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

281 — Army Headquarters (Wellington) to General Freyberg

page 253

Army Headquarters (Wellington) to General Freyberg

29 August 1943

Ruapehu Draft


War Cabinet has decided that all married men with children, all men of 41 or over, and all Maoris, with the exception of those officers, warrant officers, senior NCOs, specialists, and tradesmen regarded as essential to the 2nd NZEF, are to be retained in New Zealand and returned to civil life, but any of such men who wish to return to the Middle East may so elect.

Code-name for first furlough draft. This draft left Egypt in the Nieuw Amsterdam on 15 Jun and arrived in Wellington on 12 Jul.

As regards the balance of the draft, it is anticipated that there will be some who by reason of special domestic circumstances or on account of particular suitability for employment in work of national importance, e.g., farming, sawmilling and forestry, and coal miners, should be held here. Men of this type will be required to apply, and applications will be referred to Armed Forces Appeal Boards for investigation and recommendation as to release, the Army to have the final decision in order to obviate loss of officers and others regarded as essential to you.

In announcing this decision in the press, it will be emphasised that the retention in New Zealand of any large number of the Ruapehu draft will not only affect the efficiency of the Division, but will also prejudice the return of further men to New Zealand for furlough who are entitled to similar consideration. Appeal Boards will also be directed to keep these points in mind when dealing with applications.

While no firm figures are at present available, it appears that this decision, plus medical boarding after the draft reassembles, may result in between 1500 and 2000 Ruapehus being exempted from returning to the Middle East. Whatever number is exempted will be made good by replacements from men now in camp, plans having been made in anticipation.

Announcement of the decision is being withheld so that you may have the opportunity of forwarding any observations to War Cabinet. They realise that you would no doubt prefer to have battle-experienced troops back, but after long and careful deliberation, concluded that conditions here demanded that the decision be made.

In order that we may be in the position to determine whether the release of officers, but more particularly warrant officers, NCOs, page 254 specialists and tradesmen, should be opposed, we would greatly appreciate any instructions which will assist us in dealing with such cases I1 propose discussing the position of officers and warrant officers with Stevens and Rudd2 and do not anticipate any difficulty with these, but it will be very difficult for us to determine the value of NCOs, specialists, and tradesmen to you. If you could give any indication, either by names or rank, of warrant officers and NCOs you want back, and if you are prepared to agree to the exchange of tradesmen, our task will be simplified, especially as time is very limited for dealing with applications.

1 This telegram was signed by the Adjutant-General (Brig A. E. Conway).

2 Brigadier W. G. Stevens, Officer in charge of Administration, 2nd NZEF, and Lieutenant-Colonel L. F. Rudd, Military Secretary; both were then in New Zealand on furlough.