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

229 — The Hon. F. Jones to the Prime Minister

The Hon. F. Jones to the Prime Minister

10 May 1943

With reference to the second point of your message of 7 May (No. 227).

General Freyberg was notified of his appointment as Corps Commander whilst I was at his headquarters, but he thought it was to be only temporary. I told him that from my conversation with Montgomery I understood it was to be permanent, and my view seems to be confirmed by the following telegram received by me from Freyberg on Saturday last:

I have received a cable of congratulation from Mr. Churchill on being given command of 10th Corps. Presumably he has acted on Mr. Fraser's cable.1 When the Government comes to consider whether I am to go or to stay, the question of my successor will no doubt be considered also. I have thought over the problem and feel that in fairness to everybody the whole list of probabilities should be considered: Barrowclough, Inglis, Kippenberger, and also Miles and Hargest.2 I feel that the question should be reviewed by the New Zealand War Cabinet quite apart from local feelings here. If my opinion is required as to the order of suitability, I could give it after the Government has decided which are available.

2 Brigadiers Miles and Hargest had escaped together from a prison camp near Florence (Campo 12) on 29 Mar 1943 and at this date were in Switzerland.

page 200

Assuming I go permanently, I feel that the handing over of the Division can be done quite easily, but handing over the command of the 2nd NZEF raises the question of the special powers granted to me personally. I will, of course, remain GOC 2nd NZEF until such time as the New Zealand Government decides on the change.

If it is possible at the end of this campaign to make a quick trip to report to the New Zealand War Cabinet, it might be of assistance to them, and I would endeavour to do this if they so desired.

Freyberg's reluctance to leave the New Zealand Expeditionary Force is understandable, and I think he would like a lead from War Cabinet as to whether he should accept the higher position permanently. If you are of the opinion that he should accept, then a decision should also be reached whether he should continue to hold the position of GOC 2nd NZEF, and who should be appointed to the command of the Division. You may prefer that either one or all of these questions should stand over until Freyberg visits New Zealand, and that in the meantime his promotion and consequential changes should be temporary. I think representations should be made by you to the British Government asking for the release of Freyberg to visit New Zealand as soon as possible after the Tunisian campaign.1

1 See No. 238.