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

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

page 210

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

17 May 1943

Your telegram of 14 May (No. 231) received through Lord Halifax.1

Both the President and I feel very strongly that it would be a great pity to withdraw the New Zealand Division from the Mediterranean theatre where it has given such splendid service. We hope means will be found to sustain both divisions in their present strength and station. If this cannot be done, it would be better when the time comes to accept a lower establishment. In the meantime, arrangements for meeting any deficiency in Fiji can be considered.2

The need for further training of the 2nd New Zealand Division after the arrival of the new draft and the relief of veterans will prevent that Division from coming into action again before September, and its Armoured Brigade will not be battle-worthy before October. Therefore, no serious drain need be expected until the last two months of the year. However, it will be of the greatest importance to have them available then.

Besides the above reasons, I must point out that the shipping required to repatriate the 2nd New Zealand Division will entail a far greater loss in manpower to the United States build-up in Great Britain for attacking France in 1944. Carrying the 9th Australian Division home will weaken that build-up by about 40,000 men. Thus not merely would we have no gain but actually a serious blow would be inflicted on us in other quarters.

1 Rt. Hon. the Earl of Halifax, KG, PC, OM, GCSI, GCIE; Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1938–40; British Ambassador at Washington, 1941–46.

2 At this date the 3rd NZ Division was in New Caledonia.