, however, the United Kingdom advised that ‘Since we requested you to increase cheese supplies at expense of butter our fat position has been prejudiced by loss of raw materials margarine from India and Far East while unexpectedly heavy quantities of cheese are now available on short haul from North America.’ Moreover, it was explained, if the shipping position deteriorated further New Zealand might find a surplus of butter easier to handle than a surplus of cheese. In these circumstances would New Zealand be able to contemplate a change from cheese back to butter?3 The New Zealand Government agreed to do its best to make the change in the 1942–43 season. Technical problems involved were a serious addition to the difficulties being faced by the industry, and in March 1943 New Zealand necessarily replied pessimistically to an inquiry from London as to the possibility of a general increase in milk products. However, the London Food Committee, which was from London as to the possibility of a general increase in milk products from the Combined Food Board in Washington, added a suggestion that butter rationing might be introduced in New Zealand.4 The Government was willing, but delays resulted from the impending general election. Butter rationing was introduced on 28 October 1943.5

Meat production was well maintained during 1942, and since refrigerated shipping was short, dehydration and canning were

1 Agriculture Department narrative.

2 Ibid.

3 HC to PM NZ, 26 Jun 1942.

4 HC to PM NZ, 13 Mar 1943.

5 The allowance of 8 oz. per week was reduced to 6 oz. in June 1945. It was restored to 8 oz. in October 1949 and butter rationing was abolished in June 1950.

page 279 necessary to avoid waste of meat. However, in April 1943 the British Government offered to purchase the entire exportable surplus of meat (as had been done for 1940–41, but not for 1941–42), and it was added further that ‘if anything could be done to increase this surplus by control of consumption in New Zealand, it would be very welcome to us1.’ The change in the United Kingdom attitude seems to have arisen from the American inability to fulfil an offer to supply 458,000 tons of meat under lend-lease. New Zealand did not at once take up the hint about meat rationing, and it was put more bluntly in a cable of 15 November 1943. The Ministry of Food pointed out that the United Kingdom meat ration was in danger unless the southern dominions greatly increased their supplies. It remarked that the level of meat consumption was higher in New Zealand and Australia than in the United States. Australia proposed to introduce meat rationing in January 1944, said the British message, and ‘we think that the United States will undoubtedly expect the deficiency on prospective supplies required to maintain the low United Kingdom consumption to be made up in the first instance by a contribution from New Zealand.’ War Cabinet decided on 13 December 1943 to introduce meat rationing and it came into force in March 1944.
During 1943, then, there was steady pressure on the Dominion to send more food, and in January 1944 the anxiety being felt in London was forcefully conveyed to the New Zealand Government. The Ministry of Food explained that there was reason to fear that production in the Dominion might decline further. Supplies from the United States were uncertain, as the scope of lend-lease might be cut down, and it was doubtful whether American domestic rationing would be effective. Moreover, the need for post-war relief was already looming up. The position, in short, was already so serious that—it was cautiously suggested—New Zealand should frankly consider taking men out of the Army to increase the flow of supplies, even perhaps to the extent that her war effort should ‘switch over to food production2.’ Shortly afterwards Walter Nash visited London to discuss the future of New Zealand's military plans, and the desperate need for food was officially pressed upon him. ‘If New Zealand's production declines below the present level,’ wrote the Minister of Food on 18 February 1944, ‘I do not see how we can possibly maintain our present standards of feeding in this country…. The particular foods which New Zealand sends us are those of which we are most now in need. It is in livestock products that we have suffered our most serious reductions over

1 UK Ministry of Food to NZHC, 19 Apr 1943.

2 NZHC to Minister of External Affairs, 23 Jan 1944.

page 280 pre-war consumption levels and my scientific advisers tell me that our consumption of animal protein foods is now as low as it can safely be.’ The New Zealand contribution to the United Kingdom meat supply was important, but in the case of dairy produce the United Kingdom was dependent on New Zealand produce to an ‘overwhelming’ extent. ‘To maintain our present ration of two ounces per week we need to import in 1944 160,000 tons of butter. Of this quantity we are looking to New Zealand to provide 96,000 tons.’ To maintain the three-ounce cheese ration 224,000 tons had to be imported, of which it was hoped that New Zealand would provide 85,000 tons.

