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

312 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

31 January 1944

Since my telegram of 11 January we have moved across Italy to the Fifth Army sector and have been waiting in General Headquarters Reserve. The change to this front has been welcome. The Division is camped in an excellent area twenty miles behind the line. We have had unbroken fine weather and useful training in the hills and on river crossings with various types of bridges and boats has been carried out. Our presence in this sector is still being kept secret.

So far the battle has progressed slowly. The British, French, and American Corps have made gains after hard fighting. The enemy is taking advantage of the ideal defensive country and is contesting every piece of high ground. The landing in the north was a surprise to the enemy and met with virtually no opposition.1 They have been consolidating and building up the beach-head and there has been no heavy fighting to date.

Yesterday I was sent for by General Alexander. His plan is to form the New Zealand Corps to carry out an operation with the object of breaking through and joining up with the beach-head. The 4th Indian Infantry Division and four field, five medium, and one heavy regiment of British artillery are to be placed under my command. Reconnaissance and planning are now in progress to be ready to take part in the battle in the near future.

page 283

The enemy appears to be stretched but apparently has been ordered to hold the present line and Rome at all costs. It will be clear to War Cabinet, therefore, that heavy fighting and inevitable casualties must be expected.

1 The 6th United States Corps landed at Anzio on 22 Jan 1944.