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

301 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

11 October 1943

I am glad to report that the 6th Brigade Group and Divisional Headquarters have arrived safely at Taranto.1 The transports were protected by a strong escort of six destroyers and air cover. The men enjoyed an easy crossing and arrived in excellent condition. As surprise is such a great factor in the success of a force such as ours, special measures have been taken to keep the move secret here and in Egypt. All New Zealand identification signs have been removed and the destination is only divulged to the men after embarkation. The troops on arrival here went straight to the bivouac area on relatively high ground west of the town and have had fine weather to set up camp in the olive groves. The malaria season is now on the wane, but full precautions are being taken.

The Divisional staff preceded the Division by air, and I have just returned from visiting General Montgomery in the forward area. All of the Eighth Army were most cordial in their welcome and obviously glad we shall be with them again.

page 273

We shall not be concentrated with all our equipment until 15 November at the earliest. General Montgomery's present intention is to use us as a hard-hitting, fast-moving force directly under his command. We would operate as the New Zealand Corps and have under command an additional British armoured brigade, a medium artillery regiment, and a British cavalry regiment. We would be a powerful force, as your Division by itself is probably the best-equipped division in existence, equal in fighting power at present strengths to two German divisions.

It seems clear that the implementing of the policy settled at Ottawa for the future conduct of the war will have repercussions here. It is evident that Allied strategy is to open another front in Western Europe in addition to the Russian and Italian fronts. The selection of battle-experienced leaders and formations from the Middle East theatre to form the hard core of the new front is in progress. Many rumours as to the command are current and the names of Marshall, Alexander, and Montgomery are mentioned. Only one of the last two would go. It is also known that some battle-worthy divisions are going to England, but there is no suggestion here that the New Zealand Division might be one of them.

I shall cable reporting the arrival of the troops as they reach Italy and will keep you informed as the situation develops.

1 The first personnel flight arrived at Taranto on 9 Oct.