There were overwhelming arguments here, if they had been needed, for a quite substantial cut in military commitments, and the Prime Minister had already made up his mind as to the essential first step. On 12 January he cabled to Nash in Washington that the manpower situation could not be allowed to drift further. There was no alternative, he said, but to withdraw one division as ‘the previous suggestion put forward [by Churchill] that both divisions should be allowed gradually to diminish in size is to my mind insupportable1.’ He asked Nash to consult the President and then to visit London for personal discussion with Churchill. Roosevelt personally favoured the retention of the Pacific division: ‘he felt it would be better for us to be at the entry to Tokyo rather than at the entry to Berlin2.’ Sir John Dill, head of the British Joint Staff Mission to Washington, expressed a similar view.3 However, the American Chiefs of Staff insisted that the matter should be referred to Churchill, so that the Combined Chiefs of Staff could in turn judge it with knowledge of the British Government's considered opinion.

The highest authorities in London and Washington gave careful study to the problem, and the New Zealand War Cabinet could not make a final decision without knowing their views. Yet the new Parliament had been summoned for 22 February and the Government was desperately anxious to have its policy defined in time. New Zealand judgment at first seemed to favour the return of the Mediterranean division in a few months' time. On 1 February Fraser cabled to Nash that ‘If the Second Front is successfully launched and the campaign in Italy progresses satisfactorily, there is clearly a strong case for withdrawing the 2nd New Zealand Division from Europe altogether to enable us to sustain a full division in the Pacific and to maintain, and if possible increase, food production4.’ As late as 27 February Nash recommended to Fraser

1 Documents, II, p. 328.

2 Ibid., p. 329.

3 Ibid., p. 329, note 2.

4 Ibid., p. 334.

page 281 ‘that you consider notifying the United Kingdom that you wish the New Zealand Division (less a brigade made up of men whose first engagement was subsequent to the conclusion of the North African campaign) to leave Europe for return to New Zealand after the fall of Rome, or about 1 August next, whichever is the earlier date…1.’ However, it was known that Churchill personally favoured the retention of the Division in Italy until the fall of Rome—not, as has been seen, entirely on the grounds of military necessity—and after the first discussion of the matter by War Cabinet on 16 February the Secretary to War Cabinet wrote that ‘although no conclusions were reached I have a feeling that the pendulum tended to swing away from the Pacific and back to Europe.’ On 19 February the Chief of the General Staff, General Puttick, presented to the Prime Minister an ‘appreciation’ which thoroughly analysed the problem and concluded, after a careful balancing, with a recommendation that 2 Division be retained in Italy. Germany, he argued, was both more dangerous and more vulnerable than Japan and the utmost possible concentration of force should be made against her to achieve her early defeat. The 3rd Division was not so essential to Allied operations in the Pacific as 2 Division was to those in the Mediterranean, the problems of finding shipping for the men returning from the Pacific would be much less acute and it was likely that they could be available in New Zealand many months earlier than could an equal number from the Mediterranean. These considerations, he felt, outweighed the possibility of adverse Australian or American reactions to the return of 3 Division and the case for returning 2 Division because of its long fighting and heavy casualties.2
The arguments on which to base a decision were thus accumulating; but to its embarrassment the Government had to face a secret session of Parliament on 24 February without knowledge of the recommendations which the British Chiefs of Staff had drafted and sent for consideration to Washington. The secret session accordingly had to adjourn without reaching a decision, the Opposition voicing ‘strong criticism at waste of time owing to the Government's inability to produce recommendations of Chiefs of Staff3.’ The Chiefs of Staff memorandum did not arrive till 29 February. It had been drafted by the British and supported without substantial qualification by the Americans, and it reached much the same conclusion as General Puttick. The Chiefs of Staff attached ‘great importance to the continued presence in Italy of New Zealand forces.’ No change in the constitution of the Division could be contemplated

