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

324 — Letter from General Freyberg to Major-General Arthur Smith,2 General Headquarters, Middle East

Letter from General Freyberg to Major-General Arthur Smith,2 General Headquarters, Middle East

13 October 1940

The history of this patrol is a bad one. In the first place they immobilised our Divisional Cavalry Regiment by taking all or nearly all of its best officers, NCOs, and men from it against the CO's wishes. This was under the distinct understanding that they were to be returned to him at the end of one journey. They then came back and I was informed that they had been lent for a year, which is quite incorrect.

As a matter of fact, I have written to Middle East saying I will not raise any more difficulties. My sympathies are, however, entirely with Pierce,3 my Divisional Cavalry commander, who has had his training gravely interfered with.

Perhaps you do not realise that my force has been dispersed and used in a way that makes it impossible to train as a Division. When I approached … [General Wilson] and tried to get them, he said not until after December, which of course I cannot agree to, and I have reported the whole matter of detachments to my page 234 Government who hold very strong views on the NZEF being kept intact.1 We started by doing everything that we were asked to do at great personal inconvenience. We lent our Divisional Signals complete with instruments, all our mechanical transport, &c. We were told at first for three weeks; now, after nearly five months, when we want to train, we are looked upon as unreasonable.

The position that distresses me most is that I am rapidly forced into a position where even my old friends subject me to a form of suspicion and reproach. Anyway I will not place any more obstacles in the way of the patrol. Stewart will see Pierce and arrange to minimise the damage done by substitution, and when they come back you must either take men from depot units or give the Long Range Patrol to somebody else.

PS.—This is a very funny war. I feel that what is really wanted is a little more fighting and less patrols.

Yours, &c.,

2 Deputy Chief of the General Staff, General Headquarters, Middle East. See page 205, note 1, for biographical details.

3 Lieutenant-Colonel C. J. Pierice, MC, ED, commanded 2 nd New Zealand Divisional Cavalry, Oct 1939-Mar 1941; invalided back to New Zealand throgh ill-health, Mar 1941; died Aug 1941.