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

Problems Caused by Splitting the New Zealand Expeditionary Force

Problems Caused by Splitting the New Zealand Expeditionary Force

As you know, I was very much against sending the Second Echelon to England, as I believe also were the Government in New Zealand. The diversion of the Second Echelon to Great Britain not only increased the difficulties of training and organisation of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, but also made it necessary to split the Divisional staff and send part of it here so that the troops could be trained upon modern lines.

When the split was decided upon I sent off part of my staff by air to make plans for the reception of the Second Echelon in England. I intended to follow in time to commence the training. As you will remember, a series of disasters followed. France was overrun and this was the moment when Italy chose to declare war upon the Allies. It was thought at the time that these changes in alignment constituted a threat to Egypt, and it was decided that I should remain there so long as the threat to the Middle East continued.

After the Italian inhabitants in Cairo and Alexandria had been interned, and this was carried out without any trouble, it was agreed that as I was of more use in England than in Egypt I should start for Home by an air route. As the Mediterranean route was closed we were sent across the Sahara. This journey, to say the least of it, was a most dangerous one. The route was unsurveyed and little preparation had been carried out; consequently there was no ground organisation, and the landing grounds were rough and too small. To add to our difficulties we were overladen. The news of the capitulation of France reached us at Khartoum. The journey across the intervening French territory was followed by great complications and, to add to these, the plane crashed in the desert, but notwithstanding this we eventually reached England after an eight-day journey.