1 Documents, II, p. 340.

2 See Documents, II, pp. 449–55 for full text.

3 Fraser to Nash, 26 Feb 1944.

page 282 until the fall of Rome, for which no exact date could be set: ‘thus there seems no possibility of the provision of the men required on the farms in August by withdrawals from the European theatre.’ Not only were the operations in which 3 Division was engaged of lesser importance but ‘it appears to us that the immediate need for the maintenance of this force may have diminished with the successful conclusion of the Solomon Islands campaign. The Pacific war is one in which the availability of land forces is not likely to be a governing factor.’ The two brigade groups should therefore be temporarily withdrawn. ‘This would enable New Zealand to tide over the period when labour demands are at their highest, namely from August to December. We may reasonably hope that developments in the European theatre will allow the later withdrawal of part or all of the New Zealand Division in time enough to constitute a complete division for further operations in the Pacific in 1945.’ It was hoped that at least one brigade would continue in the European theatre until the defeat of Germany. No reductions should be made in the Air Force or Navy.1
The suggestion that a New Zealand brigade should be left in Europe was made several times from London. It showed that the War Office still upon occasion failed to appreciate the status of dominion troops attached to a British army; and it was strongly opposed by both Puttick and Freyberg. Puttick pointed out that unless the brigade was completely absorbed into a British division it would have to maintain an uneconomically large structure of ancillary services. If it was completely absorbed, ‘Differences in administration, pay, discipline, standards of accommodation and treatment of men, would raise awkward problems, leading to friction, while the New Zealand Government would lose practically all control.’ Apart from this ‘the difference in fighting technique and the interdependence of brigades in battle may cause trouble and may well result in the NZ brigade being frequently in exposed forward positions, with a heavy increase in casualties.’ Even if the brigade was only tactically integrated with a British division, the New Zealand Government could not expect to exercise anything like the same degree of control over it as it did over a division, and if it did, ‘the brigade could only be regarded as a nuisance2.’ Puttick added that ‘British officers would not see anything like the same objections….to a NZ brigade group being part of a British division.’ General Freyberg later expressed similar views: ‘In the last two months here on this front great firmness has been needed in dealing with the present most difficult tactical situation. In

1 Documents, II, pp. 341–3.

2 CGS to PM, 29 Feb 1944.

page 283 similar circumstances the commander of a small independent force is in an impossible position. Further, whenever a situation deteriorates there is a tendency to use independent brigade groups to stop gaps in the same way as the Long Range Desert Group was committed at Leros1.’ Fraser warmly supported these views.2

The suggestion that the force in Europe might ultimately be reduced to a brigade, though it alarmed Freyberg enough to make him exercise his right of direct communication with the Prime Minister, was merely incidental to the main point, namely, that New Zealand's manpower problem should be relieved at the expense, for the time being, of the Pacific division. This conclusion was quickly accepted by the Government and its advisers. On 10 March Barrowclough was advised of the situation in terms that left no doubt in his mind that 3 Division was to be withdrawn for the time being. He flew to New Zealand later in the month to discuss how the men required for industry could be supplied, while leaving some nucleus in the Pacific round which the division might be reconstituted in 1945. The number of men required for industry had been estimated at 17,650. Of these, 7000 were needed for the beginning of the production season in July, and the remainder at a rate of 2000 a month thereafter. Barrowclough proposed and War Cabinet on 25 March agreed that these men should be provided from 3 Division until October. This would leave some 6000 men, which would be about the minimum for maintaining the cadres on which the division could be rebuilt. At that stage a decision about the future of 2 Division should be available. If it proved that the remaining men required for industry could not be made available from that division, then 3 Division would have to disband altogether. Barrowclough criticised the British Chiefs of Staff for being unnecessarily vague in their reference to the future of 2 Division. If New Zealand was to make an economical use of her resources a decision on the point would have to be available soon and he could not see why it should not be made very shortly, when the Division came out of the Cassino fighting. He suggested that the Prime Minister take the matter up at an early stage of his forthcoming visit to London.

