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

295 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

page 268

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

24 September 1943

As instructed, I notified the Commander-in-Chief of your consent to committing the Division subject to the conditions mentioned. I am glad to report that complete equipment and MT is now being supplied, and we are to join Eighth Army. General Montgomery has asked me to fly to Italy to discuss future plans. He proposes to use the New Zealand force as an independent minor Corps directly under his command.1 I expect to leave for Taranto on 3 October after the divisional exercise to make arrangements for a rear administrative organisation not present in the Division but necessary in a Corps. After seeing General Montgomery I shall be in a position to inform you of the composition of the New Zealand Corps and our role. I do not expect to return to Egypt before the Division leaves for Italy.

Meanwhile we are concentrating at Burg el Arab. Fifty per cent of the Division, still marching from Cairo, arrive here during the next two days. It has been obvious that the hot summer and living at Maadi have made the men soft, and this hardening process was a most necessary preparation before facing the ordeal of a winter campaign in Europe.

We are fully aware of the risk of pestilence in Europe this winter. Two pairs of boots, New Zealand winter underclothing, battle dress, leather jerkins, and bivouac shelters are being issued. Precautions against lice include mobile laundries and disinfestors, and the whole force is being inoculated against typhus. We are in the throes of collective training, activity ending on 2 October.

The present embarkation arrangements provide for personnel sailing in two flights about 6 and 13 October. Transport comprising 4600 tanks, guns, and vehicles will move in four lifts, the last leaving about 3 November. When we include reinforcements and a General Hospital, we shall have 22,000 personnel crossing the Mediterranean. I feel that it would be advisable for the New Zealand Government to raise the question of naval escort and air protection for this move in the appropriate quarter.

Health is good and all ranks are in excellent spirits.

1 The New Zealand Corps was not in fact formed until 3 Feb 1944 (see No. 314).