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

224 — General Freyberg to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

page 192

General Freyberg to the Prime Minister of New Zealand

4 May 1943

On 1 May I was instructed by General Montgomery to take over command of 10th Corps when General Horrocks1 was sent to replace a Corps Commander wounded on the First Army front.2 After discussing the matter with Mr. Jones I accepted temporarily. Brigadier Kippenberger has assumed temporary command of the Division, which remains in 10th Corps. These are purely temporary measures.

While discussing this appointment with Mr. Jones, he told me of a message he had handed to Mr. Churchill from you concerning my possible war employment.3 I was very much touched and gratified that, at a time when you are so preoccupied with vital issues, you should have found time to think of this matter. That you did is, I feel, an expression of confidence in me for which I shall always be most grateful. For my part I am wholly contented. I feel that your Division, owing to its fighting qualities and efficiency, has been of incalculable value here in the Middle East and has played a far greater part than that of any normal division. I feel, therefore, that as GOC 2nd NZEF I have been of more use to the war effort than I should have been commanding an Army Corps.

I deeply appreciate your kind thought, but my personal wish is to return to the Division and the 2nd NZEF. From a personal point of view I have no military ambitions save one—to be at the head of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and bring it back at the end of the war, which, please God, will be soon. If for reasons of the higher conduct of the war I am required elsewhere, then I must review the situation, but the final decision will rest ultimately

1 Lieutenant-General Sir Brian G. Horrocks, KBE, CB, DSO, MC; commanded in turn 44th (Home Counties) Division, 9th Armoured Division, 13th Corps, and 10th Corps in Egypt, Cyrenaica, and Tunisia, and 9th Corps in Tunisia; commanded 30th Corps, British Liberation Army, 1944–45; GOC-in-C, Western Command, 1946; GOC-in-C, British Army of the Rhine, 1948.

2 Lieutenant-General J. T. (later General Sir John) Crocker, GCB, KBE, DSO, MC; commanded a corps in Tunisia (1942–43) and in France and Germany (1944–45); GOC-in-C, Southern Command, 1945–47; C-in-C Middle East Land Forces, 1947–.

3 In a telegram sent to London on 3 Apr, Mr. Fraser asked Mr. Jones to discuss General Freyberg's position with Mr. Churchill and Sir James Grigg, Secretary of State for War. ‘While it would, of course, have been preferable to have ascertained Freyberg's own feelings on the matter,’ the telegram ran, ‘you could I think in the present circumstances raise the question somewhat in these terms: Freyberg has more than fulfilled all our expectations and we are deeply appreciative of his outstanding services to New Zealand. As Commander of the New Zealand Division in five campaigns, in which he has acquitted himself with the greatest distinction, we feel that he is due for some further recognition. You should make it clear that while nothing is further from our desires than to lose him, it would be a source of the greatest regret to us if his association with the New Zealand Forces should react detrimentally to his own prospects for a senior command.’

page 193 with the New Zealand War Cabinet, without whose knowledge I shall not of course act.

A short appreciation of the present position in North Africa follows.1