Once again, in fact, New Zealand had adopted an interim policy. A decision still had to be reached as to the date of 2 Division's ultimate withdrawal; and it was known that if that withdrawal were greatly delayed, 3 Division would have to be ‘completely liquidated’. In a message intended for the War Office, General Puttick reported War Cabinet's interim decision, and outlined the problem that remained. ‘There will be strong general feeling,’ he

1 Documents, II, p. 346. See p. 284.

2 Ibid., p. 346.

page 284 wrote, ‘that 2 Division should return certainly after fall of Rome or earlier if that event unduly delayed. Prime Minister considers army participation in Pacific politically important in view Australian opinion and effect on NZ position in post-war Pacific discussions but recognises changing situations may change views from time to time. This is likely to be Cabinet's view and also Parliament's…1.’ This forecast was correct. At the secret session of 31 March no formal resolution was passed, but no objection was expressed to the Government's proposals, which were based on the recommendations of the British Chiefs of Staff.

A week later Fraser left for London to attend a Prime Ministers' conference, and to endeavour to obtain that decision on the future of 2 Division which was necessary before the allocation of the country's manpower could be planned on anything more than a month to month basis. In Washington, incidentally, he addressed a meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate to answer criticism of Australia, and to a lesser extent, of New Zealand for withdrawing their fighting men from the Pacific war.

At the Prime Ministers' conference which took place in London between 1 and 16 May Fraser took an active and somewhat rebellious part. He closely questioned the strategy of the proposed offensive in Italy; and it does not appear from the report that the British service chiefs succeeded in convincing him that the plan was sound. At one stage Churchill observed that, pending the invasion of western Europe, it was necessary to strike in Italy ‘and prevent the enemy drawing his forces away. We should not be handicapped now by lack of depth in the attack which, as General Wilson has explained, had been the cause of our lack of success in January.’ Fraser intervened to say that ‘some responsible persons were always adept at explaining failure away afterwards. General Wilson's explanation this time might be as weak and unconvincing as it had been after Leros,2 when the totally unrelated and irrelevant matter of the after-results of Greece and Crete were quoted as justification for the attempt which ended so disastrously.’ Fraser also disapproved of a suggestion by Smuts that more attention should be given to the opening of ‘side-shows’ in the Balkans—‘He regarded the Balkans as a seething mass of factions, who would turn to whoever would give them the most support or hold out to them most hope for the future. He doubted if anything could be done in the Balkans which would compare at all with “Overlord”, or our other major

1 Puttick to Park, 28 Mar 1944.

2 The New Zealand squadron of the Long Range Desert Group (totalling 108 men) had been employed in operations in the Dodecanese in September and October 1943 without reference to General Freyberg. Messages from Fraser in November 1943 had been sharply critical both of the general conduct of these operations and the failure to consult the New Zealand Government about the use of its troops in them. See Documents, II, pp. 308–27

page 285 campaigns.’ However, neither the question of the withdrawal of 2 Division nor that of the participation of New Zealand in the Pacific was discussed at the conference.

Apparently it was agreed that a decision be postponed pending the result of the attack on Rome and Fraser's visit to the Division in Italy. In the last days of May and early June Fraser visited the men of the Division, and discussed the situation with Freyberg. He concluded that it was still impossible to make an immediate decision. ‘For the time being it seemed both unwise and inexpedient to withdraw the 2nd Division from the campaign while the Germans were being defeated and early victory seemed possible. Moreover, there was no possibility of obtaining shipping.’ As to long-term policy, ‘no decision could possibly be arrived at until he had seen the British and American Chiefs of Staff and was thus in a position to discuss the matter with War Cabinet on his return to Wellington.’

