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

263 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

2 December 1940

You asked in your telegram of 11 October1 for an appreciation of the situation, the state of our equipment, and our likely role and fitness for it. For the appreciation and state of equipment see my telegrams Nos. 250 and 256. I am now able to report on our likely role.

German plans for next spring must be affected by the favourable Greek situation and we must add Greece to Thrace as a possible page 201 theatre of war in the Middle East. It is too much to hope that Germany will attempt the invasion of the United Kingdom.

Role of New Zealand Forces: For the personal information of the Prime Minister, we are to concentrate at Cairo and be in General Headquarters Reserve ready to move at short notice to any theatre of war in the spring. After one month with our complete Divisional equipment we shall be as fit as any troops for the role for which we are cast.

With reference to your telegram of 2 December,1 I feel that I must most strongly represent that should we be cast for an operational role we must have at least three months' reinforcements, amounting to 4200, fully trained, in our base depots. Owing to the need for sending troops to Fiji I would point out that we were 2300 reinforcements short with the Third Echelon, and with expansion and new units to be formed immediately we shall require an additional 2600 not originally budgeted for. Even if the 4th Reinforcements arrive to time and complete, we should only just be able to have reserves ready by the end of March. I have gone into the whole reinforcement position with General Duigan2 who will arrive in New Zealand about the New Year. I strongly urge, and he agrees, sending the 4th Reinforcements complete and trying to expedite part of the 5th Reinforcements to arrive by March. By drawing some men from Fiji this could be done.3

1 Not published. This telegram from the Chief of the General Staff to HQ 2nd NZEF advised that the shipping position prevented the despatch of the remainder of the 4th Reinforcements until late January and notified a reduction in the size of the draft (2nd section, 4th Reinforcements) then being prepared for embarkation.

2 Major-General Sir John Duigan, Chief of the New Zealand General Staff, arrived in Egypt on 28 Nov 1940 after having attended the Singapore Conference and the Far Eastern Conference at New Delhi. He had discussions with the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and with General Freyberg, and visited New Zealand units (First and Third Echelons) in the Western Desert and at Maadi. He also visited Greece early in December before returning to New Zealand.

3 See Volume II, Reinforcements, 1940–42.