Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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

217 — General Freyberg (London) to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg (London) to the Minister of Defence

12 July 1940

Reference your telegram of 29 June1 and the Governor-General's telegram of 27 June (No. 213) to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs.

I agree completely with the opinion that it would be of no service to send the Third Echelon unless they are to be immediately provided with arms and equipment up to a scale that will allow them to train and take the field. If the despatch to the United Kingdom of the Third Echelon should be delayed because of equipment difficulties their temporary despatch to Fiji would no doubt have a salutary effect in the Pacific. Since reading your above-quoted telegram, the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs' telegram of 3 July (No. 216) has been despatched and a copy read by the New Zealand Cabinet. It would appear now that British military policy is in favour of constituting the New Zealand Division in the Middle East as soon as possible. I suggest that, subject always to the condition being made by the New Zealand Government that mobilisation equipment is available upon their arrival, you agree to concentration. Although it would be bad enough in England to add to the number of mouths without adding to military strength, in Egypt it would be much worse. It is certain that the situation in the Middle East is not as stated in my message of 26 May.2 With France out of the war and disarmed, hostile Italy has adequate numbers of troops and aircraft in Libya to threaten Egypt. If Germany attempts an invasion of England she would urge Italy to make a move against Egypt. It would be difficult to synchronise the two efforts as a seaborne attack on the United Kingdom could not be attempted after the windy season has begun in September and no serious offensive is likely in North Africa before October because of the heat. It would appear, therefore, that Germany must move first, and if she has a bad failure Italy's main offensive page 163 upon Egypt will be greatly influenced and probably given up. Taking the longer view, I feel that nobody can foresee how events will shape. With the failure of harvests in Europe and the complete nature of the blockade, Germany, and certainly Italy, very soon will be hard pressed for food. Germany is aware that we are re-equipping five divisions every two months and will improve upon that rate. When invasion would again be possible, that is, by May of next year, we shall have over forty divisions fully equipped and superiority in the air. Germany must attack England or give up the project,1 and I still feel that any such attack is an act of desperation doomed to failure.

It is my opinion that when the threat to the United Kingdom has been disposed of the Government would be wise to urge upon the British Government the advisability of reviewing the whole position of the employment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Any decision to move either the Second or Third Echelons should be dependent upon a clear undertaking being given by the British Government that full mobilisation equipment will be made available upon their arrival overseas. Unless such a decision can be given I entirely agree with your decision to hold up temporarily the sailing of the Third Echelon from the area of the Pacific. I am to add that the equipment of the Second Echelon is being carried out very quickly.

1 Another version of this telegram reads: ‘Germany must attack England now.