In short, in spite of the need for quick action to enable manpower planning to be intelligent, New Zealand's interim decision still stood: 2 Division to remain in Europe ‘meantime’; and the cadres of 3 Division to be maintained so that a Pacific force could be quickly reconstituted. This position could not continue, for it was tolerably clear that New Zealand had not the manpower to maintain even the cadres of 3 Division and at the same time reinforce 2 Division indefinitely.1 One had to be sacrificed to the other; and the military arguments either way were not decisive. Freyberg's view was summed up for Fraser in a report written just after the fall of Rome and the invasion of France. The Division had reached the stage, he wrote, where complete withdrawal or extensive replacement were the necessary alternatives if there should be a prospect of heavy fighting throughout 1945. ‘There is no doubt in my mind that the high-water mark of our battle-worthiness was reached at Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed in November 1941. In that campaign, and in the other costly Western Desert battles which followed, many of our best men became casualties, and gradually the keen fighting edge of the Force was blunted. For a period the gradual reduction in offensive spirit was offset by the increased efficiency of the divisional machine and the ever-increasing battle experience of our commanders. Time has gone on. Another long campaign in Italy has followed. I know the great stress of battle which large numbers of men have been through, and we cannot disregard its effect, especially on battle-weary leaders. Signs are not lacking now that many of the old hands require a prolonged rest.’ In view of New Zealand's manpower difficulties and probable future commit-

1 Given the existing naval and air commitments. In June the Navy strength was 10,321, the Army 63,672, and the Air Force 41,535.

page 286 ments
against Japan he felt ‘that the time might well be opportune for the complete withdrawal of the 2nd NZEF.’ Yet the involvement of the Division in the European theatre was not lessened by the invasion of France. If all went well on the Second Front it would be a pity to withdraw the Division when victory was in sight. On the other hand, if things went badly, it would be virtually impossible to weaken the front in face of German success. Freyberg, in short, recommended as a long-term objective that the Division should be withdrawn and reorganised for the war against Japan; but in the short run could only suggest that it be reinforced and kept fighting in Europe ‘until the strategic situation becomes clearer1.’

The decision as to which of New Zealand's divisions should be preferred must turn, then, on the probable course of the fighting in Europe, but more crucially on the use likely to be made of a reorganised New Zealand army in the war against Japan. If need be, other Allied troops could be provided in the European theatre, where after all New Zealand had made an unmistakably valuable contribution. On the other hand, if New Zealand troops could be effectively used in the Pacific area, the political arguments for supplying them would be conclusive. Fraser's hope on his return from Italy was therefore to find out from the British and American Chiefs of Staff what part they had in mind for New Zealand land forces in the Pacific. They could not tell him; and accordingly the negotiations were friendly, but inconclusive.

In June 1944 the matter was discussed with Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, who was apparently prepared to consider the withdrawal of the Division. However, Fraser ‘commented on the excellent spirit he found in the Division and on the undesirability of withdrawing the men from the battle at the present time when the enemy was in retreat and there was a prospect of the Division being in at the defeat of Germany…. Brooke expressed his pleasure at the prospect of the New Zealand troops remaining in the line for a while longer and agreed that decision would be given regarding a possible firm date of withdrawal within the next two months when the situation had stabilised and when plans for the formation of a British Force in the Pacific had been formulated.’

The plan in mind during this discussion was apparently that 2 Division should be withdrawn, say at the end of 1944, when the men who had seen relatively short service would be built on the cadres of 3 Division to form a new unit to fight in the Pacific. Shortly afterwards, indeed, a contrary plan was urged by General Puttick, Chief of the New Zealand General Staff, who was with

