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

64 — The General Officer Commanding, British Troops in Egypt4 (Cairo) to the Chief of the General Staff (Wellington) — [Extract]

The General Officer Commanding, British Troops in Egypt4 (Cairo) to the Chief of the General Staff (Wellington)

9 December 1939
General Freyberg, in his first communication [to the Minister of Defence] as the official chief, reports that all arrangements relating

4 Field-Marshal Lord Wilson, GCB, GBE, DSO; in 1940 Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. GOC-in-C, British Troops in Egypt, 1939–40; Military Governor and GOC-in-C, Cyrenaica, 1941; GOC-in-C, British Troops in Greece, 1941; GOC, British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan, 1941; C-in-C, Allied Forces in Syria, 1941 (GOC 9th Army); C-in-C, Persia-Iraq Command, 1942–43; C-in-C, Middle East, 1943; Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theatre, 1944; Head of British Joint Staff Mission in Washington, 1945–47.

page 53 to the disembarkation and reception of New Zealand troops in Egypt and standing camps for accommodation are in hand. The question of the early assembly of arms, equipment, and vehicles in Egypt for training is being urged on the War Office. There was little latitude in the selection of the concentration area as other divisions are already here.

After consultation with the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, British Troops in Egypt, two sites appear possible: on the Suez Canal or near Cairo. Certain serious defects make the Suez Canal site unsuitable. Training areas are soft sand, unsuitable for vehicles without desert equipment; no amenities nearer than 23 miles; some risk of malaria. Cairo sites: El Maadi—6 miles from Cairo. Helwan—15 miles from Cairo with a ten-minute train service. El Maadi will take the whole of the First Echelon, and Helwan the Second and Third Echelons.

These sites have serviceable training areas, with hard desert, are healthy, and relatively free from mosquitoes and sandflies. Their proximity to Cairo affords adequate amenities. Have inspected Cairo sites.

An early decision is essential as eight weeks only remain and time is the important factor. It will be necessary to arrange water, sanitation, and buildings; large numbers of hutted cookhouses, dining halls, and institutes. Owing to the late start hutting cannot be completed before the arrival of the First Echelon.

After taking all available advice in the short time possible, have agreed, on your behalf, to General Wilson's proposal that the Cairo sites be approved. Am certain this action is in the best interests and I have made every effort to obtain full information before deciding. Accommodation in tents—four men each—with bed-boards, palliasses, and mosquito nets when necessary. Huts for dining halls, kitchens, men's institutes, officers' and sergeants' messes, stores huts, offices, and bath houses. Owing to the late decision not all will be completed by the time of arrival, but I have given orders for priority of buildings to ensure the minimum interference with comfort….1

British Troops in Egypt using NAAFI service, which, if wanted, is available for us. It is in no way obligatory for the New Zealanders to employ NAAFI but it may be advantageous owing to the limited stay here. Maadi Camp will have nine large canteens, each catering for 700…. Suggest, therefore, that no decision should be reached upon the question of employment of NAAFI

1 The text omitted dealt with the advantages of the NAAFI (Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes) canteen service and enumerated equipment required from New Zealand for officers' and sergeants' messes.

page 54 before I give a detailed explanation of the situation to unit commanders on my arrival.

Cheap postal concessions on letters ex Egypt being arranged for the New Zealand Division.1

1 The above text, taken from the GOC's files, differs in many places from that of the telegram received by the Chief of the General Staff.