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

223 — The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

3 May 1943

Pray give the following message, if you think it useful, to your Parliament in secret session:

There have been few episodes of the war more remarkable than the ever-famous fighting march of the Desert Army from the battlefields of Alamein, where they shielded Cairo, to the gates of Tunis, page 191 whence they menace Italy. The New Zealand Division has always held a shining place in the van of this advance. Foremost, or among the foremost, it has ever been. There could not be any more glorious expression of the links which bind together the British Commonwealth and Empire, and bind in a special manner the hearts of the people of the British and New Zealand isles, than the feats of arms which the New Zealanders, under the leadership of General Freyberg, have performed for the liberation of the African continent from German and Italian power.

There are new tasks awaiting the British, American, and Allied armies in the Mediterranean perimeter. As conquerors, but also as deliverers, they must enter Europe. I earnestly trust that the New Zealand Division will carry on with them. Both General Alexander and General Montgomery have expressed their ardent wishes that this may be so. In this way the association of the New Zealand Division and the 51st Highland Division, ‘one equal temper of heroic minds’,1 will be preserved in the 30th Corps. In this way the aptitudes for war, which veteran troops acquire at such high cost, will play their part in the unfolding and in the shaping of events. On military grounds the case is strongly urged by our trusted Generals.

Yet it is not on those grounds that I make this request to the Government and people of New Zealand. I make it even more upon the sentiments which unite our Commonwealth of Nations. I can, of course, replace the New Zealand Division with another well-trained division from the United Kingdom. It is the symbolic and historic value of our continued comradeship in arms that moves me. I feel that the intervention of the New Zealand Divison on European soil, at a time when the homeland of New Zealand is already so strongly engaged with Japan, will constitute a deed of fame to which many generations of New Zealanders will look back with pride.

On the other hand, should you feel it necessary to withdraw your troops, I wish to assure you that the gratitude of the Mother Country towards the people of New Zealand and the admiration which we feel for her valiant and faithful manhood will in no way be diminished.

1 ‘one equal temper of heroic hearts’—Ulysses (Tennyson).