1 Documents, II, pp. 348–50.

page 287 the Prime Minister in London. He placed before Sir Alan Brooke the considerations which, in his mind, favoured the retention of 2 Division in Europe until the end of the war with Germany and the disbandment of the cadres of 3 Division. ‘The C.I.G.S.,’ reported Puttick later, ‘said he fully agreed and would warmly welcome a decision to leave the 2nd Division in Europe. As regards the 3rd Division, in view of the possibilities of rapid developments in the war against Germany and the constantly-changing strategical situation he thought it advisable, if the 2nd Division remained in Europe, to retain the cadres of the 3rd Division as long as possible, at least until the end of October. By that date, he said, clearer advice might be available in the light of the situation at the time.’ There was, then, a certain confusion in the views exchanged in London between Brooke, Fraser and Puttick; but this confusion was probably more apparent than real. The British Chiefs of Staff preferred the Division to remain in Europe, but apparently would not argue against a New Zealand request for its withdrawal. The New Zealand Government was not inclined to make this request until it could get some picture of how a New Zealand division would be utilised in the war against Japan.
Action could not be delayed until the Chiefs of Staff could give a firm answer on this last point, and the interim policy decided upon in March was vigorously carried out. Soldiers were accordingly drawn back from the Pacific to New Zealand and placed on leave without pay to work on farms or in other industries to which they might be directed. It had been intended that the cadres of 3 Division should be concentrated on New Caledonia to make easier its speedier re-establishment when the time came. In July, however, the Americans asked that 3 Division be returned to New Zealand as they required for their own troops the accommodation it was using. In August, therefore, the main body of what remained of the division was shipped back to New Zealand and moved into Papakura Camp.1 At the same time, steps were taken along the lines of Freyberg's advice, to reinforce 2 Division; in particular, it was decided in July to send 2000 men as replacements to Italy so as to enable the return of the 3200 remaining members of the 4th Reinforcements and still keep the Division up to battle strength until the end of the year.2 Not surprisingly in view of previous experience, it was recognised that so far as participation in the fighting in Europe was concerned the scheme would have to be one of replacement and not of furlough;3 but that aspect of the matter was left vague in announcements, presumably with an eye

1 Gillespie, p. 201.

2 Documents, II, pp. 350, 352–3.

3 Ibid., pp. 349–50.

page 288 to the possible extension of the scheme and the requirements of the Pacific war.

These steps left the major decision still to make, and for a short time it seemed that the problem might solve itself by the sudden end of the war with Germany. In August a SHAEF intelligence summary spoke of the end of the war in Europe as being ‘within sight, almost within reach. The strength of the German Armies in the West has been shattered, Paris belongs to France again, and the Allied Armies are streaming towards the frontiers of the Reich1.’ In the same month Churchill said, ‘The progress of the war against Germany on all fronts has been such as to render possible the partial or total collapse of Germany, which might free forces from the European theatre in the coming months.’ Freyberg's reports to his government showed the same optimism. On 28 June he wrote, ‘I feel most optimistic about the immediate prospects of an early victory over the German forces in the field and am anxious that New Zealand should be represented in the final phase to reap the full benefit of all their great sacrifices, but I realise that these are policy questions to be decided by the New Zealand Government2.’ Again on 21 August, ‘There can be no doubt that the finish of the war is only a matter of time.’ He went on to refer to a suggestion of General Alexander's that the New Zealand Division might be used after the war as a garrison in Greece for a short time—a proposal that War Cabinet refused to entertain.3

Before these hopes of an imminent German collapse were shown to be delusive, however, opinion both in Britain and New Zealand moved decisively against the notion of an early withdrawal of 2 Division. General Puttick's views had been expressed before, both in New Zealand and to Sir Alan Brooke. On 4 August they were again placed forcefully before the Government, with an additional important argument. He pointed out that the decision to recall 2 Division would withdraw all New Zealand land forces from the war while the Division was being shipped back and the new division established. ‘From the time the decision is taken to raise a fresh division until its appearance on the battlefield, approximately 12 months would elapse. During this period, approximately 25,000 fighting men would be neither producing nor fighting.’ This wastage would, of course, occur whenever it was decided to establish a new division, but he felt it better to postpone it until after the defeat of Germany, when indeed it might prove that a New Zealand division to fight against Japan was not required.

This last suggestion was in line with the thinking of the British

1 Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe, p. 458. Cf. Hopkins Papers, Vol. II, pp. 809–10.

