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

320 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence2

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence2

23 April 1944

The line on which New Zealand Corps stabilised after the last attack is still held and regrouping of forces continues preparatory to further operations on a large scale by the Fifth and Eighth Armies. Meanwhile, the Germans continue to strengthen their defences, and it is clear that they will fight to hold the formidable defences which flank and cover the Liri and Sacco valleys which lead to Rome.

It is impossible to assess the degree of success likely in the next attack. As we well know, the operation is most difficult. The page 292 opposing armies are of approximately the same strength in infantry, and our superiority in the air, tanks, and artillery is neutralised to a great extent by the mountainous nature of the country. The front on which the attack must be launched is obvious and little chance exists of gaining surprise.

Your Division is at present responsible for the line to the north of Cassino and has under command a Canadian brigade group and a brigade of British parachute troops. This is a comparatively quiet mountain sector. One of our brigades is resting at a time, and we are taking the opportunity to carry out certain reorganisation necessary for fighting in the mountains. For the moment the Division is under strength, but reinforcements are arriving from Egypt. We shall not take part in the initial stages of the next operation.

Everybody is well, and the men have recovered from the heavy fighting in Cassino.

2 This telegram was repeated to the New Zealand Military Liaison Officer, London (Brigadier R. S. Park) for the Prime Minister. Mr. Fraser, who had left Auckland on 8 Apr, arrived in London on the 27th after a short visit to the United States. He attended the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers from 1–16 May, visited New Zealann troops in Italy and Egypt, and returned to New Zealand via Canada and the United States on 18 Jul.