2 Documents, II, p. 353.

3 Ibid., pp. 354–5.

page 289 Chiefs of Staff. There were clear indications that the Americans were none too anxious to have Commonwealth land—or even air—forces serving with them as the Pacific fighting moved northwards. They feared that which New Zealand and Australia hoped: that participation in the fighting would give the Dominions a claim to a voice in policy-making.1 On the other hand, the British had hopes that victory over Germany might be followed by partial demobilisation.2 In the recommendations from the British Chiefs of Staff on plans for the Pacific fighting, therefore, land forces were not stressed. In their appreciation of the situation which reached New Zealand on 23 August, the Commonwealth's land, sea and air task force proposed in June ranked only as an alternative in the event of the Americans not wishing to accept the first choice, which was the provision of a British fleet; though Britain, of course, would also be committed in Burma, where it was proposed to launch an airborne and seaborne attack on Rangoon.3

This report by the Chiefs of Staff was closely followed by an appeal from Churchill, who had been visiting New Zealand troops in Italy—‘the Division is sorely needed in the forthcoming operations4’—and by a sharp reminder that the men still in 3 Division were wasting their time. On 4 September the National Service Department pointed out that the further retention ‘of 6,000 men in camp in New Zealand without being usefully employed would bring difficulties, e.g., criticism of the waste of manpower involved and pressure for the release of these men to essential industry.’ At the same time a joint recommendation from Bockett, the Director of National Service, Barrowclough and Conway, the Adjutant-General, urged that the cadre force be disbanded and 2 Division left in Europe.

From Fraser's point of view, the position was still obscure. As he somewhat testily explained to Freyberg, he could get nothing specific from the British Government as to ‘the nature and role of British Commonwealth forces in the war against Japan’, and therefore could make no estimate as to what part, if any, New Zealand land forces would play in the Pacific war.5 Accordingly, a further interim decision had to be made, which merely extended 2 Division's period of service in Europe. On 9 September Fraser cabled to Churchill that ‘Any final decision has been made impracticable by this continued lack of certainty about the probable future use of our men and the rapidly changing circumstances in Europe. At this stage, however, we have come to the conclusion we should

1 NZ Minister, Washington, to PM, 17 May 1944. Wilmot, p.642. Cf. McNeill, pp.401, 486.

2 Cf. Hopkins Papers, Vol. II, pp. 806 ff.

3 PM UK to PMs Aust. and NZ, 23 Aug 1944.

4 Documents, II, p. 356, note 1.

5 Ibid., p. 357.

page 290 decide that our Division in Europe should continue to be maintained and that its future should be reviewed at the close of the Italian campaign, and, further, that cadres of the 3rd (Pacific) Division should therefore be disbanded and the men used as replacements and reinforcements for the 2nd Division. It will be appreciated that this course will necessarily delay the building up of another Pacific division should such a force be required1.’

This policy was endorsed by War Cabinet two days later; presumably substantial agreement though not formal decision had been reached when Fraser cabled Churchill. The War Cabinet decisions also included the introduction of a replacement scheme for long-service members of the Division.

On the problem of planning for the Pacific war, there was a division of opinion among War Cabinet's advisers. Some pressed for an immediate decision. In their paper of 5 September Bockett, Barrowclough and Conway recommended that ‘after 2 N.Z. Div has finished its work in Europe, New Zealand should still maintain one active Division in the field until the defeat of Japan, or until it is decided that such a Division is no longer required in the war against Japan.’ For this purpose men from 2 Division were to be used, except those who in October 1944 had two years' service abroad or who were over 36 years of age or who had more than two children. General Puttick on the contrary urged that there was no adequate military reason for making a decision at this stage on this matter. ‘J consider,’ he wrote, that ‘opinions and anticipations of the public and the men of the 2nd Division necessitate the withdrawal of the whole division, after the end of the war with Germany, and NOT only the men with more than 2 years' service. Otherwise, I am of opinion there is serious risk of indiscipline in the division and a heated public opinion in N.Z. affecting the troops.’ War Cabinet followed Puttick's advice, and postponed decision on the participation of New Zealand land forces in the war against Japan until further information was received from the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

On this crucial decision on the disposition of the NZEF Parliament was not consulted, nor does it seem to have been given (or to have sought) an opportunity for discussion afterwards. An announcement containing the substance of the decisions of 11 September was made to Parliament on 21 September by the Prime Minister; though, perhaps characteristically, a decision reached locally was expressly attributed to overseas advice: ‘As a result of the Quebec Conference, and of the advice just received from Mr Churchill, it is now possible to come to decisions regarding the

1 Documents, II, pp. 356–7.

page 291 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 overseas1.’ Actually the Quebec Conference opened on 11 September, the day that War Cabinet made its decisions; it finished on 16 September and the summary of its conclusions sent to Fraser by Churchill was dated 18 September.2 However, advice from Quebec would certainly have confirmed War Cabinet in its policy. It was expressly agreed, for instance, ‘that no major units shall be withdrawn from Italy until the outcome of General Alexander's offensive is known….’ With regard to the Pacific, moreover, the Americans agreed to assistance by a British fleet, so that the alternative suggestion for a combined force no longer arose.
It remained to operate the policy adopted, and in particular to carry out the replacement scheme which was associated with the plan to leave the Division in Europe indefinitely. Moreover, it soon became clear, in spite of the general optimism of August, that Germany was by no means on the point of collapse, and on 8 October Freyberg advised the Government that the Division should be reorganised during the winter months so as to be ready for possible fighting in the spring. Some 600 officers and 10,000 other ranks were affected by the replacement decision, but the Government offered no hope of getting the last batch of replacements away before mid-April. Even so the scheme, like most other schemes, did not function altogether as envisaged. The first batch of replacements (14th Reinforcements) was delayed by shortage of shipping from mid-November until 5 January 1945. Nor were the men available at the dates proposed for the 15th and 16th Reinforcements which were to complete the scheme. In spite of the withdrawal of New Zealand land forces in the Pacific, there were simply not enough men available to replace the long-service men in 2 Division without grave injury to the food production which all agreed was essential to the Allied war effort. On 18 December Fraser explained to Freyberg that the delay in supplying the promised reinforcements ‘has been caused mainly by the fact that owing to their employment in the production of essential foodstuffs, which is now at the height of the season, 3rd Division personnel temporarily released to industry have not been returned to the Army on the dates expected. Difficulty is also being experienced in obtaining the release of men held on appeal, the majority of whom are also employed in primary industries3.’ Next month the Director of National Service wrote4

1 NZPD, Vol. 266, p. 476.

2 Documents, II, p. 361, note 2.

3 Ibid., p. 382.

4 To Minister of National Service, 25 Jan 1945.

page 292 that ‘The general manpower situation as 1945 commences is more difficult than it has been at any stage of the war.’ At this time the country's last reserve of military manpower was the group of 32,483 men, who lacked three years' overseas service but were held in essential industry, 11,874 of them in farming; and the problem was to get them into the Army without disrupting industry. On 1 February Cabinet decided to accelerate the comb-out of fit men from industry and to issue the drastic instruction to Appeal Boards that 20 per cent of the appeals reviewed in all industries except sawmilling and coalmining must be dismissed without qualification.

The replacement scheme, in short, met with considerable difficulties, and the second batch of replacements—the 15th Reinforcements—did not reach the Mediterranean till after the German surrender. Nevertheless, the scheme's main objects were achieved. A draft of 6300 men left Italy in February, completing the relief of long-service men, up to and including the 5th Reinforcements;1 yet when the Division went into action in April it was up to strength and Freyberg wrote that it had ‘never been in better condition2.’ This maintenance of the Division in fighting strength was achieved without drastic results to essential industry. By the sacrifice, admittedly grievous, of its land forces in the Pacific war, New Zealand had achieved, if by a narrow margin, the other main objectives of national policy: the maintenance of food production at home and of one overseas division in first-class condition, backed by substantial participation in the Pacific through the Air Force and Navy. Nor was domestic life in New Zealand too gravely dislocated.

1 Documents, II, p. 393.

2 Ibid., p. 395.